The video incited a wave of anger in animal rights activists before starting unending debates on social media: on Youtube since December 4, the scene shows a young man violently hit a kangaroo in the face.
A few seconds before, while the Australian was in the middle of hunting in the state of New South Wales, the kangaroo attacked his dog. Greig Tonkins approached, managed to separate the two, stops in front of the kangaroo and finishes by giving him a punch to the face which left the animal stunned. He fled, disoriented, a few seconds after.
Immediately after being posted online, the video - since viewed by over 36 million people - incited controversy. While many people underline the legitimate defense (and courage) of the man coming to the aid of his dog, many think that the punch was not necessary.
At the moment where Tonkins hits the kangaroo in the face, he had already let go of the dog, who was already out of danger. Also difficult to justify his act as a result of the heat of the moment, seeing as it happened after several seconds of reflection.
For the animal rights organization PETA, the young man's behavior should be investigated and justice should be pursued:
Since the man – a zookeeper at Taronga Zoo – punched the kangaroo only after the dog was already well clear of the animal’s grasp, this was a totally unnecessary act. This guy not only assaulted a wild animal – potentially injuring his jaw, nose, or eyes – but also put the dogs at risk of serious injury by using them for hunting.
In a statement on the matter, PETA explained that the shock could have disastrous consequences on the health of the kangaroo. According to the NGO, kangaroos are particularly susceptible to developing cardiac complications after such events: in medical jardon, they can experience Takotsubo cardiomyopathy which is a weakening of the ventricles due to stress.
Even though he doesn't seem injured, the animal "may well have gone on to suffer for days or even weeks before dying," added PETA. The association applauded the investigation by the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) which has been opened.
Animal rights defenders hope that the man will be forced to be held responsible for his act in front of the justice system and that he will be condemned for "animal cruelty." The term is defined as an act causing suffering which is "unjust, unnecessary, or unreasonable considering the circumstances," which, according to them, fits this situation portrayed in the video.
Faced with the outcry, Greg Bloom, who filmed the scene, explained to the Australian site WA Today that his hunting buddy did not intend to injure the kangaroo.
[Tonkins] felt no malice to the kangaroo but had to step in and fix a bad situation before it got worse.
A version of events which is far from convincing for the Australian T.V. presenter, David Campbell, who called for the license of Greig Tonkins, who works as a zookeeper at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo:
He knows he's being filmed. Once the dog was freed, his first reaction isn't to run away but to face the animal and hit him.
One thing is certain: bringing a dog to a hunt and encouraging him to pursue wild animals in order to kill them is as irresponsible as it is cruel.