Garth George: Kids eating pig slops - this is NZ

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A couple of stories in the newspapers this week plunged me into a sadness that verges on despair.

The first reported the discovery of three hungry Northland children eating food scraps meant for pigs; in the second the SPCA in Rotorua told us that children who witness domestic violence in their homes are taking their anger out on their pets.

In the first, Kaitaia GP Lance O'Sullivan said a local garage owner told him he had found three children - aged 5, 7 and 9 - in the yard at the back of his business, thinking they were up to no good.

But he discovered they were eating food scraps from a pig bucket. When he asked what they were doing, they said: "We're hungry."

Dr O'Sullivan said that about the same time he was called by a mother worried her toddler had drunk some medicine in the refrigerator.

She didn't have money for petrol to take the boy to the clinic, so he went to the home.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

"It soon became clear why the child had taken this medicine. The fridge was bare except for medicine bottles, half a block of butter and a small amount of milk and cheese.

"This child hadn't mistakenly found this bottle of medicine and got past the childproof lid.

"This child was hungry and in desperation took whatever was available to put in its puku."

The Rotorua report said a national study by the SPCA and Women's Refuge had revealed that women were less likely to leave violent relationships because they feared their pets could get abused.

A quarter of the 200 women surveyed, who had all used Women's Refuge services, said their children had watched violence against animals and, Rotorua SPCA officials say, the children continue the cycle of violence.

I have long predicted in these columns that, as the gap between rich and poor gets wider, New Zealand is rapidly sinking into a Third World state.

If any evidence were needed that that is in fact the case, then it is these two utterly depressing newspaper stories.

And further evidence - the thing that really gets me about these reports - is that there was no immediate outcry, no letters to the editor, no raving on talkback radio.

It seems they were just a couple of news items to be read with indifference, then forgotten.

I am staggered that in this so-called land of plenty there are children so hungry that they will eat pig slop or swallow medicine; and children so terrified by family violence that they will take it out on innocent and helpless animals - probably the only beings in their experience that want only to give them affection.

In the SPCA/Women's refuge survey, one in three respondents said they would not leave a violent relationship because they feared their pets would get abused as a result; 55 per cent said animal cruelty was part of their experience of family violence, and that at some point a family member or their partner had threatened to kill one of their animals. A third of respondents reported actual injury or death of an animal.

So while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and the middle-class carries the can for both, we see in this blessedly productive country the lowering of taxes on the wealthy and all sorts of other political skulduggery which deprives some of our poorest citizens even of the means to survive.

Surely, even in this amoral nation of "I'm all right Jack" money-grubbers, these sorts of things are intolerable.

Let Dr O'Sullivan have the last word: "[Extreme poverty] shouldn't be happening in New Zealand at all. It's what you hear about in the slums of Brazil.

"We shouldn't accept one incident like this, let alone two in one small community."

garth.george@hotmail.com

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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