Children Hunt Hundreds of Cats in New Zealand’s Cruel Contest

Children Hunt Hundreds of Cats in New Zealand’s Cruel Contest

Photo: Pexels

In the rural regions of North Canterbury, New Zealand, a controversial event has ignited heated debate both locally and internationally.

The North Canterbury Hunting Competition, an annual event, involves participants hunting a variety of animals, including feral cats.

This year, the event saw nearly 400 cats killed, drawing significant backlash and raising ethical questions about animal welfare and conservation.

Photo: Pexels
The North Canterbury Hunting Competition targets feral cats and other animals.

Origins and Purpose

The North Canterbury Hunting Competition began as a local wild pig hunting contest but has expanded over the years to include other animals, such as deer, possums, and rabbits. In recent years, feral cats have become a target due to their perceived threat to New Zealand’s biodiversity.

Organizers argue that feral cats, which prey on native birds, lizards, and insects, need to be controlled to protect endangered species. Event organizer Matt Bailey defends the inclusion of cats, describing them as "possessed by the devil" and a significant danger to local wildlife and livestock, reports the New York Post.

Bailey claims that the competition helps control the feral cat population, which is crucial for preserving native species. He also noted to the New York Post that the event raises funds for local community projects, including schools and community pools. Despite the controversy, the competition continues to draw participants, including children, who are encouraged to hunt these animals.

Photo: Pexels
Children as young as 14 participate in the cat-killing contest.


The Contest and Its Controversies

This year’s competition attracted over 1,500 participants, including 460 children, according to the Daily Sabah. The event offered cash prizes for those who killed the most cats and the largest cat. One participant alone killed 65 cats, winning a $500 prize, while the largest cat fetched a $1,000 reward. As you might expect, the competition has not been without its critics. Animal rights activists and conservationists have vehemently opposed the event, arguing that it promotes cruelty and inhumane treatment of animals.

During the weigh-in, activists reported disturbing scenes, such as children swinging dead cats and taunting protesters, CBS News reports. Sarah Jackson of Christchurch Animal Save described witnessing children chanting "meat, meat, meat" while brandishing the bodies of deceased animals.

The presence of children in the competition has been a particularly contentious issue. Last year, a category for children under 14 was scrapped following public uproar. Critics argue that involving young, inexperienced hunters increased the risk of mistakenly killing domestic pets.

Despite these concerns, children still participated in this year's event, albeit under stricter supervision.
Photo: Pexels
The competition offers cash prizes for killing the most and largest cats.



Ethical and Environmental Concerns

Animal rights groups have condemned the competition for its brutality and the potential suffering inflicted on the animals.

Danette Wereta of the Animal Justice Party told Network for Animals about incidents where hunters taunted activists with dead kittens and decapitated animals. She also expressed concerns about the methods used to kill the cats, noting that some animals were left to die slowly from their injuries.

The use of poisons like 1080 to control feral cat populations has also been criticized. 1080, a slow-acting poison, causes severe suffering and can inadvertently harm other wildlife, including endangered species.

Critics argue that these methods are neither humane nor effective in the long term. Instead, they advocate for alternative strategies such as trap-neuter-return programs to manage the feral cat population, reports the New York Post.


Photo: Pexels
Animal rights activists have condemned the event as cruel.


Community and Conservation Impact

While the event raises funds for local causes, the ethical implications and the impact on animal welfare cannot be ignored. The clash between conservation goals and animal rights has created a complex and contentious issue. New Zealand’s Department of Conservation supports the culling of feral cats, citing their significant threat to native wildlife, reports BBC Wildlife.

However, the methods employed and the involvement of children in such violent activities have sparked widespread debate. Protesters and conservation groups argue that more humane methods should be explored. They call for greater emphasis on responsible pet ownership and sterilization programs to prevent the growth of feral cat populations.

There is a pressing need for comprehensive strategies that balance the protection of native species with ethical treatment of animals.



The Road Ahead

The controversy surrounding the North Canterbury Hunting Competition highlights the ongoing struggle between conservation efforts and animal welfare. As New Zealand grapples with the challenges posed by invasive species, finding a humane and effective solution remains critical. The debate over this event underscores the need for thoughtful, science-based approaches that consider both ecological impacts and ethical concerns.

The future of the North Canterbury Hunting Competition is uncertain. Organizers plan to expand the event and increase prize money, despite growing opposition.

As the conversation continues, it is crucial to engage with all stakeholders to develop strategies that protect wildlife without compromising animal welfare. Click below and take action for cats!

Matthew Russell

Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, spending time with his daughters, and coffee.

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