The Relative Importance of Different Non-human Animals

The relative importance of animals

Feral cats and domestic cats (who are allowed to wander outside) can provoke two opposing points of view with respect to the cats’ prey.

It could be argued that cat owners who let their cat go outside are placing more value on the life and needs of their cat than that of the prey that they catch.

Alternatively, people who wish to eliminate feral cats and who would prefer that domestic cats are kept inside, arguably are placing a greater importance and value on the prey of these cats than the cats themselves.

Therefore, it could be argued that a lot of the time when people say that feral cats should be eliminated because they prey on native species, they are exercising their personal preferences and ethical beliefs about the relative importance of non-human animals rather than expressing a genuine concern for the animals upon which domestic and feral cats prey.

That being the case, I would hope that people who argue the case for the elimination of feral cats look in the mirror and ask themselves whether they are actually concerned about prey animals and conservation or whether they are simply exercising their personal preferences. If it is the latter then their argument is substantially weakened.

In Australia, we all know by now that the authorities are very concerned about feral cats preying on native species. What they are presenting to the world is a concern for the conservation of Australian wild animals other than feral cats. But perhaps they are heavily biased because they simply feel that native species are more important than feral cats. Is it possible or is it fair to value one animal above another because one of those animals is native to the country?

It could be argued that all animals are equal. In fact this should always be the case. Just because an animal happens to have evolved in a certain country does not, in my opinion, necessarily make it more valuable or more important than another species of animal.

The concept of native species is a human one. It is a label which we place upon certain animals, no more no less. It is pure chance that an animal is native to a certain place. It should not, arguably, affect the importance of the animal species in an absolute sense.

The preservation of native species is trying to freeze the state of affairs that existed many years ago. If we want to do this we should focus on the human destruction of the habitat of native species as a first priority. That is a more ethical approach.

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The Relative Importance of Different Non-human Animals — 2 Comments

  1. That is the best and most succinct argument on this topic that I’ve ever read. Well done.

    Just to include a little anecdotal evidence: I’ve said before that I’ve had indoor/outdoor privileges for my cats, of which I’ve had 17 at my location over the course of 20 years. It’s simple math, of the 1,985,600 possible hours they’ve had access to “prey” (conceding that in reality, adjusting for varying number of cats, so let’s say 25% of that = 496,400 “cat” hours), I have witnessed or found evidence of about a dozen “kills”… and most of them were rats or mice. What cat haters tend to think is that cats live to kill, and that’s what they do constantly. False. Cats play, especially pet cats, and most of the time they fail. In fact many of my own cats haven’t even had much of a play desire their whole lives, and spent literally only a few minutes a week doing it, despite my urging. They just don’t care to, and the ones that and are good at it, may, might bring down a bird once a year, in the cat’s early years and at a point the bird can’t out-fly anymore. Indeed, the other day a bird flew into my moving car. I drove back, scooped it up and tried to save it, but couldn’t. That’s how things go, they are all going to die at some point, and for every one that does, there are one or two more that hatch, so I really, really don’t see the urgency of this so-called problem the bird lovers, who also apparently think they are the only people who care about birds, keep harping on. I like them too and try to save them too. They fly into cars, buildings, fall out of nests, but they aren’t gone. Also, when birds die they leave a vacuum where other birds can thrive. Cats aren’t killing them all off, not in my area of planet, nature finds a balance.

    • Thanks Albert. What I have written is a bit controversial and provocative but that is the nature of the topic. There is no doubt in my mind that the arguments put forward by people to kill feral cats is largely about their preference for cat prey animals over the cats.

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