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Bludgeoning Kittens To Death: Cruelty During Covid-19 Lockdown

The creation of a Facebook page and group during the Covid-19 lockdown called the The Great NZ Lock Up Mouse Hunt Comp is concerning on a number of levels. The aim of this group is for New Zealand hunters to hunt down and kill mice and rats, measure their bodies as you would a prize stag, and upload photos to win prizes.

It’s a boredom buster so hunters can at least have something to kill during lockdown.

To some it may appear harmless fun. But even a cursory glance at the content on the page should set alarm bells off for those people who oppose animal cruelty. The sadistic torture, maiming and dismembering of animals on this page is alarming.

This videos and photos are gruesome in the extreme and there is much gloating over their deaths. Many photos include children being involved, posing alongside dead animals. Worryingly there is also a goading among the Facebook community to inflict the most painful death possible on the animals. There have even been pictures posted of illegal forms of killing mice such as drowning them in buckets.

Even though this page says it is restricted to mice and rats, many of the people posting photos have brought in other species including stoats and cats . It is an unsavory and disturbing cyber space.

I would prefer to be anywhere else, but my concern for animals meant that I have regularly checked in on this group. Imagine my horror when I recently saw a cat in a trap, alongside the usual comments applauding this act of cruelty. “Ha ha ha pussy having a long long sleep,", was one typical comment. The cat looked like it may have been a pet cat, it’s coat glossy and healthy.

A dead cat on the Mousehunt page.

And then it just got a whole lot worse. In the comment section was a post by a man bragging that he had killed two cats with an air rifle, one with cross bow, six in traps and twenty-five kittens with a ping eye 2 wood. For those who don’t know, that refers to a golf club. He went on to say that the ping eye 2 wood was the only weapon he was legally allowed to have in his car.

So this person bragged on Facebook that he had bludgeoned 25 kittens to death. His only justification is an ‘out of hand’ feral cat population. And the comments in response? “Good effort”.

The page/group creator has since taken the posts down, but I think the entire Mousehunt comp Facebook page and group needs to be removed and the kitten killer investigated. Why is he talking about ‘the only weapon he is allowed to legally carry in his car?’ And who, if not someone completely devoid of empathy and feeling of any sort, is capable of bludgeoning kittens with a golf club? What could they do next?

It begs the question: what lies behind intentional animal torture and cruelty (IATC). A study by Dr. Phillip Kavanagh and his colleagues found three personality traits that underlie IATC. They are called the dark triad and include machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy (‘Dark Triad’).

Machiavellianism is the lack of a moral code and can be associated with the attitude that ‘the end justifies the means’. You can see this clearly in the Mousehunt FB group – doesn’t matter how you kill them , just do it.

Apart from the kitten bludgeoning, there have been other instances of IATC on this page. These include putting cheese on the end of live wires, designing electrocuting platforms, drowning, using gin traps, and other bludgeoning incidents. It is truly vile and ugly.

Where does all this hatred come from?

There are many forms of IATC, and the one directed toward so-called pest animals in New Zealand is just one example. These animals are so despised. The hatred toward them has been ramped up so much by governmental organisations such as the Department of Conservation (DOC) that people have found a legitimatized target on which to vent their misplaced anger.

For example, the DOC website calls stoats ‘public enemy number 1’, framing our relationship with introduced species as a war. DOC also demonstrates an institutionalized form of machiavellianism when they inflict the well-documented horrors of long term suffering through 1080 poisoning on countless animals.

Some rural schools run possum hunts which encourage children to kill so-called ‘pest animals’ who are then dressed up and thrown about during festival games. This also encourages an attitude of cruelty to animals.

Both the DOC and schools who socialize children into killing animals in New Zealand need to look at the part they are playing. They need to be made accountable. IATC is both an individual and social problem.

Children learn how to behave through immersion in environments. They learn antisocial behaviour by being exposed to it and encouraged to participate it. The possum hunts in schools and communities and the inclusion of children in the Facebook Mousehunt comp are seriously concerning.

If we want to prevent IATC in children and future crime as adults, we need to look at what and how we are teaching them. If we want to have a peaceful society it begins with modelling empathetic, moralistic and intelligent behaviours .

This is not to deny that exotic species may pose risks to New Zealand’s natural biodiversity. But that quite simply is not the point. The way we treat these animals matters. They may be exotic species but they are also sentient beings and deserve the respect of being treated with care and compassion.

But to return to the kittens bludgeoned with a golf club. This was a deliberate act of torture and cruelty. It should be investigated by authorities and we need to pay attention to it. And this Mousehunt page needs to be held to account as well. It is inciting violent and illegal behaviours, and encouraging deliberate cruelty to animals by providing a forum for people who enjoy being cruel.

During lockdown, those of us with a moral compass do not want to hear about the bludgeoning of defenceless kittens. We are finding our way through a labyrinth of uncertainty, and we want to believe in a bright future.

It begins with us. Speak up for animals.

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