Among the many global controversies that will be pondered by New Hampshire legislators this year is a surprising one: Should we eat kangaroos?

Two bills regarding Australia’s iconic megafauna have been introduced. (You can find them via the search engine of Legislative Service Requests, which are the lead-in to actual bills, here.) One would remove kangaroos as well as a few other exotic species from the list of animals that cannot be raised privately, and the other would let people sell kangaroo meat as well as caribou meat.

This comes even as Oregon and Connecticut are considering whether to follow California’s lead and ban the sale of kangaroo meat, hides and other components  The push, which argues that Australia’s kangaroo farming industry is inhumane,  focuses not so much on kangaroo meat as on their hides, which are imported for use in some athletic shoe manufacturing. That makes the proposed ban in Oregon, home to global shoe giant Nike, especially intriguing.

The New Hampshire push comes from a group called Free State Food Network, whose goals echo the terminology of the Free State Project including talk of “freedom-minded people” and advocating against government involvement.

The group argues that allowing small-scale raising of kangaroos for meat would contribute to food security and give farmers “a sustainable source of income through the sale of meat and other kangaroo-related products.”

A proposed bill from Rep. Tom Mannion, R-Pelham, would allow private ownership of kangaroos, as well as “small tailed monkeys, raccoons, foxes, otters, [and] skunks.” 

New Hampshire, like all states, has a list of creatures – mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians, even insects – that cannot be owned privately or sold, although some exceptions are allowed such as for zoos and museums. Most creatures are on the list either to protect them from being wiped out by collectors, or to protect us because they would become a problem if they escaped.

Because they evolved in a hot, arid continent, kangaroos are not well adapted to cold climates. They can survive for a time in the cold, even during the rare snowfalls that are seen in parts of coastal Australia, but there is no area of that country which has New England’s climate.

A separate proposed bill from Rep. Michael Granger, R-Milton Mills, would allow the private sale of kangaroo and caribou meat.  The question of which foods can be sold privately under what conditions has been debated for many years in New Hampshire.

Kangaroos are marsupials, unlike all American animals except for the possum, and from the ecological point of view they are basically deer that hop; that’s the niche they fill in Australia.

Kangaroos cannot be fully domesticated but they have long been corralled and raised on ranches Down Under, similar to the way deer, elk and caribou are raised on farms in North America. Australia also has occasional official culls of wild kangaroos which, like deer, are proliferating near urban areas.

Kangaroo meat is a small but well-established part of the Australian diet, roughly similar to the role that venison plays in the U.S. diets. 

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