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Is eating cats or dogs legal?
RSPCA Australia is opposed to the use of dogs and cats for fur or food as these animals have a specific place in Australian society as companion animals and close working partners of humans.
In most states and territories it is not an offence to eat cats and dogs. South Australia is the only state which definitively prohibits the consumption of meat derived from a cat or dog, including the killing of a cat or dog for such purpose (see below table).
The sale of cat and dog meat however, is prohibited in all states and territories under the various statutes which govern the production of meat. While these laws do not expressly state that selling cat and dog meat is an offence, the effect of the regulatory regimes they create serves to achieve this end. A person or business that processes meat intended for sale and human consumption must be registered or licensed under the relevant state or territory meat production legislation. A condition of this registration or licence is that the particular meat processing complies with a Regulation or an adopted Standard or Code.
Under current meat processing Standards and Codes, cat and dog meat cannot be sold as it does not derive from what is defined as a “consumable” or “abattoir” animal. “Consumable” or “abattoir” animals are generally defined to include cattle, sheep, goats, camel, deer, buffalo, pigs, and rabbits. Separate categories exist for poultry, and wild animals such as kangaroos and crocodiles. Accordingly, a state or territory food safety authority would not grant registration or licence to a person or business seeking to process cat or dog meat for sale.
So while the sale of meat derived from a cat or dog is prohibited, technically, the home production and consumption of such meat is not (with the exception of South Australia). The method and manner in which an animal is killed under such circumstances would however be subject to the provisions of state and territory animal welfare legislation. If such killing caused the animal unnecessary pain or caused the animal not to die instantly, it would be likely to constitute an offence under the general cruelty provisions of such legislation. It is also arguable that the act of killing a cat or dog for the purpose of consumption (regardless of how instant or ‘humane’ the killing was) may constitute animal cruelty or ill-treatment under the legislation due to the unnecessary nature of the activity. This however would be a legal argument for the courts to decide.
RSPCA Australia believes the consumption of cat and dog meat should be expressly prohibited in statute. Cats and dogs hold a specific place in Australian society as companion animals. Eating cats and dogs is therefore offensive to mainstream Australian cultural values. RSPCA Australia believes that state governments should follow the lead of South Australia and create specific offences for eating cats and dogs, either within their animal welfare legislation, or within their general criminal legislation.
Is eating cats or dogs legal?
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