Before I watched this documentary, I was pretty proud of my kangaroo leather boots; I bought them on this online ethical clothing store and all. They cost quite a bit, but I thought, at least my hard-earned, ever-diminishing student income is going towards supporting local business. And at least my boots are made from an extant animal species. And surely an animal product which is sourced and processed in Australia must adhere to highly ethical codes of conduct. Right? After watching this documentary, I did not feel so proud of my boots.
Kangaroo: A Love/Hate Story—the latest documentary by Australian directors Michael McIntyre and Kate McIntyre Clere—has caused a bit of a stir to say the least. Fiona Simson, President of the National Farmers Federation, called this documentary “very damaging to Australia”, and others have called it one-sided and misleading. But on the other hand, it has been praised by Variety’s Richard Kuipers for its “eco-activist filmmaking”, and The New York Times’ Ken Jaworowski declared it hard to watch but “necessary”.
So, how could a documentary about our national icon cause so much controversy? As you can probably gather Kangaroo: A Love/Hate Story exposes a great deal about the kangaroo industry in Australia. The McIntyre’s leave no stone unturned: from the questionable methods by which the kangaroos are culled, to discrepancies about the ways they are counted, to the hygiene of the meat, to the way the overseas market is managed by our government, right down to the national attitude toward our furry friends. All is scrutinised, all is criticised.
There was a lot of important information in this documentary, a lot of which I was grateful to learn. Like that an independent study of three major supermarkets found that a significant proportion of their kangaroo meat contained salmonella and particularly high rates of E-coli. But, with the kangaroo meat industry allegedly bringing about $200 million into regional community’s and accounting for approximately 2000 Australian jobs, it was sometimes a bit hard to climb aboard the boycott express—a train I know that was eagerly boarded by the lady sitting behind me in the theatre who frequently cried out, “Oh, God, how could they?”.
Michael McIntyre stresses that he doesn’t have the answer to our nations kangaroo dilemma, instead through Kangaroo: A Love/Hate Story, he and co-director Kate McIntyre Clere start a conversation. And you only have to google the title of this documentary to see that the conversation has well and truly begun.