In January 2023, the European Commission rejected a request to ban imports of kangaroo meat from Australia to the EU for reasons of food safety. Three animal protection organisations, Lega Anti Vivisezione (LAV), World Animal Protection and Eurogroup for Animals, had made this request claiming that high levels of Salmonella and E. coli, bacteria responsible for most cases of food poisoning, have been found in kangaroo meat for human consumption in Australia. The petition also included animal welfare and species conservation reasons.
Although controversial, it is legal to shoot kangaroos for commercial meat production in Australia. As their carcasses are transported long distances in the open air without refrigeration, the three organisations claimed this implies a potential contamination risk that cannot be ignored. However, the EU Commission said there is no evidence that food hygiene requirements are not met, so it is not in a position to ban imports of kangaroo meat products. The Commission said EU member states’ risk-based import checks have not found any evidence that Australian kangaroo meat poses a threat to the health of consumers.
Kangaroo meat is sold in some European supermarkets or used in pet food. Europe is the top destination for kangaroo meat, with Belgium being the number one country with about a third of the total kangaroo meat imports in 2019. The EU does not have legislation on animal welfare requirements for wild animals in the wild. The EU Commission said it would continue to monitor the situation and take appropriate measures to ensure that only kangaroo meat products which comply with food safety rules are permitted to enter the EU market.
There are several disputes about the population numbers that justify the kangaroo shootings, as well as how many animals are killed every year in Australia. The Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment claims that only 3% of the 50 million kangaroos in the country are used in meat production each year, but many conservationists don’t agree.