Waipapakauri man Scott Collins has few illusions about some people's propensity for barbarity, but was sickened by the discovery of a number of hens, which he believed had been poisoned and "discarded," in Te Hiku Forest.

They were all alive and sitting, as if on eggs, and twitched and shuddered when he approached them but were unable to flee.

All the birds subsequently died, "having endured what I imagine to be a terribly horrendous drawn-out demise."

Mr Collins said horror could take on a number of forms — "We all have that which we have evolved to abhor" — and he was well travelled, so had seen his share of barbarity — but it was upsetting to see it in New Zealand.

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"I have borne witness to much that might repulse others — simply as an observer — although occasionally with somewhat more intimate involvement," he said.

"Upon my return permanently to New Zealand after decades abroad, the happiness coursing through my veins was palpable. I've always loved my country above any other. It is beautiful, vibrant, free, safe, kind, tolerant and welcoming. These are attributes we all cherish, but from time to time shocking incidents give us pause for thought.

"Again we see an aberration on the goodness of people, unfortunately an increasingly frequent occurrence in these days of lax moral restraint. Time and time again a question mark is placed upon the suitability of humanity as custodians of this world. Not only do we repeatedly display a propensity to fail in this regard, it seems we may be accelerating in our failure.

"Shame and scorn upon those responsible for this egregious act of evil. Disgraceful."