4th November 2012
Gandhi said "the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated". The emergence of a disturbing video depicting the merciless torture of a protected shark in Western Australia throws into question the integrity of the local government due to it’s complete and utter lack of action.
The video depicts, what Mick Dowers from The Australian Anti Shark Finning Alliance (TAASFA) believes to be, a Dusky Shark lynched by a rope around its neck and left strung up with its stomach cut wide open and entrails hanging. The defenceless creature then endures endless blows to the head by its cowardly attacker with a piece of steel all the while thrashing around, still alive, in a vain attempt to escape the obvious agony.
With The Western Australian government ignoring the matter, the Western Australian Police washing their hands of it and The Department of Fisheries Western Australia turning a blind eye, what does this say about the moral progress of Western Australia today? To allow this behaviour to continue without investigation and to go unpunished is tantamount to condoning the disgusting and cowardly torture. What use are animal protection laws if they aren’t enforced? What use are the custodians of justice in society, when they choose to stand by idly despite being fully aware of a grievous act of cruelty?
The video, along with intimidating and inflammatory comments, was posted to the wall of a Facebook page for shark conservation by a person using the Facebook profile name Paul Sullivan. The perpetrator stated, in a public arena, that he was in possession of other videos of similar content depicting him and his accomplices torturing and killing numerous sharks, claiming that in one video, he shoots a tiger shark. No motivation for the deplorable behavior has been declared, but Mr Dowers told Shark Alarm that the posts’ content was akin to ‘trolling’ or cyber bullying’.
Do we dare suppose the motivations of a perpetrator so depraved and capable of such violence against a living creature? Are they ‘revenge’ killings? Is this behaviour indirectly encouraged by the gross misrepresentation of the risk that sharks pose to humans by the Western Australian government? Is this the first of a continuing trend that exposes the dark side of the demonization of sharks as a species?
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing. Mr Dowers says that TAASFA is not going to give up, nor are they walking away from the case. TAASFA was advised by Senior Constable Paul Litherland of the West Australian Police that
"this is not a matter that would warrant investigation by Western Australia Police. The Fisheries Department of Western Australia is responsible for the enforcement of fisheries legislation against this type of incident."
According to the Section 33 of the Animal Welfare Act 2002 (WA) (the Act) states the CEO can appoint a member of the staff of Fisheries Western Australia as a General Inspector pursuant to the Act. Section 37 of the Act states, subject to subsection (3) (relates to things done under licence) the functions of a General Inspector are, inter alia, to 'enforce Part 3' (of the Act).
Part 3 of the Act relates to offences against animals, with section 19(1) stating "A person must not be cruel to an animal" which carries a minimum penalty of $2,000 and a maximum penalty of $50,000 and 5 years in jail.
Section 19(2)(a) states: "Without limiting subsection (1) a person, whether or not the person is a person in charge of the animal, is cruel to an animal if the person tortures, mutilates, maliciously beats or wounds, abuses, torments, or otherwise ill-treats, the animal."
So what’s the problem here? Throw the book at them, right? Well, no. In the eyes of the law a shark is classified as a fish, not an animal.
ANIMAL WELFARE ACT 2002 - SECT 5
5 . Interpretation
(1) In this Act —
Agriculture WA means the department of the Public Service principally assisting with the administration of the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007;
animal means —
(a) a live vertebrate; or
(b) a live invertebrate of a prescribed kind,
other than a human or a fish (as defined in the Fish Resources Management Act 1994)
This video shows clear evidence of a contravention of section 19(1) of the Act, a section of the Act the West Australian government and if sharks were animal by law, it would be deemed serious enough to impose a maximum penalty of $50,000 and 5 years jail. Why is this conduct is seemingly justified by the law?
Mr Dowers is questioning the point of why the law excludes fish when fish, including sharks are sentient beings like most animals. He argues that they also feel pain and suffer stress. He wants to know why the law doesn't afford fish the protections against cruelty that other animals enjoy.
Shark Alarm wonders what sort of message it's sending to the public and the rest of the world about Western Australia and its attitude towards marine life when behaviour such as that in this video goes ignored?
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