Thursday, December 09, 2010

Call to Action: The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Releases Report that Suggests Shooting Feral Cats

If you have not already heard this week’s buzz in the cat world, here it is. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln released a report entitled “Feral Cats and Their Management.” This so-called “new” report is nothing more than the same old MISinformation, plagued with errors, exaggerations, glaring omissions, and inexcusable bias. The research and data they refer to in their report can be traced back to a handful of deeply flawed studies. The report goes onto dismiss fertility control or TNVR as an effective management practice and suggests lethal control, like shooting.

In suggesting non-lethal methods of control, the report mentions how habitat modification, sprinklers and chemical repellants can help (but that does nothing to address reproducing, they simply keep cats away) before going onto discuss fertility control. Here the report ignores statistical information regarding the effectiveness of TNR, saying “no real-world example of eliminating a colony through TNVR exists” and calls any evidence “anecdotal.” Did they even bother to talk with the university’s feral cat management group that TNR’s the campus cats? I don’t think so. The report then suggests shooting cats or using leg-hold traps, body-gripping traps and snares to manage their populations. The document goes into detail on how cats should be shot with a shotgun or rifle “between the eyes” or “in the heart/lung area.” Have these people not heard of animal cruelty laws? It is illegal in the US to shoot a cat, whether it is owned or not.

The authors of this report might as well come out and say they do not like cats and think eradication is the only solution, because it is clear that they have little understanding of the key issues surrounding TNR—never mind the relevant science. Hildreth, Vantassel, and Hygnstrom misinterpret and/or misrepresent nearly every bit of research they reference; some of what they include isn’t valid research to begin with. And by the way, Mr. Hygnstrom is a pest specialist and Mr. Vantassel, wildlife damage expert, is the author of “Dominion over Wildlife: An Environmental Theology of Human-Wildlife Relations;” which he dedicates to “thousands of sports-people who continue to be connected to the earth in an environmentally responsible way. In particular, this book is dedicated to fur trappers who, every winter, brave the harsh weather in continuance of America’s oldest industry. Regrettably, they must also endure the ravages of urban sprawl and the derision of an ungrateful and ignorant public. It is my ardent hope that this book will help Christians and non-Christians alike appreciate the vital role that trappers play in the responsible management of our natural resources. May the traps of these great sports-people be always full.”

Reports endorsed by academic institutions carry a great deal of weight with the public and, as this week has shown, the mainstream media. It’s generally expected that the conclusions and recommendations presented in such work are the result of carefully considered “evidence.” In this case, “Feral Cats and Their Management” has shown no real evidence to the public, but rather the complete opposite. There’s nothing ethical—either in terms of the research itself or its obvious implications—about what Hildreth, Vantassel, and Hygnstrom have done here. I’ve read that Vantassel considered that some people would be “very offended that we offered any type of lethal control method,” but felt that because it was written for public consumption rather than for a scientific journal, publication of the report was somehow acceptable. Apparently, Vantassel didn’t consider that some of us would actually look into the science underpinning the work.

There are legitimate issues to be debated concerning feral cats, but attempts at an honest, productive debate are hampered, if not derailed entirely, by researchers who put their personal agenda ahead of professional integrity.

Alley Cat Rescue is urging our members to please contact the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and express your concerns regarding this report. This report is insulting to those of us who actually work everyday to help manage the feral cat population. We could be protecting both birds and cats (all wildlife) if we could just have an honest and accurate conversation.

(Vox Felina takes a good look at the report in his blog posts Adult Supervision Required, Adult Supervision Required II, and Adult Supervision Required III.)

Contact Information:

Donald A Wilhite (faculty, volunteer)
Director School of Natural Resources, Agronomy & Horticulture

Tala N Awada (faculty, volunteer)
Assoc Professor School of Natural Resources

Ronald D Green (faculty, staff, volunteer)
Vice Chancellor Animal Science

Steven S Waller  (faculty, volunteer)
Dean Agronomy & Horticulture, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources swaller1@unl.edu

David A Wedin  (faculty, volunteer)
Professor School of Natural Resources, Agronomy & Horticulture
Also: Member of the Faculty Leadership Committee

Mark E Burbach  (faculty)
Assoc Geoscientist Survey Division - School of Natural Resources
Also: Teaching Coordinator

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Are these people insane or living in the Dark Ages? Why would anyone even listen to this garbage?