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Editors’ Picks: Eat kangaroos, save world

Cutting back on beef and lamb and eating more kangaroo is being touted as a way for meat consumers to help combat climate change, the British ag newspaper Farmers Weekly reported Wednesday.

“Sheep and cattle constitute 11 per cent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Kangaroos, however, produce relatively little methane because they are not ruminants,” said a statement from Australian Wildlife Services, a Canberra consulting firm, quoted on the newspaper’s web site.

According to the newspaper, an AWS study showed that an increase in the kangaroo population to 175 million, up from current levels of about 30 million, with a 30 per cent reduction in total cattle and sheep populations by 2020, would lower Australia’s annual greenhousee gas emissions by three per cent, or 16 megatons.

“Increasing kangaroo numbers to produce the same amount of meat as cattle by 2020 would provide substantial conservation benefits,” study author George Wilson said on the AWS web site.

“Currently, farmers have few options to reduce the contribution that livestock make to greenhouse gas production. However, low-emission kangaroo meat will provide an option to avoid emissions permit fees and have a positive global impact.”

Although the study proposes a substantial increase in kangaroo numbers and growth in the kangaroo harvesting industry, “the net planned effect is for a lower grazing impact,” Wilson said. “This means there will be less damage from hard-hoofed livestock and maintenance of kangaroo and other wildlife habitat.”

Trials are underway to test collaboration between farmers in the sustainable management of free-ranging species, said AWS, whose clients include government agencies, indigenous communities, landholders, tourism operators and zoos.

“When landholders value a wildlife species populations increase and the conservation status of the species becomes more secure. This has been the case for similar iconic species such as springbok in South Africa, red deer in Scotland, and bison” in the U.S., Wilson said on the AWS site.

However, U.K.-based animal welfare group Viva said kangaroos are already subject to the largest massacre of land mammals on the planet and any further slaughter for meat would “spell disaster for these gentle animals.”

“Any trade that encourages meat to be flown from the other side of the world (to the U.K.) can in no way ever be described as green,” said Viva campaigner Justin Kerswell, quoted in the Farmers Weekly article by the paper’s European editor, Philip Clarke.

The “Editors’ Picks” feature will highlight unusual-yet-true news from the world of farming, as gleaned from various sources by the editorial staff of the Farm Business Communications division.

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