A well-known scientist plead guilty to perpetrating unimaginable, extreme acts of animal cruelty.
While the reports are shocking and upsetting, they highlight the need for stronger protections for animals across Australia.
After a suppression order was lifted in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory this week, the world learned that a man charged with sexually abusing and torturing dogs was a prominent scientist.
Adam Britton, a biologist known for his work with crocodiles, not only admitted to committing these acts. He also shared images and footage online.
It is hard to imagine anyone wanting to deliberately inflict harm on animals, let alone deriving gratification from inflicting that harm and disseminating it.
I will not share further details about this case, because I don't want to further traumatise readers.
As a veterinarian, I am exposed to animal cruelty from time to time.
This particular case is, to me, abhorrent and distressing.
I cannot comprehend or begin to understand those who inflict violence upon animals.
But when confronted with this sort of news, it is important to consider what can be done to eliminate or prevent similar harm from befalling other animals.
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Animal welfare scientists agree that dogs are sentient beings. That is, they have feelings that matter.
It follows that we should not inflict unnecessary pain, suffering or distress on animals - an ethos that underpins animal welfare legislation in Australia and elsewhere.
Incredibly, while animal cruelty and animal sexual abuse are prohibited acts within Australia, possession and viewing of footage of such acts are not specifically prohibited - with the exception of Tasmania and New South Wales.
In NSW, Animal Justice Party MP Emma Hurst successfully campaigned to outlaw the production, dissemination and possession of videos fetishising animal cruelty, after learning that thousands of such videos are available for Australians to purchase, view, share and trade.
Thanks to changes in laws in NSW, those who produce or distribute this material can go to prison for up to five years.
Those found to knowingly possess the material may be imprisoned for up to three years.
We need stronger laws across Australia to protect all animals.
These include formal recognition that animals are thinking, feeling, (i.e. sentient) creatures with a capacity to experience positive and negative mental and emotional states.
In addition to prosecuting perpetrators, it is important to prohibit the production, possession and sharing of recordings of animal sexual abuse and other sexual fetish videos involving animals, so that those who exploit animals can be held to account.
And this isn't just about animal welfare.
There is an established link between the perpetration of cruelty to animals and violence toward humans.
Indeed, Britton also plead guilty to possessing, accessing and transmitting child abuse material.
If not just for the protection of animals, we need to take these offences seriously in order to protect humans.
We cannot bring Britton's victims back.
But we can honour them by campaigning for legislative change.
Animal victims of abuse cannot speak for themselves. They need our strongest protections.
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