Australia’s recent controversial plan to kill two million feral cats by 2020 spurred outrage among animal rights activists across the world.
Animal rights defenders the likes of famous actress Brigit Bardot and singer Morrissey have called the culling “animal genocide” and “idiocy” respectively.
Gregory Andrews, Australia’s first Threatened Species Commissioner, has penned an open letter defending the government’s plan, which aims only at “halting and reversing the growing number of plants and animals facing extinction”.
According to a statement issued by the Australian Department of the Environment, feral cats pose even more threat to the country’s mammals than foxes, rabbits or habitat loss. To tackle the issue, the government is planning to use the poison 1080 and traps to kill the cats.
“Australian unique fauna has lost 29 species over the last 200 years and if the matter isn’t tackled it will lead to even more losses,” Andrews wrote, adding that cats are an “invasive species brought by European settlers, responsible for the extinction of at least 27 mammal species”.
“We don’t want to lose any more species like these,” the commissioner continued.
“It is with this sentiment in mind that the Australian government has taken a stance on feral cats; for the protection of our native species that belong here. As of now, more than 124 Australian species are in danger of extinction because of cats, which kill five animals each night and around 20 billion a year, according to scientists.
“Our native species are simply not equipped to coexist with feral cats; they did not evolve alongside predators like the feral cat,” he added.
The letter which concluded with Andrews saying the decision is supported by major environmental organisations such as the WWF, did not mention why neutering cats instead of killing them is not a viable option, as proposed by the organisations. For Christine Pierson of C.A.T.S. (Cats Assistance To Sterilise Inc.) the reason killing and removing cats fails to control numbers is that it creates a habitat vacuum that is abhorred by nature and invites individuals of the same species from surrounding areas to re-colonise.
“The argument is that eradication can only exist in a closed system such as an island,” Pierson tells Neos Kosmos, explaining that most cats do not live in closed systems, therefore the proposed plan is destined to fail.
“This is giving our country a very bad reputation and the sooner these horrendous plans are quashed the better. I have been receiving responses from overseas as to the horrors of what Australia is doing to its sentient creatures.”
Pierson also stressed her fears that after an eradication cat killing program, the rabbits, rats and mice breed to plague proportions as they are not controlled by the cats, and this upsets the entire ecosystem and the native wildlife suffers from starvation and habitat loss.
On the other hand, Kate Clayton, president of the Cat Protection Society of SA Inc., points to the Macquarie Island cat eradication case, highlighting the disaster that would occur if this same method was to be used in open Australia. According to the SA organisation’s studies over 30 years, if attempts are made to kill the cats in open Australia, firstly the rabbits, rats and mice will breed to enormous proportions and then the cats will breed up while feeding on the masses of rabbits, multiplying the original number of cats.
“Feral cats, as every other animal, have their place on this planet and in our ecosystem,” Greek Australian bird behaviour counsellor and educator Paris Yves agrees.
“The mentality of our state governments and others is to kill any animal that they feel causes a problem.
The same applies with wild birds.”
Yves believes that Australian governments should have the mental capacity and compassion to find more ethical and positive ways of managing the country’s ecosystem, instead of using poison, in this case 1080, guns or traps.
“There have been many other successful attempts by feral cat welfare individuals and groups to trap, neuter, release or desex and return home,” she explains.
“Such toxic killing options are obviously painful and totally unnecessary, especially in a society where we are trying to encourage a more emphatic and compassionate attitude toward managing and co-existing with our wildlife.”
To Yves, the eradication of any species that does not behave as some humans expect it to is barbaric, unethical and a solution void of empathy for life in this country. She insists Australian governments need to follow the lead of other countries which practice more humane ways of managing their wildlife.
“Let’s hope this word and it’s meaning spreads amongst the rest of the government decision makers and the Australian public,” she concludes.