It is not often that we can easily see the cause-effect consequences of our actions, or failure to act, in the world at large. Here are recent explorations and suggestions about "The Moral Cost of Cats."
quote extensively from this article by Rachel E. Gross in
Smithsonian.com about Peter Marra in order to lay out some of his major
points. The article itself also discusses at length his "opponent's"
positions and criticisms.
The full article is at:
"(Peter) Marra might like cats. But he also sees a bigger picture. In his day
job, he and his team at the migratory bird center track the global
movements of birds and tease apart threats to their existence. He knows
that birds don’t just twit around pointlessly. They pollinate plants,
spread seeds, control insects and protect environments from the effects
of climate change; they are the glue that binds healthy ecosystems together.
“Birds are critical,” he says. And outdoor cats, he and other
ecologists have determined, are the leading human-influenced cause of
The majority of them (cats) —about two-thirds to three-fourths,
surveys say—are your sweet, harmless, cuddly housecats, which seldom
set foot outside...The other one-quarter to one-third, though, aren’t so
are outdoor pet cats, and they are murderers...sometimes their deadly
trouble for animals and ecosystems we value—and often, Marra argues,
desperately need...The solution for these cats is simple, says Marra: Bring them indoors. The Humane Society of the United States agrees.
So far, so good. Now comes the real problem: unowned cats, which
include strays and ferals. Born in the wild or abandoned, feral cats
spend almost no time with humans; they’re basically wild animals. Stray
cats, by contrast, often have a working relationship with humans. They
might live in managed communities, where a human caretaker regular feeds
and watches over them—“subsidizing” them, in Marra’s words—meaning
their numbers can soar to rates they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
Whether stray or feral, these cats kill on average three times as many animals as owned cats, according to Marra...
Feral cat advocates say these dense numbers threaten the welfare of
cats themselves, which lead miserable lives colored by fights and
starvation. Ecologists, meanwhile, worry about those cats’ victims—as
well whether the cats might be spreading disease to humans and other
Management of these overabundant felines is where the two
disagree. For many animal welfare advocates, the solution is TNR, or
TNR is just what it sounds like: a policy that involves trapping
stray and feral cats, sterilizing them and returning them to the urban
wilds in the hopes that populations will decrease. In the past decade,
TNR has gone mainstream in many cities, helped along by generous funding from pet food companies including Petco and PetSmart. The premise is simple: Cats live out their lives, but don’t reproduce.
Becky Robinson, president of the advocacy group Alley Cat Allies
and a major proponent of TNR, calls the method “effective, humane
control.” “This is a benefit directly to the cats,” she told me over the
phone. (Two communications staffers from Robinson’s organization were
listening in our conversation, to give you an idea of the delicateness
of the topic.)....
The problem is that, for TNR to succeed in large populations, at least 75 percent of
cats in a colony must be sterilized. That rarely happens. The trouble
is that negligent pet owners continue to abandon pet cats, which then
join existing colonies; additionally, non-neutered stray cats can wander
For Marra, TNR is a feel-good solution that is no solution at all—a
Band-Aid that has done little to stem the flow of cats. By refusing to
look at the reality, he says, we are letting our “misplaced compassion”
for cats get the better of our reason. That is why he and some other
ecologists call for a more draconian approach: widespread removal of
feral and stray cats, including euthanasia....
At the heart of this debate is a question not of data, but of
aesthetics, principles and philosophies. That is:
In a world
fundamentally shaped by humans, who is to say whether birds and native
wildlife have any more right to the landscape than domestic cats do?
Should the goal be to rewind the urban landscape back to before the
arrival of Europeans—and is that even possible?
...Cats kill; that much is clear. “The science is all pretty bloody obvious,” as Michael Clinchy, a
Canadian biologist focusing on predator-prey relationships at the
University of Victoria, puts it. But cats also spread disease. Outdoor
cats can transmit plague, rabies, feline leukemia and a mysterious
parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii. The extinction of the Hawaiian crow, or ʻalalā, in 2002 is thought to have been caused in part by the spread of Toxoplasma via feral cats. “The diseases from cats is what’s going to change this whole equation,” Marra says....
Conservation biologists have always called these kinds of shots
themselves. “We’ve made a judgment that biodiversity is good,” says
Temple. For Marra, cats represent yet another destructive
footprint man has made on the landscape. To rid the country of their
presence is therefore to restore some pre-human balance of nature, some
lost sense of grace. It is to protect those creatures that cannot save
themselves. “It is essential,” he says, “that we save these species.”
In his closing chapter, Marra warns that Americans may soon
awaken to dead birds and “muted birdsong, if any at all.” It’s another
nod to Rachel Carson, whose defense of nature helped spark the modern
environmental movement. Today we’ve come to recognize Carson as
an environmental Cassandra; history has vindicated many of her inconvenient truths. But when Silent Spring first came out, her ideas were met with hostility from other scientists, who deemed her hysterical, alarmist and “probably a Communist.”
For Marra, it is clear that outdoor cats represent the Silent Spring of
our time. Not only are cats the single worst threat to birds caused
directly by humans, but they are also the easiest problem to fix, as
compared to many-leveled threats like climate change."
After reading this argument, are you convinced?
If you are interested, please read article and links within it to see the counter arguments of those who challenge Marra's positions, such as Peter Wolf. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/moral-cost-of-cats-180960505/
Do their positions convince you?
What should you do?
What can you do?