- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 12, 2005

SYDNEY, Australia — Australians are being urged to start eating more kangaroos, defying a traditional reluctance to cut into a national icon.

The continent is home to millions of kangaroos and wallabies but for decades Australians have been averse to eating them, partly because of sentimental reasons — what some call the “Skippy factor.”

The fact that a kangaroo graces the country’s coat of arms — opposite an emu — has also dissuaded many Australians from tossing a ‘roo steak on the barbecue. To many people it seems somehow wrong.

Even the kangaroo industry admits that killing an “iconic” wildlife species for commercial gain is an emotive issue.

However, it has now announced a five-year plan to help Australians overcome their squeamishness.

“Kangaroo was the red meat of choice in Australia for 40,000 years,” said John Kelly, the executive officer of the Kangaroo Industries Association. “It’s only in the last 100 years or so that we’ve had a bit of a hiccup.”

As part of the drive to put kangaroo back on the nation’s dinner tables, the industry plans to publish kangaroo recipe books and develop new products such as ready-to-eat meals, kangaroo burgers and kangaroo sausages.

Restaurant chefs will be encouraged to use more kangaroo meat, and doctors and dietitians will be told of its health benefits as a low-fat alternative to beef and lamb. Farmers claim kangaroo numbers have exploded since white settlement 200 years ago because reservoirs have increased the availability of water in the outback.

They regard kangaroos as pests that compete with livestock for grass.

Some scientists say the sharp hooves of introduced European animals such as sheep and cattle cause devastating soil erosion.

They say the land should instead be used for the rearing of soft-padded kangaroos, which are in tune with the environment and could be farmed for their meat.

Europeans have shown themselves to be much keener to eat kangaroo than Australians. Of the 300,000 tons of meat produced each year, 60 percent is exported to countries such as Germany, France and Belgium, 20 percent goes to the domestic market and the rest becomes pet food.

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