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Byron Shire
November 29, 2021

Animal cruelty a serious crime

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People in Tasmania and throughout Australia are rightly outraged at the light sentence handed out in the case of a man who was convicted in the Burnie Magistrates Court this week of beating at least six fairy penguins to death with a stick on Sulphur Creek beach on New Year’s Day.

The magistrate described this as a ‘callous act’ on an ‘easy target’ and said that the attack must have continued for several minutes. Although the Magistrate pointed out that the man had shown no remorse, she imposed a penalty of just 49 days community service, and costs of $82.15.

Penalties for cases of cruelty are rarely imposed to the full extent of the law – under Tasmania’s Animal Welfare Act, animal cruelty can result in fines of $26,000 or imprisonment for up to one and a half years. A spokesperson for Birds Tasmania expressed extreme disappointment at the sentence and said it would set an ‘unwelcome precedent for future attacks’.

Animal abusers are cowards. Because animals cannot report abuse and can do little to fight back, they’re often used as ‘practice’ victims by violent people. Research in psychology and criminology shows that people who commit acts of cruelty against animals often go on to commit violent acts against their fellow humans. A study by Dr John Clarke, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Sydney and consultant to the New South Wales Police Force, demonstrated, using police data, that 61.5 per cent of convicted animal abuse offenders had also committed an assault and 17 per cent were guilty of sexual abuse. Most disturbingly, animal abuse was a better predictor of sexual assault than previous convictions for homicide, arson, or firearms offences. Only 1 per cent of cruelty-to-animals offenders had no other convictions at all.

It’s time that this country started to treat cases of cruelty to animals as the serious crimes that they are. If you suspect someone of abusing an animal, report it to authorities right away, for the safety of humans and non-humans alike.


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