Children urged to kill cats for cash prize in 'extreme' hunting competition

Children urged to kill cats for cash prize in 'extreme' hunting competition
Australia plans to kill millions of feral cats by airdropping sausages laced …

Young children in New Zealand were encouraged to go out and kill cats as part of a misguided fundraiser.

The annual North Canterbury Hunting Competition, which raises money for a local school, announced a new junior section this year, urging hunters aged 14 or younger to shoot as many feral cats as possible.

Organisers of the contest said participants would have until late June to complete the bloody challenge, and that whoever killed the most would win $250 (around £125).

News of the competition was, understandably, met with horror by members of the community and beyond, with New Zealand’s biggest animal welfare charity voicing its “extreme concern”.

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The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), pointed out in a Facebook statement, that “it’s not possible to tell the difference between a feral, stray or frightened domestic cat based on appearance, so there is a good chance someone’s pet may be killed during this event.”

Feral cats have the same appearance as some common, short-haired house cats such as tabby, tortoiseshell and black, as New Zealand’s Department for Conservation notes.

They are different to stray cats because, while neither are owned, strays have varying levels of dependence on humans while ferals are wild.

The SPCA pointed out in a separate comment, seen by the New Zealand Herald, that whilst organisers of the contest insisted cats would be “scanned for the presence of a microchip to identify pet cats,” this would only be done “after the animal has been shot and killed.”

So a fat lot of good that would do.

Feral cata are hard to distinguish from their domesticated cousinsiStock

The society also noted that “children often use air rifles in these sorts of event which increase the likelihood of pain and distress, and can cause a prolonged death.”

Indeed, the charity said that just a day earlier they had received a cat into their care from North Canterbury with an air rifle pellet wound.

“It passed away from sepsis and looked to be an owned cat,” SPCA inspectorate team leader Sam Cairns said in a statement, adding: “These are very sad situations, causing a painful death for the cat and distress to those who’ve lost a pet.”

The society later responded to Facebook commentators who called on it to get the contest banned, clarifying: “While problematic, the proposed event is not actually breaking any laws, and therefore SPCA is not in a position to enforce any action with event organisers.”

It went on: “The management of wild cat populations is not something SPCA can fix, and is not our primary purpose, which is instead to rescue, rehabilitate, and rehome vulnerable, injured and abused companion animals.

“We know the question of feral cat management is one with many contrasting views and we appreciate the impact on the environment.”

New Zealand is home to an estimated 2.5 million feral cats and they have a major impact on the country’s wildlife. It’s believed that they are responsible for the extinction of six endemic bird species.

Fortunately, the hunting competition’s leaders listened to the complaints and decided to scrap its new youth contest.

"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,” they said in their own Facebook statement.

“We are disappointed and apologise for those who were excited to be involved in something that is about protecting out 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.

They ended their post: “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.”

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