TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Taiwanese indigenous people can now legally hunt for food, to share with family or tribe members, and for traditional rituals, based on a new interpretation of the Wildlife Conservation Act (野生動物保育法) announced by two government councils on Thursday.
So long as the wild game is not caught for the purposes of profit, and is only used for food or traditional rituals, hunting such wildlife is not illegal, the Council of Agriculture and the Council of Indigenous Peoples said in their ruling on the law
The issue came to head in 2013 when Bunun aborigine Tama Talum, also known by his Chinese name Wang Guang-lu (王光祿), was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for violating the Act Controlling Guns, Knives and Ammunition (槍砲彈藥刀械管制條例) and the Wildlife Conservation Act when he shot a Formosan serow and a Reeves' muntjac with a modified shotgun.
He maintained his innocence, arguing that he had the right and practice traditional Bunun culture under the Indigenous Peoples Basic Act (原住民族基本法) and that he had killed the animals to provide food for his 94-year-old mother, who was ill at the time.
The two councils ruled that under Article 21-1 of the Wildlife Conservation Act indigenous people can legally hunt wildlife so long as they are for the purpose of "self use" such as for food for themselves, to share with other tribal members, or for traditional ceremonies.
Kao Wen-pin (高文斌), head of the Economic Development Department of the Council of Indigenous Peoples, told the media the use of the term "self use" was a new interpretation of the law, but as the legislature has yet to officially amend the Wildlife Conservation Act, judges will interpret the definition of "self use" on a case-by-case basis in the meantime.
Nevertheless, Kao did feel this new interpretation would help indigenous people accused of similar crimes as Tama Talum's case.
For highland aborigine tribes, hunting is traditionally an integral part of their culture, starting from a young age. In many tribes, a ritual hunt is an essential rite of passage for young men.