This is a long running battle based on two opposing viewpoints on how to deal with the surfeit of adoptable cats in shelters in America. PETA say they should be euthanised. They also say that feral cats should be euthanised. Winograd is the world’s top advocate for no-kill shelters. He wants shelters to improve their systems and attitudes to maximise adoption rates. As I understand it he believes that it is possible to be truly no-kill and cope with the input of unwanted cats. PETA believes that it is impossible and therefore cats have to die to make room.
Both (as does everyone engaged in this debate) agree that more emphasis should be placed on ensuring that all domestic cats are spayed and neutered at the earliest opportunity. In other words prevention is the best solution.
But prevention takes time to get into the system. I wrote about the attitude of an important minority of cat owners who wanted their female cat to have a litter before being spayed. This attitude is entrenched. It will take time to overcome it. In the meantime there are millions of unwanted cats.
In the battle of Winograd versus PETA, PETA has a page on their website in which they they say that Winograd is stupid to promote no-kill shelters because the concept is fundamentally unworkable and causes untold misery amongst the unwanted cats of America. These cats are better off dead.
Nathan Winograd has responded. He has written a book with Jennifer, his wife: Why PETA kills. I have not read the book yet, however he provides a summary in an email to me.
Nathan and his wife say that the kill policy of PETA is “the result of the deeply perverse version of animal activism promoted by PETA founder and President, Ingrid Newkirk”. He alleges that PETA indoctrinate (my choice of word) their employees into believing that people are “incapable of caring for animals and that PETA is doing what is best for animals by killing them”.
He says that PETA claim that animals “cannot live without human care, which is why they round up animals in order to put them to death. The animals are damned either way and thus killing them is a “gift””.
PETA, he claims, even defend abusive animal shelters. They instruct employees to acquire animals by “any means necessary – in order to kill those animals”.
He says that “PETA is letting loose upon the world individuals who not only believe that killing is a good thing and that the living want to die, but who are legally armed with lethal drugs which they have already proven — at least 32,744 times in the last 13 years — that they are not averse to using.”
You can buy the book on Amazon and it is free when downloaded (until 3rd December 2017).
It is a shame that two such powerful advocates for animal welfare are at loggerheads over how to deal with the unwanted cats of America.
I am compelled to say that I prefer Nathan Winograd’s arguments although I respect PETA and their work. I actually like PETA’s direct and dramatic style but feel that their attitude towards unwanted domestic cats and feral cats is too negative and an acceptance of failure. It is too massive in its approach to killing cats. And I think to believe that all feral cats are miserable and living appalling lives is incorrect. There are many well managed feral cat colonies where the cats live decent lives, arguably better thank many domestic cats. And many feral cats are looked after by individuals. These are better described as community cats of which there are millions in Asia.
Nathan Winograd’s approach is one of hope and striving for something better. And it must be a good thing to improve no-kill rates at shelters when working towards a 100% no-kill status.
Another point always comes to my mind. PETA’s approach arguable maintains irresponsible cat ownership because it disposes of the end product of irresponsible cat ownership: the cats are killed humanely; they disappear. This tends to promote a continuance of the problem.
Nathan Winograd’s approach maintains the effects of irresponsible cat ownership thereby placing pressure on the authorities and cat owners to take proactive steps to prevent it. A positive long term side effect.