Thursday, August 06, 2015

Justice for Cecil and respect for ALL cats

Cecil, in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
By Vince O’Sullivan, via Flickr
By Louise Holton

The recent killing of an innocent lion, Cecil, has caused a global public outrage. We at Alley Cat Rescue were just as upset and horrified by the event. We hope that this spotlight will remain on the needless killing of animals, such as Cecil and other large and small wild cats. This came at the same time that Australia announced the killing of two million feral cats in the next few years.

First let us address the argument that killing animals gives money to conservation. The Huffington Post recently showed us that very little money from trophy hunting goes to the local economy. Plus hunters go after the biggest and best specimens of animals, thereby removing them from the gene pool, a big blow to conservation.

TAKE ACTION: ACR believes Cecil's killer should be held accountable and face charges in Zimbabwe. Please sign this PETITION to urge the U.S. government to fully cooperate with authorities in Zimbabwe who are seeking justice for Cecil. 

African Wildcat, South Africa
By Tim Ellis, via Flickr
Alley Cat Rescue has had a program in South Africa to protect the small African Wildcat, Felis lybica. This cat is endangered not only by hybridization, but by exploding human populations that take over and limit the cat’s habitat, and also by hunting. Farmers shoot the cat fearing he will take livestock, like sheep, even though the cat's diet is mostly small mammals, such as rodents and birds. ACR’s program in Africa aims to implement measures to spay and neuter feral and stray cats who live in areas bordering those where the African Wildcat still lives. This helps to reduce breeding between the wildcat and feral or stray cats (hybridization), and also serves to humanely manage and control the feral cat population.

As far as Australia killing feral cats, this is not only a terrible idea, but it will not work to remove all the feral cats in Australia. In fact it will have the reverse effect: it will make the population GROW, as a recent study in Tasmania has shown. (We recommend the Animals 24-7 blog for a detailed explanation of the study and it's important findings.)

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And if Australia thinks it has a problem now with an overpopulation of rodents and rabbits, wait until they remove feral cats from the ecology. They do not seem to have learned the lessons from islands (such as Macquarie and Little Barrier island), where removing feral cats allowed rodent and rabbit populations to explode, damaging both plant life and the bird populations they were trying to save.

Killing makes the government look like it's doing ‘‘something,” even though this “something” may make matters worse in the long term. And sadly, all the years of propaganda against feral cats has caused most Australians to hate feral cats, as can be seen in the comment section of every newspaper where the articles announcing the killing have appeared.

By iris, via Flickr
ACR’s proposal to trap and spay or to use oral contraceptives to control feral cats in Australia is a far worthier plan to follow. Without cats around to control the number of rats and rabbits, the populations of these two prey animals grow quickly, and they go on to do even more damage to threatened animals and plant life than cats ever do. The use of trap and spay or oral contraceptives is preferable as these methods do not shock the ecosystem with an immediate removal of a top predator. Because these methods allow for a more gradual rate of attrition of cats over time, there is no associated boom in the rat or rabbit population. This gives wildlife the chance to recover without dealing with increased pressure from a new predator. Not only will these non-lethal methods work well in Australia, but they are also more humane than just rushing out to kill, which is a short-term fix at best.

To get back to the killing of Cecil, it is our sincere hope that this will start new debates and discussions on the killing of animals, for sport or otherwise. We hope those outraged by Cecil's death will consider why such emotion is often found lacking when it comes to calls for killing innocent feral cats living in well-managed colonies, or healthy and adoptable shelter cats who are killed simply because a facility runs out of space. Whether endangered lions or small wildcats like the African Wildcat, or the much-maligned and denigrated feral cat, we must remember that they are all sentient beings deserving of our respect and compassion.


Sources
-"The Economic Argument For Killing Cecil The Lion Doesn't Hold Up"
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/killing-cecil-the-lion-economics-trophy-hunting_55bb890fe4b06363d5a1c673?kvcommref=mostpopular
-Effects of low-level culling of feral cats in open populations: a case study from the forests of southern Tasmania
http://www.publish.csiro.au/nid/144/paper/WR14030.htm
 -"Culling cats increases the feral population, Australian study finds"
http://www.animals24-7.org/2015/04/11/culling-cats-increases-the-feral-population-australian-study-finds/
 -"Cat control lead to eco disaster on World Heritage island"
http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/01/12/eco.macquarieisland/index.html
-"Birds Glad Cats Eat Rats"
http://www.livescience.com/2102-birds-glad-cats-eat-rats.html

Photos
-Cecil the Lion
By Vince O’Sullivan (Own Work), [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/)], via Flickr
-African Wildcat 
By Tim Ellis (Own Work), [CC BY-NC 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/)], via Flickr
-Feral cat 
By iris (Own Work), [CC BY-ND 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/), via Flickr                         

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