The competition, meant to raise money for a local New Zealand community and control the growing feral cat population, faced enormous public backlash that forced it to cancel after only four days.
A feral cat-killing contest for children under 14 in New Zealand was canceled after animal rights groups fiercely denounced the event.
The North Canterbury Hunting Competition is an annual community pest-killing event in New Zealand that raises money for a local school and recreation facility. Last year, 250 children and 650 adults participated in the competition and killed 427 animals, primarily possums, hares, and rabbits.
This year, the competition launched a new event: a feral cat-killing contest.
In New Zealand, feral cats are a public and environmental nuisance. According to New Zealand’s Northland Regional Council, feral cats kill up to 100 million birds in the country every year.
Additionally, feral cats have killed young kiwi birds, lizards, and frogs. Given how quickly feral cats breed, their population boom has become somewhat of an ecological disaster in New Zealand.
With these factors in mind, the North Canterbury Hunting Competition added feral cats to the hunting lineup. Other animals like wild pigs and deer are also targets of the competition.
As part of the competition, the organization encouraged children to kill, collect, and present the carcasses of feral cats. The child with the highest kill count would receive $250 NZD, or about $155 USD.
As a safety precaution for domestic cats, the organization announced that they would disqualify any child who presented a domestic cat with a microchip to them, but this safeguard was less than reassuring for animal-rights groups.
“Children, as well as adults, will not be able to tell the difference between a feral, stray, or a frightened domesticated cat,” a spokesperson for the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or SPCA, told Agence France-Presse.
“There is a good chance someone’s pet may be killed during this event,” the SPCA told The Guardian. “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.”
Despite initial concerns and protests, the competition began on April 15 and only lasted four days before critics’ concerns became a reality.
According to Stuff News, a child shot a domesticated cat with an air rifle, causing it to die of infection. The cat had been microchipped and desexed, though its owner has not yet been identified.
“While we are uncertain of whether the child shot this cat during the [hunting] event, it demonstrates that the use of an air rifle caused unnecessary pain and distress for the cat,” an SPCA spokesperson said, as reported by Stuff News.
After this incident, the organization suspended the cat-killing competition and issued statements explaining their decision.
The North Canterbury Hunting Competition posted on Facebook stating that it had made the decision to cancel the category to avoid “further backlash” after the school it was raising money for started receiving “vile & inappropriate emails” regarding the hunting competition.
“Our sponsors and school safety are our main priority,” the North Canterbury Hunting Competition said in their Facebook post. “We are disappointed and apologize for those who were excited to be involved in something that is about protecting our native birds, and other vulnerable species.”
Others are rejoicing at the decision to cancel the cat-killing contest. In a comment under the organization’s post on Facebook, one user noted, “There are more effective ways of managing this issue, including desexing all cats and promoting indoor cat life as a viable and sustainable solution.”
Furthermore, Will Appelbe, spokesperson for animal rights group SAFE, stated to The Guardian, “There are numerous ways to raise money. Sending children off to kill cats shouldn’t be one of them.”
After learning about the cat-killing contest in New Zealand, read about nine invasive species that are destroying ecosystems in the United States. Then, discover seven places around the world that have become completely overrun with cats.