(CNN) A contest planned for children in New Zealand to hunt and kill wild cats as part of a campaign to protect native species, it was removed after backlash from the public and animal rights groups.
The event would have been part of a fundraiser organized by the North Canterbury Hunting Competition for the Rotherham School, located in the Canterbury region of the South Island.
Organizers on Saturday announced a new junior category for children under 14 in the annual competition: hunting wild cats for a top prize of NZ$250 ($150).
The announcement sparked public outrage, prompting organizers to pull the event on Monday.
In a declaration Broadcast on Wednesday, organizers said “vile and inappropriate emails and messages had been sent to the school and others involved.”
“We are incredibly disappointed in this reaction and would like to clarify that this competition is a standalone event run by the community,” the statement read.
While cats are a popular and beloved pet among many New Zealanders, feral cats have been a longstanding issue among animal lovers and authorities due to the impact they can have on other wildlife.
In neighboring Australia, Authorities say feral cats threaten the survival of more than 100 native species. Wild cats are blamed for killing millions of birds, reptiles, frogs and mammals every day, leading authorities to stage periodic killings.
Contest organizers in Canterbury maintained that the youth hunting tournament to kill feral cats, using a firearm or other means, was aimed at “protecting native birds and other vulnerable species”.
“Our patrons and school safety are our top priority, so the decision was made to withdraw this category for this year to avoid further backlash at this time,” he said.
“To clarify, for all categories of game, our hunters must comply with the firearms law of 1983 and future amendments, as well as the animal welfare law of 1999.”
fears for pets
Addressing public concerns, the organizers had announced rules to discourage young participants from targeting pets.
Any child bringing in a microchipped cat would have been disqualified, organizers said.
The group also noted that scheduled hunts for other categories, such as local hogs and deer, would continue.
The New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it was “both pleased and relieved” that the children’s cat killing contest has been axed. “Children, just like adults, will not be able to tell the difference between a frightened feral, stray or domestic cat,” the SPCA said.
“There is a good chance that someone’s pet will be killed during this event. Also, BB guns are often used by children at these types of events, which increases the likelihood of pain and distress and can cause prolonged death,” he added. .
Animal rights group PETA also welcomed the decision to cancel the event.
In a statement, Jason Baker, the group’s vice president of Asia, said: “Encouraging children to hunt and kill animals is a safe way to raise adults who solve problems with violence… We need to foster empathy and compassion in children.” , don’t lead them to believe that animals are ‘less than’ humans while rewarding them for brutality.”
The event drew widespread attention abroad, including from British comedian Ricky Gervais, a well-known animal lover with more than 15 million Twitter followers.
He criticized the proposed cat hunt with sarcasm. cheepsaying, “Right. We need some new PR ideas to make the world love New Zealand. Maybe something involving kids and kittens. Yeah, Hargreaves?”
New Zealand is one of the world’s last remote island nations and has no native land mammals other than bats.
Has been official campaigns against cats in previous years, including one that encouraged cat lovers to avoid replacing their pets when they die.
“Cats are the only true sadists in the animal world, serial killers who torture without mercy,” said then-Prime Minister John Key, who had a cat named Moonbeam.
“Historically, we know that feral cats were responsible for the extinction of six bird species and are the main agents of declining bird, bat, frog and lizard populations,” said Helen Blackie, biosecurity consultant at Boffa Miskell, to CNN affiliate RNZ.
Blackie, who has studied feral cats for two decades, said numbers had skyrocketed in the past decade, and in some areas where pests were tracked by cameras, feral cats outnumbered other species such as opossums.