The Rights of Cats
Cat cleared up from street in Israel 2004, to be killed - photo by ofer k
Does an improvement in animal rights means a deterioration in human rights? It actually means a deterioration in profits. The rights of cats in the United States (and maybe the world) are about to improve (perhaps). There is the possibility of change in the air blown in by the incoming president of the United States who received some funding from HSUS (The Humane Society of the United States) during his election campaign. HSUS are looking for payback! They have put forward a 100 point plan, CHANGE AGENDA FOR ANIMALS, which tackles a wide range of animal welfare issues. I'd like to briefly look at the welfare and rights of cats both domestic and wild and try and understand why a number of cat breeders are against these proposals. Indeed the HSUS agenda is opposed by a large number of people. I find this hard to understand. It may be due to a lack of understanding or just a general fear of erosion of their "property rights" as some people refer to "ownership" of cats.
I have read through the 100 point Change Agenda for Animals and can pick out 17 proposals that directly impact the rights of cats. There are, no doubt, more hidden away in the consequences of the proposals. I'd like to look at some of the more prominent ones. The first (item 5) concerns puppy mills (and/or kitten mills) and "all dog and cat breeders". The proposal is to improve the welfare of animals and for the breeders to comply with AWA (Animal Welfare Act) requirements. This can only be a good thing and I cannot see how people can object to this except the operators. All the proper cat breeders dislike and criticize kitten mills. And all proper breeders will naturally comply with AWA in any case, which is an act of the government democratically appointed. There should be no cause for objections there.
The recommendations also refer to "Class B Dealers" and an end to the use of dogs and cats obtained through these dealers, who acquire cats and dogs from a variety of sources and sell them for animal research. They are regulated by the AWA but are routinely in breach of the law. It seems clear that the problem of Class B dealers needs tackling as they cause animal suffering. The objections here will be from the operators. Indeed most objections will come from businesses who put profit before welfare. The rights of cats can only be improved under these proposals.
HSUS also wants farmers to use methods less dangerous to wildlife and pets. Chemicals such as Compound 1080 (a chemical that is designed to kill rodents) and Starlicide (designed to "control" starlings) can also kill cats and other animals, which I guess farmers would consider "collateral damage". No big deal for farmers. Big deal for a person who has lost her cat. Once again objections will come from big business.
HSUS also fights against hunting. This will upset the people who like to kill beautiful wild creatures for their pleasure. But why should be listen to these people? They are mindless alpha males/females practicing a skill that was once a necessity to survive the legacy of which is meant to be a pleasurable pastime. It is barbaric. Good on HSUS.
HSUS also tackles the weakness of CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in their agenda. CITES rides the moral high ground with fine goals but it seems it is mired in the low moral ground of business corruption. It is simply not working. Something has to be done. Wild animal parts are still being traded. Wild cats are still being decimated and heading in one direction, extinction in the wild. The knowledge that wild cats are being used for medicine in China is very hurtful to many millions of caring people. The Chinese government doesn't give a damn. The rights of cats in China are not protected in law. HSUS also wants the US government to "encourage more humane practices in China" in relation to the fur trade (dog and cat fur when the animals are treated brutally). Who can object to that except the brutal Chinese who deal in cat fur and cat meat? Their behavior harks back to the dark ages in Britain. (see European Cat Fur problems). Also see CITES in relation to cats.
HSUS also wants the government to better control the importation of pet food ingredients or products (Pet food safety – increase enforcement). This is probably a response to the Melamine in Pet Food scandal that killed so many cats and dogs in 2008. Once again only business can object. HSUS's agenda also deals with the military and animal cruelty and pet importation into USA from war zones. All good stuff.
I'll cover some more of the HSUS proposals later in relation to the rights of cats. Having looked them over I can see where the problem is. It's going to hurt the businesses who behave badly in relation to animal rights. People criticize HSUS for being cruel to animals (yes, I've heard that) and for not doing enough on the ground in terms of animal welfare. The fact is HSUS works at a higher level, a level at which real long lasting change can happen provided enough pressure is brought to bare. And to change poor and inhumane business practices takes a lot of pressure, political pressure and we should be pleased that someone is doing it for us and the world's animals including our cats.