There is a battle ragging out there on the Internet and also on the ground between these parties:
- Cat lovers and people who care about treating community cats decently including the local SPCA;
- Cat haters or people who dislike cats who believe that cats are a non-native species that wantonly kill native wildlife, particularly birds;
- Bird Conservationists who hate cats, period, full-stop;
- Local authorities who struggle to find the right balance between the competing forces.
This ongoing battle has possibly reached a new height in New Zealand. You would have thought it would have been the USA, but no, it has moved to the land of the Kiwi – a small, cute flightless bird.
The whole war was kicked off by Gareth Morgan, an New Zealand economist who declared, in so many words, that stray cats should be exterminated. He set up a website called “Cats to Go”. He calls the local SPCA “cat nutters”. His pronouncements were well received by some but in general most people strongly disapproved of what he said (as I understand the situation).
However, he seems to have motivated some cat haters to take real action and it is causing trouble in the community. Some genuine cat haters are killing cats in traps. The Bay Bush Action group whose objective is to protect “native species in the Opua State Forest” are involved. We are told that they have published pictures on their Facebook page of trapped and killed cats. However, I can’t see any of these pictures. There are plenty of dead possums and rats but no cats. They say that feeding a colony of cats next to a wildlife reserve is madness and want it stopped.
The battle ground in this instance is Betty’s cat colony in Paihia, New Zealand, which just happens to be next to the Opua State Forest.
Betty is 86 and a sweet lady who has been feeding her colony of cats for ten years.
The local authorities, Bay of Islands-Whangaroa Community Board, voted to get rid of Betty’s cat colony. Of course Morgan was delighted. Cat Coalition member, Diane O’Connor, described the decision as immoral.
A Facebook page called “Cats to Stay” has been created to counter Morgan’s website. They also have videos. The idea is to unite cat lovers worldwide to protect Betty’s cats and to fight against Dr Morgan’s ideas and the actions of his supporters.
Cats to Stay asked cat lovers to email the council members of the Bay of Islands-Whangaroa Community Board. They were bombarded by emails! The major of the community, Wayne Brown, lost his temper and fired an email back at an American supporter of Cats to Stay. He said:
“You are a total dickhead, stop killing Iraqis and Afghans, they are just bird-eating cats and your stupid emails are only guaranteeing that the cats will all end up in Asian rice stews.”
Unpleasant and quite revealing as to his attitude towards Americans, never mind cats.
Where does this leave us? A long time ago I referred to the war between bird conservationists and supporters of Trap-Neuter-Return. A more recent article sums up the current situation. The war entered the quasi-scientific sphere when the Smithsonian published a junk science study that supported drastic action against feral and stray cats. Now we have the battle ragging on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.
The truth is that people manage the planet and have an obligation to ensure that we live in harmony with animals wild and domestic. It is also our duty to ensure that animals that we created through our actions, namely, stray cats, are treated well and decently while ensuring that they don’t harm wildlife. At the moment we don’t seem to be creating much harmony.