Killing feral cats in order to protect wildlife is a short term fix but in the long term there will be failure. Conversely, trap-neuter-release (TNR) is a long term solution which if carried out consistently and with commitment produces success.
The underlying difference is short termism versus long-term solutions. In many cases the long term solution is better and this is a classic example.
The problem is that politicians either at the local or national level feel pressured to find quick solutions to problems. They need to please voters. They need to see results in order that they are able to retain their seat in Parliament or on the local council. TNR programs may take years to see improvements in wild species numbers. By then a politician’s career might be over.
It is politicians who make the decisions with respect to government funding for programs designed to reduce the feral cat population. This is the case in Australia. Australia is a country were a national debate is taking place as to how best to deal with what they see as a grave and pressing feral cat problem.
The battle between culling feral cats and TNR is being played out between Australia’s Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews and Animal Justice MP Mark Pearson.
We know that Gregory Andrews and many other members of parliament in Australia desire the mass culling of feral cats. They plan to kill 2 million within about three years by all means possible including quite possibly inhumane methods.
The general consensus coming out of Australia is that killing the animals is the only way to protect native wildlife.
Then Mark Pearson chips into the debate and tells us the truth. The truth is difficult to comprehend and digest for many Australians. But what he says is correct namely that habitat loss caused the agricultural sector has a far greater negative impact upon Australia’s native species than feral cats. Running parallel with that observation, killing feral cats will fail in the long term because as feral cats breed newcomers will replace those killed.
Killing feral cats will produce an immediate result but in the long term, as mentioned, there will be failure. In addition, it is rather pointless to simply kill feral cats without dealing with the negative impact that humans are having on native species.
Mark Pearson said:
“The single greatest cause of wildlife deaths and species extinctions is not cats – it is habitat loss. The sad truth is that the deaths of all these cats will achieve nothing other than pain and suffering. Within a few years the surviving cats will breed up and the numbers will return to pre-existing levels. The best way to protect native species is to end land clearing, phase-out animal agriculture and re-vegetate and re-forest marginal land currently being used for sheep and cattle farming… We need to stop demonising cats and fund research and development into reducing our agricultural footprint…”
Another politician disagrees very strongly with Mark Pearson. That person is New South Wales Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair. He said:
“The problem I have with the trap-neuter-return policy is that it does not address the impact that cats – free-living, feral or whatever you want to call them – have on wildlife populations, particularly native wildlife populations.”
Mr Blair is completely incorrect because trap-neuter-release programs do address the impact that cats have upon wildlife but it takes time. It is a long-term solution but the best solution.
Australia’s leaders could have started nationwide, taxpayer funded, TNR programs many years ago if they were organised. By now they would be seeing success. They have dithered and as a result they are going for the quick fix and failure.
They are going to have egg on their faces in 3 to 5 years time. They need to bite the bullet now and make the right decision. Not only will they fail to protect wildlife, they will quite likely be condoning the killing of pet cats because the methods used will not be able to adequately and accurately distinguish between free-living, wandering domestic cats and genuine feral cats.
There is one last point concerning ethics and morality. I have stated this many times before. As humans have put feral cats on the planet through their ineptitude and carelessness they have a moral duty to treat them in a kindly manner. This does not include killing them.