Hunters an­gry over new law

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - PAUL MIL­TON BUT­LER

A PROMINENT mem­ber of the Kuku Yalanji peo­ple has slammed the State Gov­ern­ment’s plans to re­move an­i­mal cru­elty ex­emp­tions for tra­di­tional hunters.

State Fish­eries Min­is­ter John McVeigh this week acted on an LNP elec­tion prom­ise to in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion to re­move cru­elty ex­emp­tions for tra­di­tional own­ers and bring Queens­land’s an­i­mal wel­fare leg­is­la­tion in line with other States.

The LNP made the prom­ise af­ter claims were aired on ABC TV in March that tur­tles and dugongs were be­ing killed in­hu­manely and poached in Far North Queens­land.

The re­port showed Tor­res Strait lo­cals hack­ing the legs off a sea tur­tle, which took seven min­utes to die.

Footage by for­mer IT en­tre­pre­neur and now eco-war­rior Ru­pert Imhoff showed a tur­tle fas­tened by a rope for up to three days wait­ing to die, while dugongs were be­ing dragged by boats.

Link Walker, a mem­ber of the Kuku Yalanji tribe, said his peo­ple were all for the proper treat­ment of an­i­mals and said the sen­sa­tional footage dragged out to slam in­dige­nous peo­ple was very dam­ag­ing.

“Just like any race of peo­ple there are a few bad eggs that dam­age the rep­u­ta­tion of the ma­jor­ity of lawabid­ing peo­ple and our peo­ple are to­tally against all forms of cru­elty to any an­i­mal,” Mr Walker said. “It’s all about re­spect. “And as for peo­ple slam­ming us for our tra­di­tional ways and eat­ing tra­di­tional foods, you have to re­mem­ber there are still many peo­ple in our com­mu­ni­ties who do not have money to go to the su­per­mar­ket and the only way they can feed them­selves and their fam­i­lies is with tra­di­tional hunt­ing.

“Our big­gest mes­sage to non­indige­nous peo­ple and to our own peo­ple, es­pe­cially our kids, and that is to re­spect each other, re­spect the an­i­mals, re­spect the en­vi­ron­ment and re­spect our cul­ture.

“Ev­i­dence of this re­spect is every­where to­day by the ex­is­tence of all of the nat­u­ral food re­sources and the en­vi­ron­ment’s re­sources - if we didn’t show that re­spect thou­sands of years ago we wouldn’t have the crea­tures and the en­vi­ron­ment we do to­day.

“Eat­ing tur­tles and dugongs is rarely done now and is mainly as part of time-hon­oured cer­e­monies or when peo­ple have nothing else to eat.

“It’s not the in­dige­nous peo­ple out on the oceans with big ships drag­ging ev­ery­thing into their huge fishing nets and de­plet­ing vast num­bers of an­i­mals.”

Mr Walker said the big­gest prob­lem is gov­ern­ments com­ing up with “their grand schemes” but there is never any­one put “on the ground” to help bring the changes about.

“It’s all about mak­ing the bu­reau­crats mak­ing a name for them­selves and of­fer­ing no so­lu­tions at all to the peo­ple who have to try and get on and live their daily lives, in many cases, with next to nothing,” Mr Walker said.

The new Bill calls for amend­ments to be made to the An­i­mal Care and Pro­tec­tion Act 2001 to make it il­le­gal for in­dige­nous Aus­tralians to wound, mu­ti­late, tor­ture or un­nec­es­sar­ily pro­long the death of an an­i­mal.

Un­der the changes, Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­ders would face the same penal­ties as other Aus­tralians - up to two years’ jail or a $100,000 fine - If they use cruel dugong and tur­tle hunt­ing prac­tices.

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