The New Zealand First Party — which represents Māori interests — has criticized the use of the traditional haka, a rite of Māori initiation, by anti-vaccine activists during a protest in Auckland.
“The anti-vax movement has no place in New Zealand. Their actions are unacceptable and we expect them to delete the video and remove it,” New Zealand First’s Social Development and Heritage spokeswoman, Ava Reid, said in a statement released Monday.
Activists who oppose the overuse of vaccinations have targeted New Zealand’s National Institute of Health and Medical Research over its research on measles, whooping cough and other childhood vaccine preventions, reports The Guardian. In protest, the group staged a demonstration in front of the institute on Sunday to draw attention to what they call “the sickness” of vaccine-preventable diseases.
“Our Māori people have been colonized so long that they don’t understand the necessity of immunization as a precautionary measure for the infection of their children and for their very safety as healthy Kiwis,” Te Reo Māori and Health Minister Nanaia Mahuta said.
In April, New Zealand medical research which showed high rates of vaccine-preventable diseases and dramatically low vaccination rates prompted a government-led inquiry into vaccine access and uptake.
New Zealand joins a growing number of countries where anti-vaccine activists have targeted public figures and institutions. Last month, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London became the target of a protest led by anti-vaccine activists who claimed the museum’s travelling exhibition about “the doubts” about vaccinations was “anti-scientific propaganda.”
The exhibition displayed photographs from people who say their health has been threatened by the rapid spread of measles, a disease that is now endemic in the U.K. and Europe.
“Have your children seen this again?” the protestors were filmed chanting from a roped-off stage, also featuring outstretched fingers indicating a “pox” on the Museum of London.