Land council seeks hunting clause
Aboriginal groups want their hunting rights protected in NT’s new animal welfare bill.
The NT Parliament is considering a bill to repeal the Animal Welfare Act and replace it with the stronger Animal Protection Act.
The draft bill retains a section of the current law that says “cultural, religious or traditional practices” are not a satisfactory defence for intentionally causing suffering, harm or wounding an animal.
The offence carries a charge of up to five years in prison.
Indigenous advocates from the Northern Land Council want the clause removed, saying it leaves “all occurrences of traditional hunting vulnerable to prosecution” and has “the potential to worsen the situation in respect of Indigenous incarceration”.
Land council chief Joe Morrison says animal welfare activists are targeting traditional hunters more and more.
Given “the rise of animal welfare views brought about by non-Indigenous people”, Mr Morrison says it is important to remove the possibility of prosecution.
“At the end of the day change in these [hunting] practices should be by agreement and partnership with hunters and not by legal force,” Mr Morrison said.
“It's not just a matter of the practice — going to kill something — but it's really part of an economy. It's part of a spiritual connection to country.
“It's very easy for non-believers or non-informed people to sort of bastardise that.”
He said the NT should take the example of the Federal Government's Native Title Act, which includes specific provisions for hunting, fishing and gathering for native title holders.
“It's also about amending to ensure that it's consistent with other legislation,” he said.
“Otherwise you'll just end up with litigation going around in circles.
“And we certainly don't want to end up with more lawyers having a picnic over it.”
The federal act does not cover animal welfare.
Queensland's Animal Care and Protection Act lists traditional hunting as an “offence exemption”, but also includes measures to ensure hunting is not done it a cruel way.
The Northern Land Council says this legislation is a useful example of a defence that the Northern Territory could allow too.