Hunting and fishing threatened under proposed Animal Cruelty Act in NSW

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NSW Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act

Hunters and fishers could be gaoled for up to five years under new animal cruelty laws proposed for NSW, according to hunting advocates who have been critical of the Animal Rights-based nature of the new legislation.

A statement from the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party said, “These reforms have NOTHING to do with the prevention of animal cruelty and EVERYTHING to do with shutting down hunting, fishing and farming through broad definitions and even broader interpretations.”

The proposed new Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (POCTAA) changes the definition of cruelty to include psychological suffering, and it removes the defence of ‘justified’ suffering.

The new definition of cruelty includes the wording: “Any act or omission resulting in an animal being unreasonably or unnecessarily … harmed (which includes being inflicted with pain, caused distress, or caused physical or psychological suffering”. 

The discussion paper states, “We propose removing the qualifier ‘unjustifiably’, following public feedback that any act or omission could be interpreted as ‘justified’ if a person provides a reason, irrespective of whether that reason is appropriate.”

This means that if the reason were appropriate, it could not be used as a defence.

The Act proposes a new offence for “producing or disseminating animal cruelty material” which, while not explicitly stated, could encapsulate hunting pictures and videos shared on social media. 

Game parks, which is are already illegal in NSW, are specifically outlawed under the new POCTAA.

The discussion paper says the proposed Act provides “certainty for lawful activities” including hunting and fishing, but certainty is only provided in the form of the activities being “defences”, not exemptions from prosecution. 

The discussion paper states, “The proposed defences apply only in very narrow situations, and most include qualifiers that mean the defence does not apply if a person causes unnecessary harm to the animal.”

There is no guarantee that a hunter or fisher might not find themselves in court on spurious grounds based on a police officer’s interpretation of the ACT, fighting a costly court case that could see them gaoled.

The new Act would increase penalties, with up to five years gaol for the most serious ones. 

Shooters Farmers and Fishers Party MLC Robert Borsak said the discussion paper was released after “a limited Consultation on Issues Paper that was not widely made available”.

He said the proposed new Act came from a “Committee of Inquiry into Animal Cruelty run by the Animal Justice Party, that made wide-ranging recommendations that were based primarily on the Animal Rights agenda”.

Animal Justice Party MLC Mark Pearson, one of two AJP members in NSW Parliament, chaired the Committee of Inquiry.

“Their recommendations are that POCTAA be completely rewritten and ‘modernised’ to reflect the 5 Freedoms of Animals, as espoused by Animal Rights organisations as extreme as PETA and worse,” Mr Borsak said.

“This has now resulted in a Discussion Paper that was very recently quietly released for consultation with the public and a very limited group of ‘stakeholders’, most of whom were the Animal Rights organisations themselves.”

Read the discussion paper at this link. 

Hunters are being encouraged to respond to the paper. Submissions close on 17 September, after the SFFP negotiated to extend the limited discussion period by two weeks. 

Submissions can be made via an online survey here or by email to animalwelfare.submissions@dpi.nsw.gov.au.

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