Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Hunting cats and herding daft opinions

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Alan Emerson is firmly on the side of the village encouraging kids to shoot feral cats.
The North Canterbury village of Rotherham made international headlines with a competition for 14-year-olds to see who could shoot the most feral cats.
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Believe it or not, the major New Zealand news story to grace the international media recently wasn’t about market access, dairy prices or live animal shipments, but a North Canterbury hunting competition over feral cats. 

It featured on ABC, BBC, Fox News and the Guardian, among other outlets.

It was the small North Canterbury rural village of Rotheram that put NZ on the world stage.

I was originally alerted to the issue by an immaculately coiffured Auckland lady lecturing me on Newshub about the evils of the hunting competition. Fourteen-year-olds weren’t developed enough to use guns and what about the killing of innocent domestic cats!

Beyond the mainstream media the hysteria on Twitter was mind blowing. “Teaching children to kill cats will lead on to them killing humans” was the rant from another Auckland cat lover.

My first thought was that if those people are worried about anyone misusing guns, they should consider their Auckland neighborhood and not that of rural North Canterbury. My second was that if a cat owner can’t control their animal and it gets shot while trespassing, tough.

I notice some Australian states demand that cats are locked inside after dark. I’d support that here.

The hysteria certainly put the small rural hamlet of Rotheram on the international stage.

It is described in Wikipedia as a “small rural village in the Hurunui District between Culverden and Waiau”. In the 2018 census it had a population of 144 people spread over 54 households.

It is the size of two rugby fields, has a good percentage of university graduates and just three unemployed.

That “small rural village” lurched onto the international stage because it had the temerity to run a hunting competition for kids that involved killing feral cats. It was a fundraiser for the local school billed as the “best little school in North Canterbury”. Going to its website justifies that billing.

That it incensed the uninformed to the extent it did surprised me.

Let’s consider the reality of the situation. For a start, I taught both my daughters to shoot at 14. I took a lot of pride in doing it once and doing it right, as have my rural colleagues. I used to shoot with my father from age 11 or 12 and had my own .303 legally at 15.

Further, to claim, as the Department of Conservation and the SPCA did, that killing cats requires skill – meaning that skill doesn’t exist in rural NZ – is insulting.

Also, we have predator-free NZ and I’d suggest the Rotheram school was assisting with that.

I’d have thought its main targets would have been rabbits, hares, possums and cats, all of which do extraordinary damage to the environment.

Considering cats destroy “bats, birds, eggs, lizards, weta, the black stilt, black fronted tern and grand and Otago skinks”, I’d suggest every person has a duty to exterminate them. The good citizens of Rotheram were, as well as responsibly fundraising, doing their bit for the environment.

I can remember some years ago now the environmental groups opposed releasing the rabbit calcivirus because of downstream effects on the black stilt. Obviously today it is okay for cats to kill the stilts.

The SPCA, never one for shrinking from criticising rural NZ, opposed the competition with the bleat that people couldn’t tell the difference between feral and domestic cats. The organisers made the point that anyone killing a domestic cat would be eliminated from the competition. 

Predictably, SAFE were apoplectic but who would care?

We’re told by scientists that cats kill over 100 million birds a year in NZ, including 1.1 million native birds. That is a disgrace.

They are responsible for the extinction of six bird species as well as a decline in the population of bats, frogs and lizards.

They carry toxoplasmosis, which “has a significant effect on New Zealand’s sheep industry”. Toxoplasmosis causes abortions in sheep and cost just the Hawke’s Bay sheep industry $18 million in 2014.

The competition has been run in Rotheram over several years and last year there were 250 child entrants who killed 427 animals. The village deserves a medal.

Instead the group has cancelled the feral cat competition because of “vile and inappropriate emails” accompanied by threats of violence and arson.

Cancelling annoys the hell out of me but it was the right thing to do.

To say the entire saga irritated me would be an understatement.

We had a community doing a service to the environment while fundraising for the school and swimming pool.

A lot of uninformed people and groups came out with a pile of rubbish that was accompanied by threats, which caused the cancellation of the feral cat kill.

So, good citizens of Rotheram, I support you. Advertise for donations for the school and I’ll be there as, I’m sure, will others.

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