New Zealand Kids Get Into Killing Animals and Love Doing It

New Zealand's war on wildlife uses youngsters to reach their shameful goal.

Posted Oct 07, 2018

"Every child that walked into the Whangamomona Domain on Saturday either had a dead animal slung over their shoulders or a pair of gumboots on."

"Unfortunately, it is already clear that the policy [New Zealand's Predator Free 2050 program] has not been well informed by scientific knowledge or conservation best practice. It also misdirects attention from more fundamental and direct threats to biodiversity protection and recovery." (Wayne Linklater and Jamie Steer 2018)

This morning I received two very different email messages from New Zealand residents concerning their country's on-going horrific and regrettable war on wildlife using inarguably uncompassionate and sickening poisons such as 1080 and other brutal methods of killing. They motivated me to revisit what is happening in this country's massive and violent assault on nonhuman animals (animals) and to reflect on how few people, including some New Zealanders, know about what'a currently happening and what's planned for the future.

All in all, New Zealand's wide ranging and egregious assault on non-native animals can't be justified on ecological or ethical grounds. In an essay titled "Predator Free 2050: A flawed conservation policy displaces higher priorities and better, evidence‐based alternatives" by New Zealand conservation and biodiversity researchers Wayne Linklater and Jamie Steer we read, "New Zealand's policy to exterminate five introduced predators by 2050 is well‐meant but warrants critique and comparison against alternatives. The goal is unachievable with current or near‐future technologies and resources. Its effects on ecosystems and 26 other mammalian predators and herbivores will be complex. Some negative outcomes are likely. Predators are not always and everywhere the largest impact on biodiversity...the policy is flawed and risks diverting effort and resources from higher environmental priorities and better alternatives." The ethical problems centering on the intentional killing of millions other animals are abundantly clear. For example, Linklater and Steer write, "The improbability of success and the perception by some that current tools are cruel are substantial barriers to ethically robust outcomes. More compassionate approaches to managing predators (Wallach, Bekoff, Batavia, Nelson, & Ramp, 2018) are not being considered.

The first note I received read: "I just read an article saying you have received hate mail for criticising NZ's policy, especially in some schools, on possums as pests. I am sorry to hear that. I would just like to say I totally agree with you - it is horrific to teach children to kill and even more horrific that anyone would drown animals. I was born here and had a baby possum when I was a child, whose mother was hit by a car and he was the sweetest thing, absolutely adorable. I think people should let nature work things out. After all it was because of humans that we have possums in NZ and they are just living their lives where they were born, the same as us. Best regards for your inspiring work." While I have received a few very nasty and vulgar notes about my opposition to, and strong criticisms of, New Zealand's shameful war on wildlife, the vast majority has been very supportive. 

"Most children came in with an animal carcass slumped over their shoulder"

The other email I received with the subject line reading, "It seems to get worse and worse" alerted me to an essay that is available online called "Forgotten World Highway fun: animal carcasses, sausages and fox terrier races." This piece is about the biennial Whangamomona Kids' Critter Hunt, "a competition that asks children from near and far to bring biggest and best kills from the past few days in to be weighed and displayed" (please also see "Animal carcasses, psychopathy and school possum hunts"). It contains a number of very disturbing images of kids proudly displaying the animals who they've killed, and I urge caution because they are extremely off-putting. Some of the captions for the images read, "Sam Faull, 6, Noah Cameron, 5, Hunter Cameron, 7, and Gus Hutchinson, 8, with their possums at the great Whangamomona Kids' Critter Hunt," "Most children came in with an animal carcass slumped over their shoulder," and "Rueben Pease, 15, with the 170 pound boar he shot in an entry for critter day." (Note: In a third email in response to this essay of mine I posted earlier, I also received notice about a video called "THE NZ GOVT IS TEACHING YOUR CHILD THAT CLASS 1A ECOTOXIN 1080, BANNED BY MOST COUNTRIES, IS ‘NOT VERY DANGEROUS TO HUMANS’" which normalizes the use of poisons and in which there is discussion of a book titled Poisoning Our Future: Children and Pesticides.)

In "Forgotten World Highway fun: animal carcasses, sausages and fox terrier races" we read, "In the period of two hours around 60 children weighed in 165 dead animals - attaching their names to the carcasses and laying them alongside each other on the ground." A grandmother also notes, "her grandchildren, who live in Hāwera, take a little while to get used to killing animals, but once they get into it, they love it." Daniel 'Pork' Hutchinson who is president of the Whangamomona Pig Hunt Club claims, "They have a ball." Even an adult has found killing animals to be addictive (for more discussion please see "Killing Animals Is 'Weirdly Addictive' Says New Zealander"). 

