I have a theory that much can be learned about a society from what activities are classed as crimes and that much social history can be traced by looking at the way those laws evolve with time. This is the first post in a series that will test this theory by looking at the way the various state Summary Offences Acts are amended. I will kick off my project with an amusing example. In 2004, South Australia passed the Summary Offences (Consumption of Dogs and Cats) Amendment Act, which makes it an offence to knowingly:

(a) kill[s] or otherwise process[es] a dog or cat for the purpose of human consumption; or (b) supplies to another person a dog or cat (whether alive or not), or meat from a dog or cat, for the purpose of human consumption; or (c) consumes meat from a dog or cat,

“Cat” and “dog”  are defined as the species Felis catus and  Canis familiaris respectively. “Meat” is the whole or part of a killed animal.

As can be expected there was some lively parliamentary debate over this legislation. Apparently the legislation was introduced in response to something the Premier heard on radio about an incident in another state. The Member for Bragg said: “If I might be so bold as to say—and I am happy to do so—why on earth are we wasting the parliament’s time with this legislation?” and also pointed out that there was no definition of consumption (so the meat could legally be chewed but not swallowed) and would “the government again waste the time of this house and present to us legislation prohibiting the chewing of dog or cat meat?“.  The Member for Mitchell said it was clearly populist legislation: “… not…because it is anticipated that cats and dogs will vote for the government: they, of course, have been known to vote only in internal ALP preselection ballots.”

Finally you also be reassured to note that dingoes did not need to be separately mentioned because canis familiaris and canis lupus are apparently regarded as equivalent (or at least they are under the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995)!

Creative commons attribution for the photograph: http://www.flickr.com/photos/clevercupcakes/ / CC BY 2.0
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