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 of beating at least six fairy penguins to death with a stick on Sulphur Creek beach.
The Magistrate described this as a “callous act” on an “easy target”.
“The fractures to their head were consistent with blunt force trauma … the attack continued for at least 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.
Such light sentencing is a shocking miscarriage of justice, and a dangerous precedent.
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.
Anyone who is capable of bashing gentle penguins to death shows a worrying psychological state. The pain and fear that these birds must have experienced are unimaginable.
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.
It’s time that this country started to treat cases of cruelty to animals as the serious crimes that they are.
How You Can Help
It’s easy to feel outrage when we read these stories and learn about the lenient sentences handed down to animal abusers. But it’s not enough simply to be angry – we need to take action.
Your voice matters. And a public outcry has already brought about tougher laws in the past. In 2012, two Queensland teenagers savagely beat a pair of alpacas with a metal fence post. One animal was found dead at the scene, and the other had to be euthanised.
The seriously inadequate sentencing handed down by the courts prompted a huge public outcry, ultimately resulting in the introduction of tougher laws in the state and the possibility of a seven-year prison term for severe cruelty to animals.
We must continue to speak out and demand that these laws be much more regularly and meaningfully enforced.
In addition to pushing for harsher penalties, we must also introduce early intervention plans and make humane education a priority in our schools.
Take action now.
Write to your local MP and express your concerns. Urge him or her to examine the way animal abusers are currently dealt with and remind your MP of the links between cruelty to animals and violence towards humans.
Click here to find the contact details for your MP.
And if you suspect someone of abusing an animal, report it to authorities right away, for the safety of humans and non-humans alike.