people say that rabbits are cute. City children, travelling in the country,
often exclaim “Oh look, Mummy, there’s a rabbit”, and Mummy usually slows down and says “they’re
so cute”. Other people, in 1949, had a different view of them. They saw them as shiny skinned carcases that were thrown
into the fridge or ice box, waiting to be stewed for the evening’s meal. But another group, the farmers and graziers
of 1949, saw them as nothing better than a plague that was destroying their livelihood.
trouble here was that the little vermin ate the same food as the sheep, and were, at the same time, destructive to the pasture,
because they scratched and dug into the soil. So, when a great plague of rabbits came to live on all sheep properties in Australia,
it was at the expense of the sheep. This made the graziers hopping mad.
They tried to shoot them, but there were too many. They tried to trap them, but the rabbits could breed faster than
the traps could. Fumigation and poisoning killed more sheep than vermin. Harrowing and digging up the land just put the land
out of use for too long. Even the hungriest of dogs were no match for a few
So the fall-back was to put up long wire fences, and to gradually clear paddock after paddock. But, alas, after the
War, Australia was still desperately short of wire netting. Every grazier in
Australia was crying out for netting, and every farm was faced with financial hardship as their sheep starved to death. So
the pressure for “somebody to do something” spilled over into the newspapers.
Land Editor of the SMH painted a solemn picture. He pointed out that this nation had 100 million sheep, but that the number
could be halved in six months. It had become a battle between the sheep and the rabbits for every blade of grass, and the
rabbits were usually the winner. For every 100 miles of fencing needed, only one mile was being produced locally. Some graziers
had not been able to buy a roll in eight years.
went on to say that “the grey army” was massed in denser formation than ever before known. One typical owner had
poisoned, trapped and dug out tens of thousands of “the buggers”, but as fast as he killed them, the paddocks
were invaded by new hordes. Six-month old lambs were dying in droves because all the nourishing food had gone. In desperation
he bought a huge tractor-ripper with which to tear the warrens and burrows to pieces. There was terrific slaughter. Every
yard of ground was torn up, and the soil was littered with mangled carcases. But to no avail, the grey army kept advancing
and the dead were replaced by new generations.
TAKING IT EASY
THE RABBIT IN FEBRUARY
WHITE OZ POLICY AND MRS O'KEEFE
ALL OVER THE PLACE
BUSINESS AND REAL LIFE
FAIRFAX VERSUS McGIRR
THE HISTORIC MINERS STRIKE OF 1949
TIME FOR A REST
A TRAGIC DEATH
DUGAN AND WILLIAM MEARS