“If we’re not doing it, the cockies will blast them,” Mr. White said, using a slang term for small-scale farmers. “They won’t stop.”
In the end, the argument over Australia’s kangaroo industry has always been only partly about cruelty and only partly about animals. It is most viscerally about whose values rule.
To Mr. Pacelle, Australia’s professional hunters are justifying harm to wildlife to get paid. To Professor Wilson, animal rights activists are engaging in “imperialism” that forces their sensitivities onto others.
The case against the kangaroo business brings with it a sense of rectitude that transcends borders. The defense is provincial; it’s less moral than pragmatic. And what’s clear, at least in outback Queensland, is that while distance can deliver perspective, it can also overlook facts and oversimplify complicated truths.
The fires that sparked calls for regulation last year, for example, were concentrated in New South Wales, hundreds of miles from where Mr. White hunts. In his state, Queensland, survey data earlier this year put the kangaroo population for the three species that are harvested at 16.7 million — a far cry from endangered.
Leslie Mickelbourgh, the managing director of Warroo Game Meats, said the soccer shoes campaign was also something of a gimmick. Though neither the government nor the industry breaks down exports or total revenue by product, Mr. Mickelbourgh said that kangaroos from Surat were mostly used for meat. The animals are increasingly seen as a more ethical alternative to beef and lamb because kangaroos do not contribute to climate change by belching out methane, and because they are harvested in their habitat.
The industry’s critics, Mr. Mickelbourgh said, “don’t understand our country.”
He was sitting in an office near photos of his father, the founder of the business, with giant piles of kangaroo skins. Mr. White, who happened to stop by, was sitting on a chair next to a banner that read “think local.”