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Liar liar pants on fire over animal cruelty

New Zealand: Liar liar pants on fire over animal cruelty

By Dr Lynley Tulloch

New Zealand has a reputation for being a nation of animal lovers due to high level of pet ownership and the rural lifestyle of many New Zealanders. However recently in Auckland a duck had fireworks shoved in his beak which were then set alight. He suffered hideously and had to be put down.

The SPCA has responded by saying that there is no place for 'recreational cruelty' in our society.

Yet recreational cruelty toward animals takes many guises - some of them cloaked in invisibility due to cultural assumptions. Take, for example, the hunting culture in New Zealand which is very strong in rural communities. In my opinion hunting is just 'recreational cruelty' by another name. It can be dressed up as 'pest management', or feeding the family, or even a sport. But it is not fun for the animals who are shot, trapped, or run down and mauled by dogs.

Rural New Zealand has at best a cavalier and flippant attitude toward the killing and treatment of animals. At worst, there are undercurrents of outright sadism. Some years ago I came across several goats that had been killed and dismembered in bizarre ways on a rural road side. Two kid goats lay dead beside their headless mother, her udder distended, and her body bloated. A male goat had his testes removed. It reminded me of the two goats who were killed in Waiuku in 2009 by being dragged behind a car for some distance.

Rodeo is another example of ‘recreational cruelty’. The SPCA says that rodeos are cruel and terrifying, and calls for a ban saying that no animal should have to suffer.Yet the government overturned a petition of over 63 000 in 2016 calling for it to be banned.

Greyhound racing is also animal cruelty in the name of entertainment. It is a $150 million industry in New Zealand and it is on the rise. A recent commission of inquiry into Greyhound racing in Australia found widespread cruelty within the industry. As a result, it has been banned in New South Wales (NSW) and Australian Capital Territory (ACT). New Zealand is only one of eight countries where Greyhound racing is legal.

Horse racing in New Zealand also results in the animal injury, stress and death. Jumps racing where horses jump fences at high speed is particularly risky for horses.

And it would seem that pets in New Zealand are getting an increasingly raw deal. The SPCA has just released its most recent list of shameful acts. It makes for sobering reading – including a cat with the tips of her ears cut off. SPCA's chief executive Andrea Migden says their data shows more and more Kiwis are "consciously" hurting and neglecting their pets.

Then there is the 'kill them at any cost' mentality toward introduced animals that are considered ’pests' - especially possums. Tourists are encouraged to run over possums. We have Toyota car advertisements where possums are depicted as dreaming of being 'road kill'. The dark humour is a free pass to laughing at the distress and pain some animals endure.

The Department of Conservation in New Zealand uses the language of hate toward introduced species considered pests. They are waging a war on wildlife by poisoning New Zealand forests with 1080 poison. Death by 1080 is notably inhumane, resulting in hours of prolonged suffering and often affects unintended by-kill such as deer, sheep, cows, dogs and even native birds.

Children are socialised into the war on wildlife young. School hunting galas where dead possums are dressed up by children, carried over hurdle races by their tails and tossed in a throwing competition are just some examples.

Farm animals are often just as bad off. Stories of violence toward farm animals repeatedly includes incidents of farmers breaking cow tails. The most recent one was only a few days ago by Rangitkei farmer Daniel Alexander Little. Sure, it was done out of anger and not for entertainment, but it demonstrates the raw deal many animals get in New Zealand.

New Zealand has been caught with its pants on fire telling lies about how much it is a nation of animal lovers. We need to come out from beneath our long white cloud and admit we have a problem. The silence and denial lead to apathy toward institutionalised forms of cruelty such as those in agribusiness. ‘pest management’ and the entertainment industries.

Setting alight fireworks in a duck’s beak is about as cruel as it gets. I certainly wouldn’t want to meet the perpetrators in a dark alley.

Investigators are currently seeking any information they can get on the duck incident. But maybe it’s not a dark alley we should be looking. After all something of the perpetrators lurks beneath our social fabric as a society. They are within our cultural selves as New Zealanders. What we need is a cultural shift toward a kinder and more compassionate stance toward the animals in our lives.


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