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Are squid and octopi protected by animal welfare legislation?

Cephalopods are a group of invertebrate animals, which include octopi, squid, cuttlefish and nautili. The protection of cephalopods under animal welfare legislation is dependent upon the definition of ‘animal’ in the animal welfare legislation of each State and Territory. In the majority of jurisdictions, animals are defined as vertebrate animals. However, in the ACT, Queensland and Victoria, cephalopods are included within the definition of ‘animal’ in particular circumstances. New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, the Northern Territory and Western Australia do not include cephalopods under the definitions of animal under their animal welfare legislation.

In the ACT and Queensland, the cruelty provisions of their respective regimes apply to the retail and commercial use of cephalopods. There is an obligation for retailers to provide cephalopods with appropriate and adequate food, water, and shelter. Cephalopods must be transported in a way so as not to subject them to unnecessary injury, pain or suffering. Additionally, cephalopods must not be overcrowded or overloaded in an unjustifiable, unnecessary or unreasonable way.

RSPCA Australia recognises the sentience and capacity for cephalopods to experience pain and suffering, especially considering their complex nervous system and documented intelligence, and therefore believes that there should be uniform protection for cephalopods across Australia. RSPCA Australia supports the inclusion of cephalopods under relevant State and Territory animal welfare legislation, and the development of Codes of Practices or Standards and Guidelines relating to their care.

State/TerritoryYes/NoRelevant Acts/Conditions
ACTYesAnimal Welfare Act 1992 (ACT)
VicYesPrevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (Vic)

Protection only relates to the use of cephalopoda in scientific research
QldYesAnimal Care and Protection Act 2001 (Qld)

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Updated on May 1, 2019
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