What’s happening at Black Swan Lake?
Just like thousands of other land clearing sites across the state and country, Black Swan Lake, a 2.75 ha freshwater lake is being destroyed, filled in and turned into a carpark. The land clearing happening at Black Swan Lake which is resulting in the injury, displacement and death of the native wildlife is devastatingly authorised by law – according to permits issued by authorities.
Can they be charged with animal cruelty?
Provided there is compliance with the conditions of these permits – including having a spotter catcher present, nothing done to these animals constitutes cruelty as it is defined in the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001. Despite our own personal judgements.
RSPCA Inspectors do not have the power to stop the development at Black Swan Lake. That’s the law. Not our choice. No matter the pressure put on us, how it’s viewed, however emotionally charged or tragic the results - it’s simply the facts and we cannot change that right now.
Animal cruelty and the law
People use the term ‘cruelty’ to refer generally to any mistreatment of animals. But the legal definition of cruelty excludes any acts done to animals that are authorised, justified or excused by law. So quite often, land clearing permits ‘authorise’ what would otherwise be cruelty. These acts that are authorised, justified or excused by law are not cruelty by definition and therefore, RSPCA cannot take any action
So what are the RSPCA doing?
RSPCA Qld are devoting significant resources to Black Swan Lake and other land clearing events happening around Queensland. This includes working with stakeholders, including wildlife rescue groups and government, to have land clearing laws changed.
Who CAN do something?
The only people who can take action about what is happening during land clearing are the local Council and the Department of Environment and Science - depending on who issues the permits.
- Having a spotter catcher on site is a Council requirement for Black Swan Lake - so any queries about them having one on site can go through to the City of Gold Coast Council
- If you believe the spotter catcher is not discharging their duties as required this may well warrant an investigation, you can contact The Queensland Government Department of Environment and Science.
- The Department of Environment and Science are involved with the species management plan (SMP) but can investigate any suspicions of “illegal take” (injuring, harming or killing wildlife). Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
- If there is evidence of deliberate cruelty not authorised by permits (like deliberate killing or injuring of animals done outside the scope of the permit – e.g. a worker kicks a swan, or stomps on a turtle, or puts a live animal in a bin) then please make a detailed report to the RSPCA online at www.rspcaqld.org.au/cruelty or by calling 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625).
Understanding the absurdity
We understand how absurd it is that if this same harm was done to these animals in other circumstances, we could prosecute. Nothing is more bizarre than RSPCA being able to enforce appropriate living conditions for chickens in someone’s back yard, while being unable to enforce those same living conditions for all the chickens kept in commercial premises.
We would like to see a world where all animals are entitled to the same standard of care – and while we are moving towards that world, it’s a slow journey. We just need to make sure we keep moving and do not give up.
The fact that Black Swan Lake is under the spotlight, being scrutinised by many and outrage is building does provide us with some relief - people care. We are grateful for the good work of individuals and organisations attending the site, and raising awareness about land clearing. Their protests and complaints have kept this issue in the minds and hearts of the community, and ensured that all involved in the land clearing are held to account.