Humanimal – Daily life of the vegetarian #17
ONE OF THE most upsetting stories carried in the national press in 2012 was the report about Uruti school’s Pig Hunt fundraiser.
In July, Uruti school held a pig hunt fundraiser in which dead possums had their nails painted, and were adorned with dresses.
More than 120 people took part in the pig hunt and subsequent competition, where possums, magpies, rabbits, goats and pigs were dressed for success.
Apart from the pig weigh-in, the big crowd-puller on the day – according to a report on the Stuff website – was the best-dressed possum competition.
Possums were dressed to look like they were boxing, driving and painting.
The really disturbing thing about all this is that it was the 14 – yes, just 14 – school children who “put their creativity to the test on a dead fluffy pest”, according to Stuff writer Jo Moir.
All this carnage was for a good cause: the purchase of a new shade cloth at the school.
Predictably, there was outrage, with more than 100 online comments raging against the event. Even the SPCA came out against it:
“The SPCA’s focus is on teaching children respect and empathy for animals and they didn’t do that,” said spokeswoman Jackie Poles-Smith, rather weakly.
The country school principal wouldn’t hear a word of criticism, saying that the event was fantastic.
A few months later, there was a similar celebration of the culling of possums in an Auckland-area country school, which led to a raging debate in the Rodney News community paper.
It’s a debate that needs to take place in New Zealand, where environmentalists are usually on the side of the pig and possum hunters, because of the deleterious impact they have on local plants and wildlife.
As a vegetarian who doesn’t believe humans have the right to take animals’ lives, it’s a difficult issue to think through and rationalise. But without getting into the wider debate into whether we should poison or hunt for possums, let’s deal with the celebratory approach the Uruti school took to their “pest” eradication.
In Australia, possums are loved, because they’re endemic to the country. They are not a “pest” there. Our forefathers took possums from their native land, and introduced them to New Zealand (unwillingly, I should think). Now, because of a problem humans created, we feel the need to demonise and make fun of possums in order to rationalise our extermination of these unique creatures.
It’s this double-pronged combination of demonisation and a complete lack of respect for the species that’s most upsetting, especially when it’s perpetuated by teachers, principals and guardians of our children, as well as organisations like Forest & Bird, who should know better.
[Quote, Tony Dunlop, chairman of Mid North Forest & Bird: “I do not have a problem with schools encouraging the eradication of possums as they are educating children on ecology in the process.”]
If we continue to eradicate possums in NZ, we should at least do so with compassion, rather than teaching our kids that they’re simply “pests”.
Doctor Feelgood intends to look further into this subject in the future, and welcomes correspondence on the issues this editorial encompasses. GARY STEEL