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Cat-killing contest for children in New Zealand offering prize for gunning down the most feral felines cancelled after backlash
19 April 2023, 21:37 | Updated: 19 April 2023, 21:59
A cat-killing competition in New Zealand that was offering children a cash prize for shooting the most feral felines has been cancelled after a backlash.
Organisers of an annual hunting challenge faced criticism after it announced a new category for children aged 14 and under to hunt feral cats - which are regarded as pests in the country.
The North Canterbury Hunting Competition was planning to award £124 to the youngster able to shoot the most feral cats between mid-April and the end of June.
But it has since announced it has cancelled the cat event amid criticism and concerns for the safety of domestic cats, as it condemned those who had sent "vile and inappropriate emails".
Critics of the competition had feared household pets could end up in the firing line as children wouldn't be able to tell the difference between household and feral cats.
Animal charity SPCA - the country's version of the RSPCA - had said it was "extremely concerned" about the event, but said it couldn't take action because the practice isn't illegal.
It added: "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.
"In addition, children often use air rifles in these sorts of event which increase the likelihood of pain and distress, and can cause a prolonged death."
A spokesperson for welfare charity Safe told local media outlet 1News: "We should be teaching our tamariki [children] empathy towards animals, not handing them the tools to kill them," a spokesman for the animal welfare charity Safe told local media outlet 1News.
In a statement, the competition's organisers said the cat hunting category has been scrapped to avoid further blowback.
"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," it said.
"We are disappointed and apologise for those who were excited to be involved in something that is about protecting our native birds, and other vulnerable species."
It added that participants in their hunts are required to adhere to firearms and animal welfare laws.
The competition's Facebook post announcing the move received over a 100 comments, with many defending the event.
"If only people knew the damage wild cats cause around the place," one local wrote.
She concluded: "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."
However, other parts of the competition in which children are encouraged to shoot wild pigs and wild deer, will go ahead as planned.
According to New Zealand's Department of Conservation, feral cats, which are widespread in the country, have a "major impact" on the island country's native birds, bats, lizards and mice.
Poison, traps and guns are used by officials to manage the population.
Biosecurity expert Dr Helen Blackie said that that feral cats had caused the extinction of six bird species, and the decline in populations of frogs, lizards, and bats.
Speaking to Radio New Zealand, she also said that as they aren't officially classed as pests in Canterbury, there aren't any measures in effect to monitor or control them.