Restaurant supplier ditches kangaroo meat

Last British retailer to sell delicacy bows to pressure from animal rights groups

Skippy is off the menu at restaurants in Britain after the last major British retailer that sold kangaroo meat pledged to stop.

Makro, a cash-and-carry chain that supplies the catering trade, told The Independent there were "a number of reasons" for removing the steaks, including a new meat-sourcing policy.

Makro had resisted pressure to abandon the trade but animal welfare campaigners threatened to boycott the 33-store chain, claiming it was damaging kangaroo populations and that hunters killed joeys found in their mother's pouches.

Hunting the marsupials is a £100m-a-year business which supplies the meat that is popular in the Far East and continental European countries, as well as leather for Nike football boots. Hunting and droughts, however, have halved wild populations in the past decade, with kangaroo numbers falling from 51 million in 2000 to 25 million last year, the Australian government's Department of Environment and Heritage says.

Viva!, the vegetarian group, had warned Makro that it would call for a customer boycott unless it joined supermarket groups and rival cash-and-carry chain Booker by refusing to stock kangaroo meat.

Makro wrote back to the group, pledging to change its policy: "Following your provision of the additional information surrounding management of kangaroos in the wild, we have discussed the detail with our suppliers," Andrew Machon, Makro's head of quality assurance, wrote.

"In consideration of all of the above factors, we have taken the decision to remove from sale kangaroo meat until we are provided with such information from our suppliers that assures us that the management of the animals has been fully reviewed."

Makro, owned by the German chain Metro, said: "We recognise that 'alternative meats' are still popular with our customers – who are in the main professional caterers – and that we live in a multicultural society where the choice of meats is broader. However, we have taken this decision in line with the introduction of our new meat-sourcing policy."

Justin Kerswell, Viva! campaigns manager, said: "It is fantastic that this so-called 'exotic meat' cannot now be purchased from any major cash-and-carry firm in this country. We hope this move is permanent."

Viva! has been campaigning to halt the spread of a range of "exotic meats", including kangaroo and crocodile.

The decision by Makro will make it harder for restaurants and pub chains to source the animal. One of the remaining places to do so, the Walkabout pub chain, has resisted pressure to drop the meat. The Australian-themed bars sell steaks for £8 and promote "roo" as a "mouthwatering lean, red meat" low in cholesterol.

Kangaroo has been promoted in the past as both healthy and sustainable. Two years ago, a Greenpeace study suggested Australians could cut climate change emissions by eating it, because kangaroo are less flatulent (emit less methane) than cows and sheep.

Mr Kerswell complained: "Kangaroos cannot be farmed, they are shot at night in the outback away from the scrutiny of the public. Baby joeys are pulled from their dead mother's pouch and have their heads literally bashed in. Populations have plummeted, yet the killing continues."

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