© Jack Atley/Bloomberg News
The kangaroo epitomizes Australia, appearing on the coat of arms and dollar coin and starring in the TV series, "Skippy.'' Now, a government adviser says Australians should eat more of the animals to ease global warming.

Ross Garnaut recommended last month that the methane-rich gas and burps from cattle and sheep, which contribute to climate change, could be reduced if citizens switched to kangaroo meat. The proposal sparked opposition from consumers, ecologists and the A$16 billion ($11 billion) livestock industry.

"I've never really felt inclined to eat Skippy,'' said Carolyn Bristow, a finance industry worker in Melbourne who eats red meat two or three times a week. "It grosses me out actually. I don't want to eat the coat of arms.''

Indigenous Australians ate kangaroo meat for 60,000 years before Europeans arrived. The settlers' preference for beef and lamb has led to an industry with 86 million sheep and 28 million cattle, compared with about 34 million kangaroos roaming wild.

Methane, produced in the foregut of cattle and sheep, makes up 11 percent of Australia's greenhouse emissions, while kangaroos produce negligible amounts, according to a study in the scientific journal Conservation Letters, by ecologists George Wilson and Melanie Edwards.

'Environmental Sense'

"It makes enormous environmental sense for us in this land to produce our food from the animals which belong here,'' said John Kelly, executive director of the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia, which represents the A$250 million kangaroo-meat industry.

Removing 7 million cattle and 36 million sheep by 2020 and boosting the kangaroo population to 175 million could lower national greenhouse gases by 3 percent, or 16 million tons, a year, Wilson and Edwards say.

Garnaut, who held posts in government, diplomacy and business for more than 25 years, presented his final report on climate change to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Sept. 30. It sparked a flurry of newspaper headlines, such as a report in the Australian that included a recipe for spicy Thai kangaroo salad.

The Australian government plans to introduce a carbon- trading system in 2010 as part of efforts to reduce emissions by 60 percent by 2050. Garnaut recommended agriculture be included in an emissions-trading plan as soon as possible.

Per-capita emissions from agriculture in Australia, the world's driest inhabited continent, are more than six times the world average and the third highest in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, behind Ireland and New Zealand, according to Garnaut's report.

Price Rises

Beef and lamb would become more expensive as the emissions price rises, prompting a switch to meats "which don't have so many emissions, like pork, chicken and kangaroo,'' he said in an interview in Sydney earlier this month.

"It's going to be the in thing because lamb is going to be too expensive,'' said Jack Peters, 42, who eats red meat three to four times a week and enjoys hunting. "Kangaroo is the next best thing.''

Aborigines hunted kangaroos before their way of life was disrupted by white settlers in the late 18th century.

The animal was recorded as ''Kangooroo'' or ''Kanguru'' by lieutenant, later captain, James Cook in 1770 in the country's north after his ship was damaged on the Great Barrier Reef. The name derives from ''gangurru,'' the word for a kangaroo in the Guugu Yimithirr language.

Farmed Venison

Kangaroo meat, which has a taste similar to farmed venison, was banned from sale for human consumption until 1995 on Australia's eastern seaboard, including in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, according to Kelly of the kangaroo association.

Representatives of the livestock industry say the quality and quantity of kangaroo meat can't match beef and lamb.

"You can't substitute kangaroo meat for red meat,'' said David Thomason of Meat and Livestock Australia in a telephone interview. "The amount of meat yield that you get from cattle is about 10 times what you get from a kangaroo.''

People in developed countries such as Australia eat roughly their own weight in meat every year, consuming more than 80 kilograms (176 pounds) apiece, or about 224 grams a day, according to a study published last year in the British medical journal, the Lancet.

To provide enough meat, kangaroos would have to be culled en masse, said Thomason, whose group represents 45,000 members. "We'd have teams of shooters out there shooting wild animals,'' he said.

Eat Less Meat

A better solution is to reduce the amount of meat Australians eat, said Corey Watts of the Australian Conservation Foundation. "The starting point really has to be reducing our red-meat consumption.''

Either way, boosting sales of kangaroo meat will mean weaning consumers onto an animal that has a strong resonance with the nation.

Vipul Survana, 49, a bus driver who moved to Australia from India 16 years ago, said he eats red meat twice a week and has eaten kangaroo once.

"I don't know if I'll eat it again,'' he said in an interview. "I don't like the idea of eating new meat and kangaroos look very innocent.''