Animal Studies Journal


There is a common saying in Aotearoa New Zealand: ‘the only good possum is a dead possum’. This colloquialism demonstrates much about the negative reputation and maltreatment of brushtail possums in New Zealand. Introduced to this country from their native Australia in the 1800s, possums thrived in their new predator-free environment. Possums' adaptability has since proved to be problematic, not least for the nation's lucrative meat and dairy industries. In the past few decades a concerted campaign mounted by the New Zealand government has targeted possums as ruthless pests, demonizing these marsupials to the extent that international tourists are even advised to swerve while driving on the country's roads in order to hit and kill these animals. This paper examines how the print news media in New Zealand frames possums in a way that helps to sustain and encourage violence towards these marsupials. We argue that print media in New Zealand promote an overwhelmingly negative representation of possums which influences cultural understandings and public attitudes – ultimately reproducing and reinforcing hatred, disrespect and maltreatment of possums as pests warranting extermination and undeserving of compassion.

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