Across Australia, animal agribusiness is increasingly erecting taller and stronger fences, covering enormous distances and stopping the movement of animals. They might seem innocuous, but these fences - known as exclusion fences - are a silent killer, and are designed to deliberately trap and/or kill wild animals.
What does exclusion fencing look like?
Exclusion fences are sturdy, meshed fences, typically around 1.5 metres high (but sometimes up to 2.4 metres or 8 feet). Because these fences are designed to trap and prevent the movement of animals from one area to another they also feature sharp, barbed wire strands along their top and bottom skirting, ensuring that any animal that attempts to dig under will be injured or become entangled.
These deadly fences often surround large agricultural properties or conservation areas, and range from dozens to thousands of kilometres in length. The largest exclusion fence in Australia is known as The Dingo Fence, which stretches more than 5,600km across South Australia, along the north-western border of NSW, and east through southern Queensland.
Why is exclusion fencing being erected?
Exclusion fencing is used to control the movement of both native and introduced animals, including dingoes, kangaroos, goats, pigs, deer, and rabbits.
While exclusion fencing is often used in short-term conservation efforts across NSW and Australia, the most dangerous fences are those erected by animal agribusiness who use them to reduce the total grazing pressure on their land. In more basic terms, because animal agribusiness owners want the grass on their property to be eaten only by the animals they farm (and that will make them money), they use exclusion fencing as a lethal measure to keep other herbivorous animals off their land, even if they’re native.
Animal agribusiness often targets kangaroos with exclusion fencing - in fact the NSW Government considers exclusion fencing as a form of kangaroo “management” that “gives landholders complete control of grazing pressures”, even if it means killing hundreds of animals in the process.
How does exclusion fencing kill animals?
The animals caught and killed by exclusion fencing depend on the height of the fence and the size of the mesh used. As one of the largest native animals in Australia, kangaroos are particularly prone to being trapped or injured by fences after getting their limbs caught in the fence itself, or on the barbed wire strands. Other animals prone to entrapment and death on these killer fences include include emus, wallabies, echidnas and goannas.
And these fences don’t only kill animals by catching them, they also subject them to exposure, dehydration, starvation, stress, and predation by restricting their movement. Animals fleeing stressful environments are especially at risk, as they are more likely to injure themselves if the attempt to move through a fence when being chased, desperately seeking food and water, or trying to escape from bushfires or human threats.
The suffering of animals trapped in and around exclusion fencing is a growing concern. With exclusion fences being built to be sturdier and longer than ever, fence boundary checks are far and few between and animals are rarely found alive.
Is the killing intentional?
The short answer is yes.
Deliberately restricting animals’ access food, water and shelter is not an accidental side-effect of the use of exclusion fencing. Shockingly, to kill kangaroos, the NSW Government encourages cutting off kangaroos’ access to water via exclusion fencing and subjecting them to a long, painful death by dehydration or slaughter at the hands of kangaroo shooters.
Animal agribusiness also openly encourages the use of exclusion fencing as well as other lethal measures including trapping and baiting in order to kill native and introduced animals to “increase productivity gains” - the biggest example being the use of these deadly fences by sheep farmers to kill dingoes.
How does the Government support the use of these deadly fences?
Not only does the NSW Government provide information on how animal agribusiness should trap, starve and kill animals with exclusion fencing, but they actively fund this cruelty.
In 2016, applications opened for a Government program that provided animal agribusiness with exclusion fencing grants of up to $1200 per km. While further details of this program (including total funds distributed and total fencing erected), is not publicly available, what is known is that questions of animal welfare concerns were not included in the application form Local Land Services required of businesses for the grant.
The NSW Government has also helped fund the giant Gilgunnia Cluster Fence project. As the biggest exclusion fencing project in NSW, it includes 22 properties south of Nymagee (located 100km west of Condobolin in western NSW). The group of 26 landholders responsible for the fence were successful in gaining approximately $560,000 in funding to assist with erecting 210km of exclusion fencing, encompassing an area of around 500,000 acres. By the project’s public open day, around 500 pigs had already been found painfully trapped against the fence.
How can you take action?
Right now there is new inquiry into kangaroos and other macropods being fast tracked through NSW Parliament, giving us the opportunity to highlight just how bad exclusion fencing is for kangaroos. You can take action by making a submission HERE.
The inquiry itself is very broad and is looking at macropod health and wellbeing across a range of issues, so if you need support in making a submission, please be sure to read our guide HERE or join us for a submission writing webinar on April 7, 2021 HERE.
You can also continue to support our work to protect kangaroos by becoming a member of the Animal Justice Party HERE. Your support and membership fee go towards helping us keep animals on the political agenda, and letting the NSW Government now we are united in helping end animal suffering.
Authors: Elena Wewer and Rosina Rayns