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Tipsheet

New Zealand Axes Kids' Competition After Backlash

A planned competition in New Zealand designed to encourage residents to hunt and kill feral cats became embroiled in scandal after it briefly rolled out a 14-and-under category for local children to participate in the attempt to cull the number of feral felines overrunning a rural area on the South Island.

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According to a BBC report, "youngsters were told to not kill pets, but they were otherwise encouraged to kill as many feral cats as possible for a prize" because feral cats "are considered a pest and a risk to the country's biosecurity." The since-cancelled children's category would have awarded a prize equivalent to roughly $155 USD to the child who killed the most feral cats between April and the end of June. 

Predictably, as BBC's story explained, the competition "drew immediate condemnation from animal welfare groups." New Zealand's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals "argued that children, along with adults, would not be able to differentiate between 'a feral, stray or frightened domesticated cat" leading to "fears that this would mean house cats would be unintentionally killed."

Organizers of the hunt, which was intended to be part of a school-supporting fundraiser for a South Island school in rural North Canterbury, said the "decision has been made to withdraw this category for this year to avoid further backlash at this time," according to The Washington Post. "We are disappointed and apologize for those who were excited to be involved in something that is about protecting...native birds, and other vulnerable species," the organizers added. 
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According to the BBC, there were "many" in the community who defended the event and the need for a "controlled cull," included one resident who pondered "if only people knew the damage wild cats cause around the place." Another pointed to the impact of feral cats have on local farmers. "Wild cats carry diseases," including those that hit the country's sheep industry. "We will just keep shooting them for as long as we keep seeing them."

The number of feral felines in New Zealand is reportedly double the roughly 1.2 million domesticated cats in the country. The feral ones are, according to New Zealand conservationists, responsible for killing more than one million native birds per year. 

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