Edited by Annie Potts
The history of brushtail possums in New Zealand is bleak. The colonists who forcibly transported possums from their native Australia to New Zealand in the nineteenth century valued them as economic assets, quickly establishing a profitable fur industry. Over the past 80 or so years, however, New Zealand has increasingly scapegoated possums for the unanticipated negative impact their presence has had on the native environment and wildlife. Now this marsupial—blamed and despised—suffers the most miserable of reputations and is extensively targeted as the nation's number one pest. This paper examines anti-possum rhetoric in New Zealand, identifying the operation of several distinct—yet related—discourses negatively situating the possum as (a) an unwanted foreign invader and a threat to what makes New Zealand unique; (b) the subject of revenge and punishment (ergo the deserving recipient of exploitation and commodification); and (c) recognizably “cute, but...” merely a pest and therefore unworthy of compassion. This paper argues that the demonization of possums in New Zealand is overdetermined, extreme, and unhelpfully entangled in notions of patriotism and nationalism.
Mandala White and Annie Potts
This qualitative study, conducted between August and December 2006, explored the opinions and experiences of New Zealanders who challenge orthodox attitudes to the use and consumption of nonhuman animals. To date, New Zealand (NZ) has under-investigated the perspectives of those who oppose animal farming, the eating of nonhuman animals, and the exploitation of nonhuman animals. Agriculture substantially influences the economy and cultural heritage of the nation. Given that national identity in New Zealand strongly associates with farming and meat production, this paper investigates how vegetarians living in this country experience and challenge prevalent imagery and ideas about New Zealand. In particular, the paper examines the ways in which “kiwi” vegetarians are disputing the dominant image of New Zealand as “clean and green” and a land of "animal lovers" and how they are experiencing mainstream (meat-loving) kiwi culture in their everyday lives. The paper also examines some of the more positive aspects for vegetarians of living in New Zealand.