Birds Are Not More Important Than Cats

Libby Watson writing on coins a term which I like: birdheads. It’s a derivation of ‘petrolheads’ (car lovers) and it is very apt. It applies to ornithologists and people such as Jonathan Franzen, an American novelist and essayist, who prefers birds to cats. He thinks they are more important. And he believes that the bird community needs to focus on getting rid of feral cats which for him means killing them – as many as possible and as fast as possible – in the interest of the conservation of America’s native birds.

Libby Watson makes a good point. She says that cats are not a threat to mankind’s survival as mankind itself is but are simply a threat to birds. And when Jonathan Franzen argues that we are morally justified in killing feral cats en masse because of all the birds that they are killing he is simply saying that he likes birds more than he likes cats. It is nothing to do with conservation or nature. It is simply a preference for one species over another. And that is clearly wrong and it cannot be a reason why people should kill one species to preserve another.

There is however one caveat and it is a point that Libby Watson has omitted, regrettably. It is a point which constantly recurs and which sadly undermines the status of feral and domestic cats on two continents in the eyes of humans. In both North America and Australia the domestic and feral cat is what is described as a non-native species (introduced species). It did not evolve on those continents. The domestic cat’s ancestor is the North African wildcat of the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East.

If the domestic and feral cat was native to North America it would place in stark relief relief the speciesism of ornithologists, cat haters and some scientists and in this case a novelist and essayist, Franzen. Speciesism is the preference of one species over another for no particular reason other than one’s own personal preferences.

But as the domestic cat is non-native to America, when people argue against the domestic cat they will justify their speciesism by implying that domestic and feral cats are of a lower status than the native birds of North America. It is a point which regularly arises in discussions on how to deal with feral cats in Australia. People sometimes equate non-native species to pests to be eradicated.

It is remarkable that even though the domestic cat was imported into America it is thought with the settlers from Europe in the early 1600s, over 400 years ago, they are still technically non-native to the continent.

But should non-native species have a lower status that native species? Sometimes non-native species serve good purposes and they become entirely integrated into the ecosystem of a continent. Eradicating them can have unforeseen consequences. When that happens shouldn’t people in authority put aside speciesism when making decisions about the conservation of native species and place the feral cat on the same level of importance as native birds?

Finally, Canis lupus familiaris (the dog) is non-native to America. The dog does not prey upon the native birds of America but feral and domestic dogs cause a lot of damage to humans but I never see them being criticized because they are a non-native species (4.5 million dog bites occur in the United States every year, and 900,000 of those bites become infected – CDC). Speciesism again?

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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6 Responses

  1. Michele Massa says:

    This is the same as saying that this generation owes reparations to black people for what was done when slavery was the law of the land in the US. Besides being faulty logic it is a manipulation to cause guilt at the least and more racial tension at the worst. I do not care if you do not like my opinion so do not bother flaming me, I do not care about PC. This is the same evil logic being used by bird lovers/cat haters. They are justifying that they have the right to wipe out cats due to what happened centuries ago. It is not relevant how cats got here. Again a manipulation to promote their agenda from Hell at the least and increase cat killings at the most. If you torture or kill cats for any reason except humane euthanasia in the case of pain and suffering you are a psychopath who should be surrounded by birds pecking your eyes out. I think most birds are nuisances that crap all over my car, make too much noise in the morning and may try to attack my cat when she is minding her own business. Do I speak out and say birds should be wiped out? No. Do I say hiding in the bushes with binoculars is really weird and they obviously cannot get dates? No, I live and let live. So take your evil agenda and go hide in the bushes evil weirdos.

  2. Susan Gort says:

    The Good Lord in His wisdom gave us the wonderful creatures of this earth to care for and protect. He sure as heck made a mistake when he let the apes out of the trees to become humans!

  3. M.E. King says:

    My neighbors dogs are the ones that killed my Flickers. They were nesting in the sanctuary I built to entertain my house cats.
    Here is a short list of invasive birds to consider
    •European starling.
    •House sparrow.
    •Cattle egret.
    •Mute swan.
    •Rock pigeon.
    •Common myna.
    •Canada goose.
    Migration happens naturally and with the help of humans. All of the birds above compete with native birds for space, nesting grounds and food.
    Perhaps the bird lovers so concerned with native species should start by demanding that invasive species be eradicated. BTW the most common bird my feral cats and herd of strays depopulated were the sparrows leaving openings for many native and a few rare birds of NM.
    Blame the cat doesn’t work. Blame the subdivision

  4. Kevin says:

    I would think that the rat and mouse population would be much higher(especially in the homes of people who own cats) if cats were completely eliminated in the U.S.

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