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The McDonaldification Of Hunting: Training Children To Kill In Opotiki

How many ways can a small town in New Zealand get it so wrong when bringing up their children? Opotiki seems to have latched onto a winning formula: Dead animals, children and huge smiles.

In a recent news report, the organizers of the Opotiki Little Three hunting competition for under sixteens said the hard work involved was worth it to see the children’s smiles.

Here again there is another children’s hunting competition in New Zealand. And again there is seemingly little awareness by proponents of the effect the association of violence to animals with gamification and fun might have on children.

And Opotiki sure does not need any more violence.

Opotiki, dubbed the homicide capital of New Zealand, is a small town with a huge reputation for domestic violence and murder. It has been reported that Opotiki had 1.25 homicides for every 1000 people between 2004 and 2019 – and this is the highest rate in the country.

And it gets worse. The small town has high levels of social deprivation, poverty, crime, drug and alcohol abuse. To all intents and purposes, it is a small town that has lost itself. And its children are suffering.

Supporting children growing up in such conditions needs to be a number one priority. These children need the community to rally and put their needs first. They need to be in an environment of no violence, support, compassion and love.

Instead they are encouraged to kill animals.

This competition gamifies killing animals in a number of ways. Firstly, there is the use of the phrase ‘Little Three Combo’ (the McDonaldification of hunting) to refer to a possum, magpie and rabbit. The winner is the one whose combo weighs the most. And then there is the optional wild goat and kahawai that may be brought into the competition as well. All of this comes with spot prizes and ‘family day out’ gala type festivities. The local playcentre is even donating food and drink.

There’s nothing like hooking them in while they are still young and impressionable. The associations of reward centers in the developing brain with a death fest on animals is a sure-fire (excuse the pun) way to bring up more abusers and killers.

Even though this may seem like ‘harmless fun’ to many it is far from it. There is a well-documented correlation between violence toward animals in childhood and later sociopathic behavior including crime, domestic violence and murder.

An article by Jane Dalton in The Independent reported that recent academic research has found that witnessing violence toward animals desensitizes young children and makes them prone to aggression later in life. It causes empathy deficit of the brain.

And so Opotiki will come full circle.

Some may argue that hunting is different than deliberate cruelty toward an animal. It is commonly seen as a way of bonding as a family or community, getting out in the great outdoors, connecting with nature, feeding the family or ridding the environment of pests.

And yet, while it may be those things, it is also so much more. And it is the ‘so much more’ that we need to pay attention to.

In an article for the Daily Nebraskan, Kayla Simon says , “There’s something desperately awful about taking a child out to experience nature by handing them a gun and telling them to kill it. That’s like going to the most beautiful art museum in the world and ripping down canvasses because “someone will just make another one.” It teaches children that killing is a goal, a healthy way to view another life and socially acceptable. “

Opotiki has issues with violence, this much we know. And yet, as a community they have come together to teach their children that violence toward another living creature is socially acceptable. Not only acceptable, but something to be glorified through gamifying it in a competition.

Opotiki is not the only small rural town in New Zealand that engages in these deplorable animal killing fests. Possum hunting competitions have become a mainstay of rural New Zealand schools. These may even involve dressing up dead possums for competitions, hurling them in throwing competitions and carrying them over obstacle courses.

Wake up, New Zealand. It is not rocket science to see the link between the many forms of violence. It’s a one-way street. And it has a dead end.

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