People with a disability like this woman
who are wheelchair bound due to
paraplegia find it empowering to be
able to hunt with a bow or crossbow,
which is not practical with other human
powered hunting weapons like spears.
People with a disability are more
likely to be in financial stress, thus
less able to afford the often onerous
costs involved in firearms ownership.
Thus laws which prohibit such hunting
disproportionally impact such people.
Sarpeye Warriors, Private Leo Akriba (left) and Private Jerry Anau from Charlie Company, 51st Battalion, Far North Queensland Regiment, celebrate the Coming of the Light on Darnley Island, in the Torres Straits. (Australian Defence Magazine, 9 July 2021)
Bowhunting is a traditional form of hunting that has existed for many thousands of years, while crossbow hunting has existed for many centuries. They are an effective and ethical means of harvesting game animals and eliminating pests in skilled hands.
Hunting is a natural right, so it follows that people have a right to possess the practical means of hunting, which cannot be a firearm in most nations as the ownership of such weapons is deemed a ‘privilege’ rather than a ‘right’ due to the danger they pose to public safety, while traditional weapons like spears are not suited to people who are weak, sick, injured, have a disability, or simply lack the coordination to use them effectively, which means bows and crossbows must be allowed for hunting use, though steps must be taken to promote responsible use.
It is also unreasonable on equity grounds to prohibit the use of bows and crossbows for hunting as doing so disproportionately impacts the poor who would find it prohibitive to use firearms due the expense associated with shooter licensing, firearm registration, safe storage, et al.
Rule of Law
Such bans also brings the law into disrepute as bowhunting and crossbow hunting have not been proven to be inherently less humane than many other forms of hunting such as with spears, throwing axes or firearms, the primary killing mechanism for all being rapid blood loss as the heart/lungs are the normal target as they are far larger than a small brain protected by a skull. In many cases it is unethical to shoot at the brain as it often results in a wounded animal with an intact heart/lungs that can easily escape and suffer a slow death, typically due to infection.
Banning such hunting also results in more people using firearms (some illegally if unable or unwilling to obtain a firearms licence), which pose a far greater threat to public safety. A rifle round like the .30-06 is capable of killing a person over three kilometres away, while unscrupulous gun lobbyists and gun manufacturers covertly support a ban on bowhunting and crossbow hunting as they want to promote the sale of firearms, while animal rights groups are ideologically opposed to all forms of hunting and want to use a ban on one type of hunting as a precedent to ban many more.
Traditional forms of hunting are a cultural right, thus banning them is a form of cultural genocide, with such bans having been imposed on indigenous people by invaders and colonizers who routinely depicted them as “barbarians” who should source food from [their] farms. A common occurrence worldwide that has contributed to social dysfunction in indigenous communities, notably increased rates of substance abuse, poor health, domestic violence, increased rates of imprisonment, and suicide.
Said bans are often justified on the grounds that some people misuse them, notably casual users who lack the skills and experience needed to routinely make clean kills, but this punishes responsible users so is a violation of natural justice and would not stop irresponsible people using them illegally.
Native Title Act 1993
Under Section 211 of Australia's Native Title Act 1993, a federal, state or territory law that prohibits or restricts people from carrying out an activity will not apply to native title holders (people of Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islander descent) undertaking that activity for personal, domestic or non-commercial purposes. That includes hunting, fishing, gathering, and a cultural or spiritual activity. That would include the use of bows and arrows where native title holders are engaged in a traditional activity like bowhunting.
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Article 11 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states: "Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature." Thus Australians of indigenous descent not only have a right to use traditional bows for hunting, they have a right to develop their bowhunting via the use of modern bows, not be restricted to bows used prior to the British invasion in 1788. Their bowhunting culture did not stop evolving in 1788.
Disability Discrimination Act 1992
Australia's Disability Discrimination Act 1992 prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, education, publicly available premises, provision of goods and services, accommodation, clubs and associations, and other contexts. Discrimination is defined to include failing to make reasonable adjustments for a person with a disability. Thus a federal, state or territory law that deprived people with a disability of a practical and inexpensive means of harvesting game with a bow or crossbow could be construed as being unlawful under this Act as many such people (notably paraplegics) are unable to effectively harvest game with other human powered hunting weapons like spears and are unable to obtain a firearm, lack the resources to obtain a firearm (which can be expensive and entail a great deal of red tape and onerous conditions), or have a moral or ethical objection to the use/ownership of a firearm due to the threat they pose to public safety.
UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities
Under Article 5 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities states: "Governments should outlaw all forms of discrimination on the basis of disability and ensure effective protection against disability discrimination", that "[g]overnments should ensure that reasonable accommodation is made for disabled people", and "[s]pecific measures are often needed to create equality for disabled people in practice and are permitted under the Convention."
South Australia Ban
In October 2022 the state Labor government announced its intention to ban hunting with bows and crossbows on animal welfare grounds due to allegedly high wounding rates ('Arrow hunting to be banned', Nigel Hunt, The Advertiser, 4 October 2022). This was not a publically disclosed policy at the March 2022 state election, thus voters were denied their democratic right to consider this when voting while opponents were deprived of their democratic right to oppose it. This affront to democracy was not in keeping with the ALP's commitment to political transparency, while this government has no democratic mandate to implement such bans in this parliamentary term, which cannot in any case be fully implemented as it would violate at least two federal laws; the Native Title Act 1993 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
Turns out the ALP did a secret preference deal with the Animal Justice Party, with Deputy Premier Susan Close later stating that the bans had been a public policy at the previous state election in 2018 and had been carried over despite not being listed in any election material for the 2022 state election ('No reason to ban bows, hunters say', Todd Lewis, Sunday Mail, 9 October 2022). The government also failed to provide any comparative studies of wounding rates of legal hunting weapons (spears, hunting boomerangs, clubs, rocks, muzzle-loading firearms, metallic cartridge firearms, etc.) to justify the bans. A 2021 parliamentary inquiry into such hunting made 12 recommendations to improve accountability, but did not recommend any bans (Inquiry into Issues Related to Bow and Crossbow Hunting in South Australia, Forty-Fifth Report of the Social Development Committee, Parliament of South Australia, 2021).
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