Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee has joined a group of 50 international academics, writers, lawyers and artists calling on the ACT government to stop its shooting of kangaroos, labelling culling as "ill-thought-out" and failing science.
Winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Literature, Coetzee signed an open letter to the ACT community published in Thursday's Canberra Times, calling for an immediate cessation of plans to shoot 5000 eastern grey kangaroos by 2016.
Shooting began on April 30 on eight nature reserves and associated land in the ACT. Animal rights advocates have planned protests but as yet no legal challenge has been launched.
Australian writer David Malouf, University of Technology Sydney academic Professor Steve Garlick, ecologist Raymond Mjadwesch, author and publisher Maria Taylor and writer David Brooks are among co-signatories of the letter.
Academics and writers from Australia, the United States, and Britain joined campaigners in producing the letter, co-ordinated by the Alliance for Respectful Co-Habitation.
The letter says the larger-than-usual cull program announced this year fails the tests of science, conservation, animal welfare, economy and humanity.
It questions the government's justification for the cull, including questioning causal evidence linking kangaroo grazing with degradation of threatened species and their habitat, and the lack of non-lethal population management tools.
"The decision to proceed with the killing disregards the extreme brutality of the killing process," the letter said.
"There has been no assessment of the impact of mass native animal killings on the local economy and society and our view is that these costs are substantial. The scientifically substantiated appreciation of other animals' cognitive, emotional and psychological capacities requires that we break the cycle of violence of conventional management methods."
The group called for an independent examination, by respected professionals, of shooting kangaroos.
A copy of the shooting licence released to the Australian Society for Kangaroos shows it permits culling activities "for damage mitigation actions to maintain grassland conservation densities of eastern grey kangaroos".
Territory and Municipal Services Minister Shane Rattenbury has faced sustained criticism for the culling effort from Greens party members and from supporters on social media.
He said the government had "a legal and moral responsibility to protect threatened and endangered flora and fauna".
"Eastern grey kangaroos are not a threatened species. We need to protect the balance to ensure the survival of all species, not just kangaroos.
Mr Rattenbury said the aim of culls since 2009 was not
"The ACT kangaroo management plan provides a comprehensive strategic position on kangaroos. It describes the ACT government's management approach to kangaroos based on the very best scientific evidence.
"A further eight studies have been published since the preparation of the KMP in prominent peer-reviewed scientific journals, citing strong ACT-based evidence, for the link between overgrazing by kangaroos and undesirable environmental impact."
"I, too, share [the] desire for humans to coexist peacefully with other creatures on the planet – but that applies to all creatures, great and small. Future generations will judge us harshly if we don't do what needs to be done to protect those small and vulnerable animals that don't have such vociferous advocates," he said.
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