Kids and animals: Some New Zealand schools are promoting a horrific model

It's essential to share what's happening in New Zealand with a wide audience because while a good deal of press has focused on the on-going slaughter and support for it, there are many people who are strongly against it. Some are especially concerned with the training and of youngsters to harm and to kill so-called pests (please also see "Horror at children drowning baby possums at Drury school event" and "Possums and pig hunting fundraiser for country school"), the link between violence toward animals and violence toward humans, and the country's extremely high rates of domestic violence. In "Possums and pig hunting fundraiser for country school" there are some incredibly disturbing images of kids abusing animals. I received a good number of emails about this essay, in which we learn, "Hundreds attended the family fun day that included all the usual events—the possum carrying obstacle course, the heaviest magpie or rabbit competition, best dressed possum, heaviest goat head and, of course, the gumboot throw" and "The pig hunting opened on Thursday, giving hunters the opportunity to find the heaviest boar. They had more than 100 entries, with hunters registering from as far as Awakino and Whangamomona."

Pixabay free download
A girl and a bunny
Source: Pixabay free download

I wrote some about these topics in a number of essays ("Imprinting Kids for Violence Toward Animals," "Long-Term Effects of Violence Toward Animals by Youngsters," "Youngsters Encouraged to Kill Possum Joeys in New Zealand," "It's a Ghastly Time to Be a Bunny in New Zealand," and links therein), and also noted that not all youngsters want to kill the animals who they're told to kill by teachers, school administrators, and other adults. For example, in essay titled "Violence Toward Animals: "Can You Please Help My Daughter?" I wrote about a mother who sent me the following note: "I have seen your recent essays on what is happening in schools throughout my country and I am appalled. Thank you for spreading the word. Can you please help my daughter tell her teachers that she does not want to participate in these types of events and contests?" She also mentioned that other parents agreed with her and were at wit's end because people in power were telling the kids it was perfectly okay to harm and to kill the animals and to parade around with corpses of the animals they slaughtered. I wrote back that her daughter should simply refuse to partake and be nice about it. She should just say "no," not make a ruckus, and serve as a model for others who might also not want to kill the so-called pests.

It's also ironic that New Zealand legally recognizes nonhumans as sentient beings, yet wants to kill hundreds of millions of creatures with rich and deep emotional lives. One of the men interviewed in a film about how kids are taught to kill animals admits he and others are out to kill amazing and intelligent animals

Just say no to sanctioned violence toward other animals

Suffice it to say, schools and groups working on behalf of other animals across New Zealand should lodge formal and vocal campaigns on how to humanely educate youngsters in ways that do not involve killing any animals for fun and money. Those who embrace compassionate conservation also can play a major role in stopping the necessary killing (for more discussion please see "Compassionate Conservation Matures and Comes of Age," "Compassion as a Practical and Evolved Ethic for Conservation," "Summoning compassion to address the challenges of conservation," Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate Conservation, and "Predator Free 2050: A flawed conservation policy displaces higher priorities and better, evidence‐based alternatives"). 

Claims that these animals are being "killed with kindness" are inane. Nicola Toki, the Threatened Species Ambassador of New Zealand’s Department of Conservation (DoC), offered this up in her defense of the slaughter. There's no reason at all to glorify killing and disrespect for other beings. And, there will be massive amounts of harm and suffering among the millions of sentient beings who are to be slaughtered. So-called "killing with kindness" is neither the panacea nor is it an acceptable excuse for killing other animals. Ms. Toki writes, “The key to getting it right is to hold onto empathy for other living things along the way.” So, killing other animals is just fine as long as the killers feel for the animals they’re slaughtering. I can imagine some people saying or thinking something like, “I know I’m causing you pain as I kill you, but please understand I’m doing it with kindness because it has to be done.” Of course, the animals who are killed couldn’t care less about how their one and only life is taken.

I hope that everyone in New Zealand who opposes killing contests that include youngsters and adults will speak out against such unnecessary violence. There's no reason to glorify killing other beings. Speaking out against violence toward other animals is one way to call attention to what is happening and to locate others who agree with this point of view. Future long term effects of harmful poisons and teaching kids to kill animals must be spoken about openly and the more people who do it, the more likely things will change for the better. As the late Gretchen Wyler once said, "Cruelty can't stand the spotlight." As like-minded people discover one another, things can change and other animals and other humans will benefit from the kindness, compassion, and respect that are shared. Therein lies hope for the future. It's time to close down the killing fields once and for all.

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