New Zealand cats: feral cat killing competition for children axed after backlash - event explained
The event would have seen children aged 14 and under compete to win a possible prize of NZ$250 (£124)
A competition in New Zealand which would have seen children hunt and kill feral cats for a possible prize of NZ$250 (£124) has been cancelled following public backlash.
Measures to tackle New Zealand’s feral cat population has been the topic of heated debate in the country, as the species poses a major threat to native wildlife and biodiversity. This is down to the fact that they eat endangered birds and eggs, lizards, bats and insects.
This is everything you need to know.
What was the competition?
The event came from the North Canterbury Hunting Competition, which announced the new category on 14 April, where children aged 14 and under would be able to kill feral cats in a bid to win a cash prize.
Potential entrants were warned not to kill a person’s pet cat, and that children who produced any dead microchipped cats would have their entry into the competition disqualified.
In New Zealand, feral cats are pets and the competition was announced as part of a June fundraiser for a local school in Canterbury on the South Island.
The event is held annually and typically sees hundreds of participants, including children, compete to kill the likes of wild pigs, deer and hares. This is the first year that cats have been included in a competitive category.
Has the event been cancelled?
Following the backlash to the new competition category, the North Canterbury Hunting Competition removed the announcement and posted a statement on its Facebook page.
It said: “As some of you may have seen, there have been various media outlets pick up our latest competition section involving feral cats. We received concerns around this category when it opened on 14 April 2023. We acknowledge concerns that were raised so we removed the announcement from our page at 5.30pm on the 17th April and begun seeking advice and guidance on next steps.
“Unfortunately, there have been some vile & inappropriate emails and messages sent to the school and others involved – we are incredibly disappointed in this reaction and would like to clarify that this competition is an independent community run event and that all queries and concerns to be sent directly through us at [email protected]
“Our sponsors and school safety are our main priority, so the decision has been made to withdraw this category for this year to avoid further backlash at this time. We are disappointed and apologise for those who were excited to be involved in something that is about protecting [our] native birds, and other vulnerable species. To clarify, for all hunting categories, our hunters are required to abide by firearms act 1983 and future amendments as well as the animal welfare act 1999.
“Please remember we are a group of volunteers who are trying to raise money for our local school and pool. This fundraising effort is critical in aiding the local school to employ a board funded third teacher and gives our local community and kids greater opportunities.”
What was the reaction like?
The competition was met with backlash from the public, including animal rights campaigners who said that it was “virtually impossible” to tell the difference between a feral cat and a person’s pet cat.
Will Appelbe, a spokesperson for animal rights group SAFE, said: “Disqualifying dead cats with microchips is too little too late. It’s not even an ambulance, but a grave at the bottom of the cliff.”
Appelbe added: “There are numerous ways to raise money. Sending children off to kill cats shouldn’t be one of them.”
The Canterbury SPCA also said in a statement that it was “extremely concerned”.
It said: “There is a good chance someone’s pet may be killed during this event. In addition, children often use air rifles in these sorts of events which increase the likelihood of pain and distress, and can cause a prolonged death.”
Craig Gillies, Department of Conservation Principal Scientist, said the department “supports control of feral cats, provided it is undertaken by experienced people using approved humane methods” but added that “feral and domesticated cats are the same species [and] determining a difference between the two is virtually impossible”.