A survey carried out by the University of Exeter concerning the difficulties of distinguishing between wildcats and feral cats in order to control feral cat populations, came to the conclusion that speciesism is applied less often in Britain than in New Zealand.
What is speciesism? It is valuing one species of animal above another. The classic situation is killing feral cats to protect birds. Or killing feral cats to protect precious and endangered native species. The ultimate example is rating humans over all animals.
You could also argue that speciesism is applied when supporting domestic cats killing rats. In an absolute sense, rats are sentient beings. They are smart and some people keep rats as pets. But people tend to perceive rats as pests and domestic cats as lovable companions. That is speciesism.
And in Britain people don’t apply that kind of rule or they apply it less often than in New Zealand where they are less sentimental about killing feral cats. The same would apply to Australia. In Australia the feral cat is hated and therefore persecuted it seems to me judging by the news media articles on the topic.
But this is partly because Australians are rowing back from a disastrous period during which native species have been lost for various reasons including human activities such as building new homes and destroying habitat and climate change. The feral cat is blamed. It’s a passing the buck process.
But that’s another story. This study found that New Zealanders are “much less sentimental about pest management to protect native species”. The quote comes from the Science Daily website which reports on the study.
Researchers interviewed those involved in cat conservation in New Zealand and Britain. They found that “public opinion is very much against culling feral cats” in Britain. And that would apply even in the interest of protecting the highly endangered if not extinct Scottish wildcat. In Britain, TNR is practised to control feral cat populations rather than simply culling them.
There is a practical aspect of this because it has been found many times that simply killing feral cats does not solve the feral cat population problem whereas widespread TNR will achieve the goal.
Although I fully understand that in Australia TNR is probably impractical in many places because feral cats have gone into the wild outback where they occupy very large home ranges and are therefore very dispersed.
But avoiding culling feral cats has advantages. If you go around shooting feral cats you might shoot someone’s pet domestic cat because it is very hard to tell the difference between a feral cat and a domestic cat at a distance particularly if it’s a tabby cat. You might even be shooting a wildcat because they are tabby cats. It’s problematic to put it mildly. Shooting a pet is a crime in all countries except places like China where there are no general animal welfare laws.
In New Zealand it is legal to shoot feral cats. They even had a competition in which young kids were given prizes to shoot feral cats which was frowned upon by many people. I wrote about that which you can read by clicking this link if you wish.
In the UK, the killing of feral cats is problematic. It impractical to provide a black and white answer as to whether it is legal to kill feral cats in the UK. I discussed the topic many years ago. If you wish to read that article, please check on this link.
Philosophically speaking, I would argue that the more sophisticated a society is the more likely they are to shun speciesism.
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