The Effects of Imprinting Kids to Kill Animals
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM Marc Bekoff, Psychology Today / Animal Emotions
March 2020

"The effects of imprinting kids to kill animals are bad news."

“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."
—Kayla Simon, "Hunting perpetuates cruelty, teaches violence"

"There are more humane ways of dealing with 'invasive species' than 1080."
- World-renowned conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall says from article in Stuff

"The effects of imprinting kids to kill animals are bad news."
— email from a concerned mother in New Zealand

Killing animals in sanctioned school events and family outings is business as usual in parts of New Zealand.

In New Zealand, youngsters are trained to kill nonhuman animals (animals) in sanctioned school and family events. While many kids really enjoy them, not all of them do. However, those who don't want to partake often don't know what to do because they're told they have to participate or are ridiculed by other students.

Two years ago, I received an email from a 9-year-old New Zealander asking me (via a parent), "Why is it wrong to not want to kill animals?" In his note, I could feel his concern and pain—how could anyone think it's wrong to try to save lives, but okay to kill animals because some people don't like them and think they're some sort of "pest." I agree with Jane Goodall when she says, "I abhor the use of the word pest."

Concerning youngsters killing other animals and enjoying it, yesterday I received two emails informing me about a hunting contest that took place in Ōpōtiki, New Zealand. The first was an essay by Lynley Tulloch titled "The McDonaldification Of Hunting: Training Children To Kill In Opotiki" and the second, a video called "Ōpōtiki youngsters get stuck into hunting competition designed just for them."

These are not isolated incidents in a country in which many people who take part in their war on wildlife hope to eliminate all non-native animals by 2050.1,2 For example, possum hunting competitions regularly occur in rural New Zealand schools, and these often involve "dressing up dead possums for competitions, hurling them in throwing competitions and carrying them over obstacle courses," as Dr. Tulloch notes.

Unfortunately, a good number of non-target animals also are killed using methods involving the poison 1080, along with trapping, snaring, shooting, and bludgeoning. Numerous references about many different aspects of New Zealand's efforts to kill non-native wildlife can be found in my previous post, "Jane Goodall Says Don't Use 1080, Jan Wright Says Use More."

Watching the video, "Ōpōtiki youngsters get stuck into hunting competition designed just for them" isn't easy for me, and I want you to know this before you do. It's said a picture is worth a thousand words, and I'm sure that this film will generate many more. This event was designed by "a group of hunting mums" for youngsters under 16. In the article accompanying the video, we read: "Hunting is a big part of life in the eastern Bay of Plenty and the Opotiki Little 3—that took place over the weekend—encourages kids to get involved by attempting to bag the largest number of possums, magpie and rabbit." One mother said, "Most of us have full time jobs as well as doing this but we do it for the kids so... it's worth it to see their smiles!"

The link between violence toward nonhumans and violence toward humans.

It's well known that there is a link between violence directed toward nonhumans and violence directed toward humans.3 Ms. Tulloch writes: "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."

Clearly, Opotiki has issues with violence, "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."

I think there are many things that are wrong with organized and sanctioned killing contests—it's bad news that they exist and that kids smile after "bagging" the animals. I think it's good that not all youngsters want to engage in them. There still are many people who don't know they occur and it's essential to inform a wide audience that they are a reality of life—business as usual—in various parts of New Zealand.

Gretchen Wyler since famously said, "Cruelty can't stand the spotlight," and I hope that more and more people will strongly oppose these events. I think that minimal "good" comes out of them, and it's well-known that a lot of "bad" can stem from training youngsters to kill other animals for fun and games. As Dr. Tulloch stresses, "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."

SStay tuned for further discussion on how New Zealand youngsters continue to be trained to kill animals. I'm encouraged that I receive numerous emails from New Zealanders—kids and adults—who are deeply concerned about what's happening and want to know how to put an end to "this most despicable form of schooling," as one parent put it.

Just after I posted this essay I received this email from a woman in New Zealand:

"Oh my goodness–I am going to have to read this to my daughter who was so bereft after what should have been a great school field trip turned into a nightmare where a ranger showed them all how to trap a possum and essentially to get used to it as that’s what conservation looks like. She’s been beside herself about it ever since…"

New Zealand continues to have animal welfare issues. We can only hope that as people learn about what's happening in parts of New Zealand, they will work to be sure that this sort of violent education doesn't happen in their own communities. Imprinting kids to kill animals is bad news, can have horrific long-term effects, and should be stopped.


Return to Animal Rights Articles