A hunting competition in New Zealand has faced backlash for inviting children to kill as many feral cats as possible for a cash prize.
An annual hunt is organised by The North Canterbury Hunting Competition, where hundreds of entrants - adults and children - compete to kill wild pigs, deer and hares.
A new category was suggested this year encouraging children under 14 to hunt feral cats for a $250 prize, but it was soon cancelled after outcry from animal welfare groups.
Though young entrants were told not to kill pets, New Zealand's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty in Canterbury took to social media to condemn the plan, saying: "It’s not possible to tell the difference between a feral, stray or frightened domestic cat based on appearance, so there is a good chance someone’s pet may be killed during this event."
They continued on Facebook: "In addition, children often use air rifles in these sorts of event which increase the likelihood of pain and distress, and can cause a prolonged death."
The North Canterbury Hunting Competition also released a statement on Facebook after receiving "some vile & inappropriate messages" and to remind people of the competition's charitable intentions for the local Rotherham School.
"Unfortunately, there have been some vile & inappropriate emails and messages sent to the school and others involved – we are incredibly disappointed in this reaction and would like to clarify that this competition is an independent community run event," the statement read.
"Please remember we are a group of volunteers who are trying to raise money for our local school and pool.
"This fundraising effort is critical in aiding the local school to employ a board funded third teacher and gives our local community and kids greater opportunities."
The volume of feral cats is considered a widespread issue in New Zealand as they continue to decimate local wildlife.
They feed on rabbits, birds and bird eggs, rats, hares, bats, lizards, mice, and more.
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