December 11, 2023

Animal rights organisation slams children’s cat killing competition in Canterbury, warns pets could be killed

Feral cats can have an impact on New Zealand's native and non-native species as they feed on rabbits, birds and bird eggs, rats, hares, bats, lizards, mice, wētā and other insects.

A cat-killing competition for children in North Canterbury has been slammed by an animal rights organisation which fears someone’s pet could die.

The annual North Canterbury Hunting Competition has a new junior category for those under 14 which rewards the hunter who has killed the most feral cats.

Animal rights charity SAFE has called for the organisers to cancel the category from its annual fundraiser.

“There are numerous ways to raise money for Rotherham School and Pool, and sending children off to kill cats shouldn’t be one of them,” SAFE spokesperson Will Appelbe said in a statement.

Appelbe cited the competition’s rule that if a microchipped cat is killed the hunter will be disqualified from the competition, however, Appelbe noted a microchip can only be discovered after the cat has been killed.

“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 said.

North Canterbury Hunting Competition has been approached for comment.

In a now-deleted social media post on the North Canterbury Hunting Competition’s Facebook page, participants were told to familiarise themselves with the difference between non-feral and feral cats, Stuff reported.

The post linked a Department of Conservation (DoC) website on feral cats but that page noted feral cats can have the same appearance as some common house cats. 

DoC principal scientist Craig Gillies said in a statement to Newshub the DoC webpage on feral cats is not a guide and should not be used in such a way. Gillies said it’s the competition organisers’ duty to mitigate the risk of a domestic cat being hunted as part of this activity – not DoC or any other agency. 

“Feral and domesticated cats are the same species. Determining a difference between the two is virtually impossible,” Gillies said. 

“Obviously, well-groomed long-haired purebred cats of the sort seen in cat shows are relatively easy to identify at a glance and are less likely to be feral than a short-haired specimen.”

Feral cats can have an impact on New Zealand’s native and non-native species as they feed on rabbits, birds and bird eggs, rats, hares, bats, lizards, mice, wētā and other insects. 

In the South Island, populations of species including grand and Otago skink, kakī/black stilt, wrybill and black-fronted terns are greatly impacted by cat predation.  

Gillies said generally speaking, DoC’s mandate is to control feral cats on public conservation land and in some locations, will partner with a conversation stakeholder or group to control feral cats at a location where biodiversity values are high.

“DoC supports control of feral cats, provided it is undertaken by experienced people using approved humane methods. Use of firearms is an accepted method of controlling feral cats, where this equipment is to the correct calibre and is used by trained professionals (we note there are guidelines for this).”

The winner of the competition wins $250 and there is a spot prize of a $4600 dirt bike for junior hunters. 

The competition raises money for Rotherham School and pool. 

“The North Canterbury Hunting Competition is a community event run by individual volunteers. All decisions are made by the Hunt committee and proceeds are dispersed to The Rotherham School and Rotherham Community Pool on behalf of the hunt,” the school said in a statement posted on Facebook.

“Rotherham School and the Rotherham Pool have no commitment to the organisation of this event.”

The competition ends on June 25.

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