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Poppy Morandin.

Recent legislative amendments have criminalised bestiality and ‘animal crush’ material in New South Wales, following pressure from Animal rights politicians.

The amendments to the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), recently passed the state’s Legislative Assembly and will come into force once the bill receives assent.

The law will now prohibit individuals from making, producing, disseminating, or possessing videos or images of bestiality.

Bestiality refers to human sexual relations with animals.

The ban will also apply to ‘animal crush’ material.

As explained by Emma Hurst of the Animal Justice Party, ‘animal crush’ videos include sexual fetish videos that depict animals being brutally tortured or killed, often using a woman’s shoe.

The Act defines animal crush material as material depicting an animal being crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise killed or subjected to serious injury.

The material must be classified as intended to excite or gratify a sexual interest, or a sadistic or otherwise perverted interest in violence or cruelty.

A maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment will be applicable to those who produce or disseminate such material.

In the case of those guilty of possession, a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment will apply.

Statutory defences to the offence will include where the accused person did not know, and could not reasonably be expected to have known, that the material produced, disseminated, or possessed was bestiality or animal crush material.

In the case of possession, a defendant may furthermore contend that the material came into their possession unsolicited and as soon as they became aware of its nature, they took reasonable steps to get rid of it.

Another defence includes where the conduct is necessary for conducting scientific, medical, or educational research that is approved, authorised, or otherwise permitted under law.

Emma Hurst of the Animal Justice Party was the main figure involved in moving the amendments.

An investigation by the Animal Justice Party found thousands of these videos are available online and accessible to Australians.

These included videos of dogs being burned alive, kittens having their eyes pierced with a high heel shoe and a woman killing a puppy by standing on his head.

Whilst the actual acts of animal cruelty and bestiality in the videos are illegal in New South Wales, a vast majority of the videos are produced overseas, where our laws do not apply.

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In NSW, pursuant to section 79 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), bestiality carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail.

This therefore left a gap in the law for those who possessed or disseminated the videos, with no connection as to their production.

“This was a shocking gap in our law which urgently needed to be corrected…Most people in the community are horrified to know that this was not already illegal.” commented Hurst.

Hurst noted that: “There is a well‑established link between animal sadism and violence against humans, making it an important warning sign of other violent crimes. Research shows that those who sexually abuse animals are more likely to sexually abuse humans.”

Hurst also claims that there is anecdotal evidence that bestiality videos were commonly discovered among people charged with possession of child abuse material.

“By creating this new offence, police will have a greater ability to prosecute people involved in both child and animal abuse, and it could help obtain stronger sentences for these abusers,” she explained.

Penny Sharpe of the Labor Party commented how the Animal Justice Party was: “really changing the way in which Parliament looks at our laws and the way in which we deal with animals.”

Ms Hurst is now pushing for law reform to occur across Australia, with possessing videos of bestiality technically legal everywhere except Tasmania.

As for ‘animal crush’ content, no law against it exists in Australia aside from NSW.

Published on 11/12/2021

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