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Aussies: Eat roos, save the planet

What's that Skippy? You go with horseradish and mint sauce?

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Australian scientists have recommended their beef-loving compatriots switch to kangaroo meat to clamp down on the methane emissions that bovine burger precursors pump out into the atmosphere.

The gastro-switch will simultaneously turn what most Aussies consider a particularly large form of vermin into a profitable agricultural export.

George Wilson and Melanie Edwards, of eco consultancy Australian Wildlife Services, propose the scheme in the conservation biology journal, Conservation Letters.

They claim that enteric methane (burps and farts) from ruminants, mainly cows and sheep, account for 67 per cent of the Aussie agricultural sector’s methane emissions and 11 per cent of Australia’s total emissions. Methane is an even more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Wilson and Edwards reckon that “removing seven million cattle and 36 million sheep by 2020" would reduce Australia’s annual greenhouse emissions by three per cent.

But what would Aussies chuck on the barbie instead?

Easy. Allowing the roo population on “rangelands where harvesting occurs” to shoot up to 175 million would easily yield the same amount of meat. This would also benefit the local environment, kangaroos being a native species. In fact, should roo meat really catch on, the authors reckon the removal of sheep and cows would mean the rangelands could actually support up to 240 million kangaroos.

The authors go on to point out other benefits – all those fiddly fences, branding, shearing, stud fees and the rest. Kangaroos being free-ranging, it seems all the farmers would have to do is wander out onto their land and bag a few, every time the meat truck is due to deliver. Also, kanga hides apparently have a better strength-to-weight ratio than those of cattle, though we’re not sure roo wool is up to much.

At the same time, asking farmers to switch to livestock that has a habit of upping and leaving whenever the mood takes it might just be a tough sell. And that’s before you ask the public to tuck into the kanga-kebab. ®

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