A children’s hunting competition for feral cats in the New Zealand region of North Canterbury was recently called off after prompting outrage from animal rights groups.
Citing statements from organizers, local media reported that this year’s event would include a hunting category for children up to 14 years of age, and that it would have a grand prize of $250 NZ ($155).
The competition, which had been announced as part of a fundraiser of a local school, outlined that participants were intended to kill the highest number of feral cats between mid April and June.
While kids were urged to only hunt down feral cats, critics of the competition raised issue with the fact that participants would not be able to distinguish the differences between a feral cat and a stray or pet cat.
Will Appelbe, a spokesperson for Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE), relayed to US media that the differences in appearances are “very difficult” to determine.
Although organizers initially promised to check any turned in cat corpses and disqualify participants who brought chipped animals, the suggestion failed to convince the public as the animal would have already been killed.
Another talking point raised by critics was that feral cats would be killed with air guns, prompting a “long, painful death.” Officials have underscored that such a method “is no way to teach empathy to children.”
However, supporters of the competition have doubled down on backing the initiative over the damages wild cats are causing to New Zealand’s wildlife.
“If only people knew the damage wild cats cause around the place,” one resident wrote. “They also [have] an effect on our farming. Wild cats carry diseases… we will just keep shooting them for as long as we keep seeing them,” the author of the comment concluded.
At present, media estimates suggest the number of wild cats in New Zealand amount to more than 2.4 million. The number of domestic cats is about half that number.
Feral cats are estimated to kill 100 million birds in New Zealand each year.