Inquiry into the Criminal Code Amendment (Animal Protection) Bill 2015

Liberty Victoria

This bill seeks to prevent unnecessary delays in the reporting of animal cruelty and what are described as ‘illegal interferences in the lawful operation of animal enterprises.’

Whilst Liberty Victoria is broadly supportive of measures aimed at protecting animals against acts of malicious cruelty, we consider that the Bill is deeply flawed and misguided.  Some of the major objections to the Bill include:

  1. The failure to report offence has been drafted in a way which in fact targets persons seeking to expose and prevent acts of malicious cruelty to animals, whilst excluding from its operation those who are most likely to be involved in, or a witness to, animal cruelty.  This seriously undermines the claim that the Bill is concerned with protecting animal welfare.
  2. The failure to report offence impinges unnecessarily on free speech and freedom of the press by criminalising the methods used by investigative journalists, activists and whistleblowers seeking to expose acts of malicious cruelty to animals, and potentially stifling debate on important issues of public policy.
  3. The failure to report provisions unjustifiably reverse the onus of proof in relation to critical elements of the offence.
  4. The elements of the failure to report offence are illogically defined, and are likely to result in absurd and unjust outcomes.
  5. There are a number of existing criminal offences which deal with conduct of the type covered by the interfering with animal enterprises offences.  No explanation has been given as to why these existing offences are inadequate.
  6. The interfering with animal enterprise offences are extraordinarily broad, and will capture conduct which goes far beyond what the legislature could possibly have intended.
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