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Australian minister defends kangaroo culls

Eastern grey kangaroos
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) April 4, 2008
Australian Agriculture Minister Tony Burke on Friday defended the culling of hundreds of kangaroos, saying hundreds of the animals would starve to death if numbers are not reduced.

"If they are not culled, there will be many more than 400 facing death from starvation," he told reporters during a trip to Japan.

Australian authorities said Monday that they had postponed the planned killing of 400 eastern grey kangaroos at a defence site after a public outcry at the proposal.

Burke said certain endangered species may face "a dire situation" if kangaroos numbers are not reduced.

Millions of kangaroos are slaughtered in the Australian wild every year on the basis that there are too many, with much of the meat being used for pet food.

Some wildlife protection groups have accused Australia of hypocrisy over its efforts to protect whales but not kangaroos.

But Burke brushed aside suggestions of double standards, citing "different circumstances."

Since taking over in December, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has ramped up pressure on Japan over its whaling, sending a customs vessel to monitor the Antarctic hunt which is widely reviled by the Australian public.

Japan says whaling is legal and part of its culture. It uses a loophole in a global moratorium that allows killing the giant mammals for research.

Burke said he had "a frank exchange between friends" on the environment when he met his Japanese counterpart Masatoshi Wakabayashi late Thursday.

The two sides expressed their different views on whaling, with Burke reiterating Australia's opposition to commercial and scientific whaling, he said.

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