FRANCE: Willy Schraen, 50, the head of the National Federation of Hunters has called for the trapping of all cats no matter whether they are stray or domestic found wandering more than 300 metres from their homes because they are killing wildlife and present an existential menace to birds and other small animals in the country.
Trapping cats that are more than 300 metres from houses would be a good thing.
A spokesman for Willy Schraen clarified his statement in saying that he meant that the cats should be trapped humanely in baited cages and handed over to councils or animal shelters. Willy Schraen says that the domestic cat is destroying biodiversity in France and that there are too many of them. He argues that the cat kills far more animals than hunters and urgent action was required to deal with the menace. There are 13.5 million domestic cats in France, which The Times tells us is the largest population of domestic cats in Europe.
He has incurred the wrath of cat lovers in the country and more than 50,000 people have signed an online petition calling for him to be punished. His critics say that hunters are known for killing numerous bird species some of which are endangered. A television journalist, Hugo Clément, who campaigns for animal rights, said that it was droll of Mr Schraen to blame cats on the decline of biodiversity when the national hunting Federation continues to defend the slaughter of threatened bird species.
Willy Schraen made the remarks during an interview about the advantages of the coronavirus to wildlife in France. During the two months of lockdown there has been a resurgence of wildlife in the country. Game birds, insects and other wild animals have prospered during the peace and reduced pollution resulting from the lockdown. Also, less pesticides have been used by farmers.
Intensive farming and pesticides has, it has been argued by researchers, resulted in the number of birds in rural areas dropping by a third in 15 years. Also, hunters are allowed to kill about 63 species of birds which compares badly with up to 30 in the rest of the European Union.
In addition to the battle between France’s hunting lobby and cat lovers, you have to add the French League for the Protection of Birds who are campaigning against roaming domestic and feral cats. They say that they are responsible for 10% of the injured animals brought to their shelters. They want all domestic cats to be sterilised (I presume under a new law).
I have learned that, in France, a stray cat is legally defined as a cat found more than 200 metres from human dwellings or more than a kilometre from home. These cats are deemed to be abandoned. A scheme to find new homes for abandoned cats and dogs during the lockdown had been a success said the Society for the Protection of Animals.
During the lockdown, the French government made an exception to their strict confinement rules in allowing people to collect animals from the society’s shelters.
Comment: this would be legalised theft as many cat owners would lose their cats when trapped and taken to a shelter. Also when cats are trapped they can subsequently be injured as they try to escape. How careful will the trapping be? The trapping of domestic cats willy nilly like this has been proven to cause many problems. It is controversial and I’d argue that a law allowing it would conflict with France’s criminal law. Domestic cats allowed outside often travel more than 300 metres from their homes but many don’t.