British government considered the mass culling of all domestic cats at the outbreak of Covid-19

Mass culling of domestic cats debated by British government in early days of pandemic

Mass culling of domestic cats debated by British government in early days of pandemic. Illustration by MikeB

NEWS AND VIEWS: It has come to light in a Channel 4 interview involving Lord Bethell, the former deputy health minister from 2020-2021, that in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, the British government appeared to have seriously considered culling the entire population of domestic cats in the UK in order to prevent the spread of the disease.


The idea must have been quickly ditched and one reason would have been the impossibility of enforcing it. There would have been total uproar and very few people would have offered up their domestic cat. I will also suspect that veterinarians would have refused to do it.


“What we shouldn’t forget is how little we understood about this disease. There was a moment we were very unclear about whether domestic pets could transmit the disease.” – Lord Bethell.

That said, you can understand the government considering it. We are looking at those days in hindsight. We are looking at those moments with great knowledge of Covid-19 but back in the early days, at the outbreak of the pandemic, there was confusion. We simply didn’t know what to do and how infectious the disease was. We didn’t really understand how it could be transmitted from animal to human and thence from human to human. Or how contagious it was.


There was a lot of talk about companion animals becoming a reservoir for the Covid-19 virus. It transpired that although the disease is zoonotic and can therefore be transferred between animals and people and vice versa, there were very few confirmed cases of domestic animals giving the disease to their owners.

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There were some quite high-profile cases and reports of zookeepers giving Covid-19 to captive animals in their charge such as lions and tigers. I remember the tigers of New York Zoo getting Covid-19.

Domestic cats deal well with Covid

It also transpired that cats, both wild and domestic, are much better equipped in dealing with the disease compared to humans. They appear to have antibodies ready made to suppress the disease and as far as we know the domestic cat and the wild cats which caught the disease resolved the illness on their own fairly quickly. Although I recall tigers being given treatments.

11 million cats

The UK has around 10.9 million cats according to the 2022 PDSA animal well-being report. That would have meant almost 11 million cats being killed and it is impossible to envisage that ever happening. And it is equally impossible to think that the UK government could for a moment consider it as a viable option.

Perhaps the panic was such that they had to consider it but the revelations sparked astonishment on social media. Many have declared that they would never give up their cat under those circumstances.

Serious discussion?

According to Lord Bethell, during discussions in government that there was evidence presented which suggested that there might have been merit in taking such an extraordinary measure. It was even investigated but ultimately it was dismissed.

North Korea

Separately, my mind turns to North Korea. As I remember, in late May 2021, the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Yong-un ordered the destruction of domestic and feral cats in the entire country together with pigeons because he believed that they spread the coronavirus and he also believed that they brought the disease across the border from China.

The North Korean dictator ordered his forces to eliminate cats and pigeons. This then was a full-scale culling of cats both domestic and feral.

What happened?

I don’t know how it worked out. But the North Korean dictator did exactly what the UK government was considering doing. That is the power of dictatorship. It must been a kind of feline hell but Kim Jong-un has a reputation for creating his own kind of hell.


There are some awful stories emanating from China during the Covid pandemic of both cats and dogs being unceremoniously killed by officials in hazmat suits. I remember a couple of hazmat suited officials barging their way into a woman’s apartment and bludgeoning her pet dog to death in front of her. Quite horrendous. And there were some cat owners who threw their cat companions out of high-rise windows to their deaths. Also, horrendous. Those were the early days of Covid-19. There were genuine panic. We tend to forget that now.


The Danish government culled 17 million farm mink in order to help suppress the spread of Covid-19 in their country. So, Britain was not the only country where they considered this kind of mass culling. If you believe that every animal has equal rights what the Danish government did was worse than what the British government was considering doing.

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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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3 Responses

  1. Robbie Jackson says:

    Bob has been generous to the government’s handling of COVID around the world. It represents the lowest point in human strength is history. Viruses come and go but for nearly every nation to effectively close down their people must constitute a crime against humanity. It has left a paranoid world where coughing in public could leave people with being attacked. The human race has never been weaker and there is no sign of any reversal of this trend.

  2. Bob says:

    All of this covid sham a disease? Which was marked diwn by uk scientists in march 2020 as relativly harmless ! Then the WEF infiltrators including johnson ” hancock along with all WEF trained puppet political parties ” especially at xmas!and our own Royals ” coerced a Nation into lockdowns ” jabs and boosters “while loved ones were left to rot in hospitals and relatives kept away ? Tested for Convid using a crap test and stuck in convid wards given midazalam and if put on ventilators literallly blowing there lungs up ! Along with nil by mputh ” liverpool end of life pathways ” i call that murder “and now all cause mortality up 20% and some countrys 37%. So what caused that then? And the culling continues and its not cats.

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