Image for NZ’s Conservation Minister Shows ‘Sad’ Wild Animal Hatred?

*Pic: 1080 is killing birds like the South Island bush robin. The death is slow and cruel.

The controversy around the New Zealand government’s use of 1080 poison just seems on-going with the government and bureaucrats sticking to their hard line. But every so often some incident causes the debate to become a major conflagration.

Very recently Minister of Conservation Maggie Barry hosted visiting UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson during his recent visit to Wellington’s Zealandia wildlife sanctuary. Barry told Johnson 1080 was a painless death for victims.

But Sporting Hunters Outdoor Trust spokesman and West Coast conservationist Laurie Collins said the minister was totally wrong.

“Death by 1080 is painful, torturous and slow with rapid and laboured breathing, tremors and muscle spasms, terminal convulsions before death, all taking several to 24 hours to die,” he said.

Collins said the minister seemed ignorant of the reality about 1080.

Criticism also came from Tony Orman,  author of books such as “New Zealand The Beautiful Wilderness”.

“One is prompted by her comments to wonder is Minister ignorant or stupid or just obsessed with a hatred of wild animals?” he asked. “Either way she’s way off beam. The fact is death by 1080 is slow and horrifying. Her comments were sad.”

Maggie Barry and Boris Johnson were filmed at Zealandia discussing New Zealand’s campaign to become predator-free by 2050. Boris Johnson said he was sure the slaughter was done in “an entirely humane and dignified way, and they die with a smile on their faces, and I congratulate you on that.”

Maggie Barry replied “If you have a problem with your grey squirrels just let DoC know. We can come and help out.”

“You’ll come and programme a painless extermination,”  Boris Johnson replied.

But Tony Orman said he suspected the UK minister was underneath incredulous at Maggie Barry’s fervent advocacy for the cruel poison. 1080 is banned in many countries. He was critical of her “bizarre” offer to poison Britain’s squirrels.

New Zealand Scientist Dr Meriel Watts is on record as saying “the suffering if these animals (by 1080) on the way to death is extremely inhumane. The World Health organisation classes 1080 as “an extremely hazardous pesticide.”

“Surely Maggie Barry must be aware of these qualified opinions?” said Tony Orman.

Laurie Collins has first-hand and close knowledge of 1080 poison. Firstly as a government Forest Service employee in the late 1950s when 1080 was trialled on a South Island fallow deer herd near Lake Wakatipu and later doing local body pest work.

He explained 1080 was not just a “pest” poison having been developed as an insecticide in 1920s.

“But later 1080 was found to kill anything and everything that breathes - insects, birds, and any other invertebrates, animals and indeed all life - it’s an ecosystem poison. They are killing the very birds they are aiming to save. It’s bizarre, wasteful of public money and destructive to the ecosystem.””

Tony Orman added that the after-effects of the 1080 program made the government programme even more illogical and crazy.

“1080 poison disrupts the food chain. Surviving rats which are fast breeders explode back.  Landcare Research work showed within just four years under Nature’s surge back, rat numbers rise to three or more times previous numbers. Stoats preying on the abundant rats, then also explode in numbers. Basically the minister and DOC are
greatly increasing rat and stoat numbers over the next five years after a 1080 drop.”

Laurie Collins expressed deep concern at Minister Barry’s “ blind delight” when lauding 1080 to the UK’s Boris Johnson.

“It looked like a hate mentality towards wildlife and impressionable youngsters get bad attitudes,” he said.

Recently controversy erupted when at a South Auckland school, young possum were reportedly taken from their mother’s pouch and drowned in a bucket of water during an annual fundraising hunt.

• Kiwi Violence to Wild Animals Shocks USA

An American professor of ecology has slammed New Zealand education authorities for teaching youngsters to hate wild animals and thereby practise cruelty to them.

Marc Bekoff at the University of Colorado recently wrote a number of essays about New Zealand youngsters being encouraged to harm and to kill animals as part of their education.

” It’s all part of the country’s war on wildlife, the goal being to get rid of all predators by 2050,” he said.

Recently young possum joeys were taken from their mother’s pouch and drowned in a bucket of water during an annual fundraising hunt for a South Auckland school.

Hundreds of adult possums were killed during the event raising money for Drury School with a witness telling the newspaper at least one teenaged girl - not a student of the school - was allegedly involved in the drowning of the baby possums.

Information filtering through from New Zealand, motivated Professor Bekoff to publicly take issue with the teaching of cruelty. The first was an email he received from a woman who thanked him for opposing the taught violence to animals. The woman was appalled and mentioned other parents agreed with her and were at wit’s end because people in power were telling the kids it was perfectly okay to harm and to kill the animals and to parade around with corpses of the animals they slaughtered. 

Another motivator was an essay by Christina Persico that contained some incredibly disturbing images of kids abusing animals. There were also a number of entries for the dead possum dress-up including a butcher, a cowboy and a Donald Trump, complete with the shock of blond hair. One student summarised what happened as, “It’s a good day out and we have lots of fun.”

Professor Bekoff also did an interview with New Zealand’s ‘Safe and Sound” radio about how wrong it is to teach children to harm and to kill other animals.

” I’m incredulous that something like this actually occurs” he said. “Just say ‘no’ to violence toward animals. It’s wrong and there is no way to justify this sort of brutality. It feels downright abusive for people in positions of authority to have youngsters sanction violence toward animals as part of school programmes,“ he said. “I was incredulous when I heard and saw what was happening in New Zealand and how killing contests are chalked up as fun and how they become family affairs.  I find it very disconcerting when one considers a phenomenon called “the link,” which highlights the relationship between violence toward animals and violence toward humans.” 

Professor Bekoff said he hoped,  everyone in New Zealand who opposed killing contests that include youngsters and adults woukld speak out against such unnecessary violence.

” I imagine, and can only hope, that the teachers and school administrators who encourage kids to harm and to kill other animals, and that youngsters who say they enjoy it, are in the vast minority (in New Zealand)”, he said.

NZ conservationist and outdoor sportsman Tony Orman said government and bureaucracy seemed not to care about animal cruelty. He cited the case of New Zealand’s widespread use of poisons used by the Department of Conservation and other agencies against wild animals. Both 1080 and brodifacoum were cruel poisons taking up to 2 days and 21 days respectively to inflict a slow, agonising death on animals.

“It’s all done because of a imagined threat of pests to birds and trees but in reality there’s no justification,” he said. “Some scientists have told them so, but it’s become a money-go-round with empires and salaries the only consideration. Things like commonness, responsible use of public money and animal cruelty don’t come into consideration.”

Tony Orman said he was aware of school education teaching youngsters wrong attitudes to wild animals. His own children at primary school were told be a teacher of the “evil” wild animals.

“It’s a sick anti-wild animal phobia and it’s frightening some teachers and schools preach it on impressionable young minds,” he said.

*John McNab is a New Zealand journalist mostly domiciled in the country’s South Island