Māori Vegan Responds to Māori Conservationist
Updated: May 2
Conservationist Tame Malcolm wrote an article arguing that 1080 use is aligned with te ao Māori.
1080 is an extremely toxic poison that kills anyone who consumes it, from insects to large mammals. It slowly and painfully kills its victims over a number of days. New Zealand uses 80% of the world's supply of 1080, and Australia is the only other country that still uses it.
Watch Chris' response to the article here, or read the text below.
Kia ora koutou, nau mai, hoki mai, it's Chris here, and today we're doing a response video to an article published in The Spinoff by Tame Malcom who argues that the use of the controversial poison 1080 is aligned with traditional tikanga Māori. He compares deterrents with outright violence, Māori warfare with dropping poison, and other nonsense. Before we get started, I'm no expert on 1080 poison or tikanga Māori. I'm not here to define tikanga and I'm not here to address whether or not 1080 even works. All we're doing today is looking at the arguments from Tame and seeing if they match his claim.
But first, a short mihi to Tame Malcom, he's decendent of Te Arawa whānui and Ngāti Ruanui. I'd describe him as a better looking, Māori version of Jason Momoa, he's a strong advocate within the space of conservation in Aotearoa and although we disagree, here at Aotearoa Liberation League we sincerely acknowledge his intention, and have no doubt about the sincerity of his actions and his desire to help Papatūānuku.
Kaore au e kōrero ki te takahi i tana mana, engari he rerekē taku whakaaro ki te take nei.[No disrespect to him, but I have a different opinion.] Ka pai, lets get to his points. Number one, Tame says: "Māori history and culture has many examples of toxin use. Kawakawa, for example, was used to kill insects. A known insecticide, it would be buried in the ground around kūmara gardens – adding poison to the whenua to deter insects." I mean, normally you use the kawakawa with lots of holes on it, that's how you know it's ready. Those holes are insect bites, but he wants to call it an insecticide. Heoi anō- Deterring insects, and slowly poisoning animals to death are not the same thing. We attract animals to 1080 using bait, BAIT - literally the opposite of a deterrent. Insects, like other animals, avoid plants that are poisonous to them. That’s why kawakawa trees aren’t surrounded by a sea of dead insects. The kawakawa trick sounds like a perfectly ethical, nonviolent way to protect your food - thanks for the tip, Tame. His next argument: "Some readers may be thinking “kawakawa is from our whenua, whereas 1080 isn’t”. But the active ingredient in 1080 – sodium monofluoroacetate – can be found naturally occurring in pūha in small amounts." This is a meaningless point, as all chemical compounds originate from the whenua - even the deadliest poisons. Cyanides are produced by certain bacteria, fungi and algae and are also found in the native Tītoki tree. 1080 is made synthetically by treating sodium chloroacetate with potassium fluoride. While small traces of sodium fluoroacetate can be found in some plants, synthetically creating that compound so we have the concentrations needed to kill animals is another thing entirely. That’s a complex chemical process - comparing it to boil up greens is ridiculous. Next, Tame says: "At some pā sites around the country, meanwhile, our tūpuna would line their kūmara pits with rarauhe (bracken fern). Kiore that would try to burrow into the kūmara pits would have to gnaw through the toxic plant to get to the kūmara, thus get poisoned." I've heard of this before, as my kuia used to line boxes of harvested kumara with rarauhe. It would keep the rats away because they stay away from rarauhe, they know they can't eat it.
Studies show that rats and other animals will avoid this plant unless there are no other options. Plus they’d need to consume a huge amount of it, over a long period of time, and then they might get cancer and slowly die. That’s not really going to protect your crops in the meantime. It’s more likely this was again, a non-violent deterrent. Next he compares tūpāpaku to toxins, auē, saying: "Toxins in water were not something foreign to our tūpuna. In some iwi, tūpāpaku were buried in lakes and rivers. This would result in a rāhui being placed on that area, and, for physical and spiritual wellbeing, no food or water was to be taken from there." Auē, firstly lets just acknowlege that Tame is trying to compare burial rituals with aerial dropping of poison... *deep breath*. This is a common theme for Tame, claiming justification from equal consequences of any given action rather than comparing the actions themselves. Yes, you can't hunt in an area that has recently had a 1080 drop, that's partly why hunters don't like 1080. Tame is justifying 1080 because, you can just call a rāhui, so you can do anything you want as long as it ends with a rāhui. If Fonterra dump a load of processing waste somewhere, oh, rāhui. TICKanga Māori. What else ya got Tame, "Some have argued that the mass killing of pests that comes with using 1080 toxin is also un-Māori-like. But this argument doesn’t really hold up, in my opinion, because our tūpuna would catch large quantities of fish using nets. Tāruke (crayfish traps) and hīnaki both operate on the premise of catching en masse." Hunting for survival vs slowly poisoning millions of animals to death for conservation and farm profits. Two quite different things. And we know why its upsetting to see dead bodies everywhere: for me it's understanding the pain and suffering these animals go through, for others it could be knowing that those now poisoned carcasses COULD have fed a hungry village - or city at this rate. It also reminds me of a story, back during European settlement, seals were being processed in Kororāreka by settlers, leaving thousands of seal carcasses discarded and floating in the harbour. This led to tangata whenua calling upon their rangatira of the time, Hone Heke, who then dealt with the abusers of Papatūānuku. I'm just saying, if you're going to use these old examples as justifications for our actions of today, know that it can go both ways... This next one touches on this sentiment: "Perhaps it’s the fact that 1080 results in large quantities of dead lying around. Again, this is not something new to our culture. After battles, our tūpuna would lay out dead bodies, such as on the large rock Te Aroaro o te Rangi Ka Awatea on Mokoia Island in Lake Rotorua, where the dead were splayed out to dry." Tame is going for the hard sell on this one. He's saying 1080 is fine, because its like war. Hmmm. I'm pretty sure we all agree that war is bad? This has got to be the most ridiculous argument of them all. Does the fact that Māori had battles mean we should be insensitive to death and suffering? Does it justify battles and war? This, most of all, highlights the problem with Tame’s line of reasoning. Actions of the past don’t justify actions of the present. These battles were a tragedy, and the mass death of animals from 1080 is also a tragedy. Using an inherently unethical thing to justify 1080 does you no favours. It only highlights how messed up 1080 is. Let's go around killing lots of people and lay their bodies out everywhere - it's normal as! Māori used to do it. You know they used to eat people too? Ok, but seriously, what this does is perpetuates the notion that Māori were a violent, savage race. Normalising warfare and violence Tame? We're trying to move AWAY from the myth of the warrior gene. Come on, bro. "So I end by saying that perhaps the most Māori way I can think of to manage pest animals is to put the needs of the environment above the needs and wants of humans. After all, it was human greed that got us in this mess." Agreed - we should not put humans first. And yet, that is exactly what our national approach to introduced species is all about. It centres human wants above everything. Protect this rare trophy species, save that tourism goldmine, create this conservation estate for rich resort goers...creating the illusion that we're protecting biodiversity. If we really wanted to put the environment first, we'd stop knowingly polluting her, we'd clean up our waterways, we'd end destructive industrial farming practices, and take meaningful action on climate change. But no, instead let's scapegoat our actions with the purest expressions of life from Papatūānuku, her animals. So what's the take home message? Well firstly, Māori had some really cool non-violent ways of protecting their kai and living with other animals. Secondly, The Spinoff will let you say anything as long as you're wanting to kill introduced species, and...that if one Māori says something, don't think they speak on behalf of us all. Just like I don't speak on behalf of anyone but myself. That's all for today. Kia ora tātou, noho ora mai rā.