Cat war comes to Northland

The SST reports:

Extremists “inspired by millionaire Gareth Morgan” are accused of deliberately killing in Northland, sparking a bitter fight between conservationists and cat-lovers.

Images of cats caught in traps – described by cat supporters as “horrifying” – have been posted on a Far North conservation group’s Facebook page.

But cat-lovers are accused of extremism too – sending abusive and threatening emails to community board members considering the fate of a controversial cat colony, sparking complaints to police.

The ugly spat centres on a colony of about 10 strays being fed on a council reserve in Paihia in the Bay of Islands.

Morgan labels the colony “vile” and a threat to wildlife. But its supporters describe themselves on Facebook as “soldiers” in the “Battle of Paihia”. Their “war” is against conservation group Bay Bush which seemed to revel in posting photos of dead cats on Facebook, and a community board that last week voted to remove the stray cats permanently.

Their hate figure is Morgan, the businessman and philanthropist turned anti-cat crusader. Auckland Cat Coalition member Anne Batley-Burton squarely blames him for the trouble.

“Gareth Morgan is inciting the conservationists and getting them all worked up about the cats going out and killing all the birds. It’s causing so much trouble between people in communities.”

Another Cat Coalition member, Diane O’Connor, believed Morgan’s crusade had encouraged “radicals” to harm cats. “There are extreme people who now think, ‘yay, we’ve got the green light to hurt, maim and make animals suffer’.”

She said some of the cats were caught in possum traps that had been converted especially to lure them.

The Bay Bush Action Facebook page featured images of trapped cats, including one graphic picture of a black tom hanging by its mouth.

Several people commented on the page that the pictures were like something

from a horror movie and were inappropriate, but others cheered on the killers. “Well done . . . I wonder how many baby kiwi that evil cat killed,” one post said. The images have since been removed, the group conceding they were inflammatory.

Sticking up photos of cats killed in traps is pretty sick.

Meanwhile, two members of the Bay of Islands-Whangaroa Community Board have complained to police after a Facebook group called Cats to Stay – set up in opposition to Morgan’s website Cats to Go – encouraged cat lovers from around the world to email councillors and Far North Mayor Wayne Brown ahead of a meeting last Wednesday to decide the fate of the Paihia strays.

“It was severe harassment,” said deputy chair Belinda Ward. “I’m a ‘terminator’, a ‘murderer’, a ‘cat killer’. I had three days of bombardment. It educated me that cyber bullying by extremists is alive and well.”

Extremism on the other side is equally unhelpful.

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