The slaughter of more than 23,000 rabbits during New Zealand’s 20th annual Great Easter Bunny Hunt has drawn criticism and outrage from animal lovers and activists.
The hunt is held on New Zealand’s South Island and is a charity event that is devoted to ridding farmlands of rabbits, which are considered an invasive pest.
Safe director Hans Kriek said he was against the hunt. “It’s seen as a party atmosphere, sending people out as inexperienced hunters blasting away at animals. The ones they kill are one thing, the ones they injure are another.”
He also doubted the effectiveness of a 24-hour killing-spree, which did “more to incite cruelty than control the pest”
“You can commit any atrocity you like to animals in the name of hunting, and you fall outside the legislation, which is crazy, because wild animals feel pain just as much as domestic ones,” he said.
Thousands turned out for the event where 47 teams of hunters, with 12 shooters each, took part in the massacre that lasted overnight until noon the next day where hunters had to turn in their bunnies. The team with the most killed wins $3,500 ($2,800 USD).
“We think we’re doing something to tackle the rabbit problem and I think the majority of views, especially those of farmers, are in our favour,” said Hunt spokesman Dave Ramsey.
However, Federated Farmers Otago president Michael Lord also believed the hunt was unlikely to make a difference because the infestation was the worst its been in years. “There’s no easy fix, no silver bullet to kill all of them.”
To control or kill an invasive species is one thing, but to send people out in droves and turn the killing of innocent creatures into a party is offensive. Especially considering the number of children who love the Easter bunny.
Learning about the natural cycles of life and death is no doubt an important lesson and may be a common practice in some families, especially in farming communities, but how does teaching a child to make a sport out of an animal’s death foster the respect for life we all hope children grow to understand?