This is the political problem with the mass culling of feral cats in either New Zealand or Australia. The Australian authorities want to kill – by any practical means even it is cruel – millions of feral cats in Australia and that mentality has been promulgated by Dr Morgan in New Zealand.
The Conservation Minister of New Zealand, Eugenie Sage, describes one of the problems with carrying out this plan.
“We have got one of the highest rates of cat ownership in the world, and there is a quite a lot of social discussion that needs to occur to legitimise killing cats….We have got to do some more work about highlighting their impact…. “There is a lot more work to be done before I take this matter to Cabinet, if I take it to Cabinet,” Ms Sage said.”
The government needs to legitimise the killing of cats en masse. At present it is politically unacceptable because the people who vote the politicians into power are cat owners. A lot of these cat owners don’t like to see cats killed in a cruel manner even if they are feral and preying on native species. It is politically unacceptable without more. Also there is uproar from animal advocates in other countries.
There is other point which she fails to make and it is linked to the first: there is a moral dimension. It is immoral to kill millions of feral cats when they have been created because of human irresponsibility. But for humans there would be no feral cats in these countries. Therefore the cause of this national conservation problem is the people of these countries. The cat in one respect is an innocent victim. He or she is simply surviving having been placed in an environment where there are lots of native species.
The whole problem from top to bottom is human created and the victims are both predator and prey in a human created world.
And now people in power are scratching their heads desperately trying to resolve the unresolvable. The authorities are trying to legitimise the culling of millions of cats so they go to scientists with governmental links to try and come to eye watering conclusions in studies about predation on native species such as reptiles and birds.
However, the studies are ultimately based on estimates because they don’t know how many feral and wandering stray cats there are. The conclusions of these studies are normally conditional upon further studies such as the most recent one on reptile loss. And they are always extrapolated figures from small studies. The numbers are upscaled from small local studies. This is inherently questionable.
A recent study on feral cat predation on reptiles in Australia is as follows:
“Conclusions: Cat predation exerts a considerable ongoing toll on Australian reptiles. However, it remains challenging to interpret the impact of this predation in terms of population viability or conservation concern for Australian reptiles, because population size is unknown for most Australian reptile species, mortality rates due to cats will vary across reptile species and because there is likely to be marked variation among reptile species in their capability to sustain any particular predation rate.
Implications: This study provides a well grounded estimate of the numbers of reptiles killed by cats, but intensive studies of individual reptile species are required to contextualise the conservation consequences of such predation.”
Then news media get hold of this objective statement and turn it on its head and start making hard factual statements in an attempt to promote the necessity of mass culls of feral cats. It happens all the time. “Estimates” became facts. It smacks of desperation. It won’t wash with the cat loving citizens of Australia and New Zealand. Ms Sage is correct.
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