Tony Duckett, the conservation officer for Royal Parks in London, who is in charge of Regent Park’s rare birds, says that pet cats in the UK should not be allowed to roam freely because they kill 500,000 birds weekly. In Britain we say that the UK follows the USA on cultural trends so perhaps he is following the well-know culture in the US of keeping domestic cats inside the home full-time. It may happen one day in the UK.
In fact, he was responding to a successful campaign in the UK, lead by Chris Packham, to stop the free-for-all shooting by farmers of ‘pest’ bird species such as crows and pigeons. Until very recently farmers could shoot them without obtaining a specific license but now they have to obtain a license and show that non-lethal methods have failed. The farmers are outraged and through countryside organisations are ready to challenge, in court, the change in the rules created by Natural England.
The point Tony Duckett is making is that if farmers and bird shooters are being heavily restricted on killing ‘pest birds’ then cat owners should also be restricted by being forced to keep their cats inside. He is annoyed and wants to criticise cat owners and their cats.
Duckett agrees with two farmers from Suffolk, Brian and Patrick Barker, who said that the revocation of their general licenses to shoot birds was a “shameful state of affairs”. The farmers claim that crows peck the eyes out of lambs.
“These so-called pets shouldn’t be allowed to roam freely, killing birds or just putting them off. The owners have no right spoiling other people’s enjoyment.”
The Mammal Society claim that cats kill 27 million birds a year in the UK. The most common victims are sparrows, blue tits, blackbirds and starlings.
The trouble with quoting nationwide figures on birds killed by cats is that they are estimates. They cannot be relied upon. This fatally undermines the argument for keeping cats inside to protect birds in the UK.
There is, though, an increasing number of people in the UK who would like to see domestic cats kept inside. Perhaps we are at the beginning of the process of change which mirrors the state of affairs in the USA.
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