Animals Australia says proposed changes to NSW hunting regulations amount to child abuse, and the Animal Justice Party claims armed toddlers will be roaming the bush.
It is part of an attack by the anti-hunting lobby on a possible reduction in the permitted age of hunters in NSW.
“Allowing young children to inflict often painful slow deaths on animals with bows or knives or watch animals viciously ripped apart by hunting dogs is tantamount to child abuse,” Animals Australia’s Lyn White told the National Tribune.
The NSW Government is updating its Game and Feral Animal Control Regulation, including reducing the minimum age limit for the issuing of a game hunting licence, which currently stands at 12 years.
The changes would allow younger hunters to use bows and hunt with dogs, but would not include firearms, for which the NSW minimum age for a minor’s permit is 12 years.
The changes would also allow people 16-17 years old to hunt without direct adult supervision, although not with firearms.
It would “allow young people to accompany and assist an adult while hunting, after completing R-Licence training requirements,” according to the government’s summary of changes to the regulations.
Ms White said the proposal was “absurd” and could lead to “extreme psychological damage to children”.
Animal Justice Party MP Emma Hurst told radio station 2GB the change would “allow toddlers to hunt animals with bows and dogs”.
“Children and weapons don’t mix and our laws should never be relaxed to allow that to happen,” she said.
She said this and other changes to the regulations were “really, really extreme”.
NSW Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party MP Roy Butler responded by saying the accusations were “overblown”.
“This is not a big deal,” he said. “We’re talking about kids doing something that kids have been doing forever.”
Other changes range from setting fees to changing penalties.
The “fit and proper person” provision would be applied to a hunting licence as it is to a firearms licence, allowing easier cancellation of a hunting licence.
A number of clarifications will provide certainty for people hunting in wheelchairs, for professional hunters and others.
The Hunter’s Code of Practice would be removed from the legislation because it is “no longer best practice to include a code of practice in legislation,” according to the summary, which adds that hunters would still have to abide by any code applied by the regulatory authority.
That last point did not stop Ms Hurst from calling it part of a “major relaxation of hunting laws”.
“It could allow blatant animal abuse with no consequences under that particular Act,” she said.