Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More

Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


Rooster torture signals need for compassionate education

Rooster torture signals need for compassionate education in New Zealand Schools

The story of the pet rooster killed at Ngakonui Valley School during an out-of-control party is devastating. This rooster was called Tama and was a favourite of the children at school, occasionally wandering into class. They considered him their pet, enjoying his antics, feeding, and petting him.

In rural communities, roosters are not often regarded as pets and are maligned, dumped at roadsides, or shot. When dumped on roadsides they become the ultimate survivor, often coming into human places like schools or homes to look for food. To their credit it appears that the boundaries between ‘pet’ and ‘nuisance’ animal seem have been overcome by Ngakonui Valley School.

But someone came over to the school on that fateful night, threw bottles at him, and chased him out of the school grounds. What happened next was unthinkable. News reports say he was thrown up against a van and put into a bag with broken bottles. He was tortured to death.

Such deliberate cruelty is not easy to understand. It’s hard to think about and difficult to stomach. We wonder why some people are capable of these kind of actions, and worse find enjoyment in them.

It is probable that if a young person is being cruel to an animal they have been abused themselves of witnessed animal abuse. In the case of Tama the rooster, it was a group of local youth which indicates that abusive attitudes toward animals may be located in the community itself.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

Rural communities often have contradictory attitudes toward animals based on their categorization. So even though the school was kind to the rooster, it came as little surprise to me to find out that Ngakonui Valley School hosts a yearly hunting competition, with children 7 years and under competing for the heaviest magpie, rabbit and turkey. Oder children between 8-12 years can include deer and goat. Senior students can win a prize for a “Bag of Pests” (rodents, stoats, possums, mice, geese).

A photo on the 2016 competition flier shows children sitting down next to their dead goat trophies. Another photo shows giant hares strung up on a fence.

It is bizarre to think that a school that encouraged such a lovely relationship between the rooster and the children would also condone hunting animals. I would have thought that young children should be encouraged to respect animals, not kill them.

No one knows who the perpetrators of the rooster killing are, but there is a possibility that they may have been involved in hunts – perhaps even attended Ngakonui School themselves. Rural communities in New Zealand view hunting as an enjoyable pastime. In my view, children become desensitised to animal suffering when they are involved in such activities. There is no glossing over the fact that they are taking the life of an animal. Sometimes that animal dies slowly and in agony in front of them.

So why does the school value the life of a single rooster, while celebrating the killing of other animals at their annual hunt? The answer lies in the categorization of Tama as a ‘pet’. We teach children to categorize animals and love them conditionally on that basis.

We should instead encourage children’s natural tendency to love all animals, appreciate their diversity and critically reflect on their role in the ecosystem. It is true that introduced species can upset the balance of an ecosystem, but they are still sentient. All things being equal, a dog is a rooster is a possum is a rat.

Children can learn that animals are all individuals who are subjects of their own existence, and they experience life with just as much intensity as humans. They feel, think, and worry. They are conscious of their existence. In other words, they are sentient. In fact, we have much more in common with animals then we do differences.

The psychological mechanisms at play that result in deliberate cruelty to animals can be transferred to humans. If you can objectify an animal and sadistically enjoy their pain, you can do the same to a human.

Studies show an undeniable link between cruelty to animals and child, spousal and elder abuse. In addition a study between MSPCA and Norheastern University found that: “Compared with a control group of their neighbors, animal abusers were five times more likely to commit violent crimes against people, four times more likely to commit property crimes, and three times more likely to have a record for drug or disorderlyconduct offenses”.

I don’t have the answers. But I do know that we need to engage in a deeper critique of the messages we give children about animals through events like school hunts. School hunts are often dressed up as ‘conservation’ and ‘teaching kids about caring for the environment’. Some say they are a great way to get kids outdoors.

Sure, there may be elements of these motives, but the darker side of these hunts is that children are encouraged to hurt and kill animals. Don’t be surprised if these same children grow up to find torturing an animal to death fun. They don’t see the animal as a subject anymore – only an object for them to abuse. The categorization of many of these animals as ‘pests’ further gives license for their inhuman treatment.

And like ever increasing ripples in a pond, the animal abuse will likely get transferred to child and spousal abuse and community crime.

Schools should be engaging compassionate education resources available to teach children about empathy and care for animals. An animal, whether categorized as a ‘pet’ or a ‘pest’ deserves to be respected and treated humanely. Save Animals from Exploitation (SAFE) has a range of quality educational programmes and resources teachers can tap into to teach children respect and compassion for animals.

Eden Phillpotts once wrote: “The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.” Let’s sharpen our wits. Most children are born appreciating the magic in the world and loving animals. Schools should be building on this, engaging children in developing their compassion and care. This is true environmental education.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines




InfoPages News Channels


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.