When Cats Take Over
by cmajor_1 on November 8, 2016 - 3:54pm
When Cats Take Over
An article by The Telegraph, “Australia writes to Brigitte Bardot and Morrissey to defend plan to kill two million cats,” has stimulated controversy surrounding plans to cull Australia’s feral cat population. The Australian Department of the Environment has named feral cats as the biggest threat to Australia’s biodiversity leading environment minister Greg Hunt to propose a goal of culling two million feral cats by 2020 with poison and traps. It seems that the state values organismal diversity above feral cats and views their large population as a threat to the state’s idea of a healthy ecosystem. As a result, they seek efficient and effective action, even if it means killing.
Unfortunately, as is often the case in natural resource management, conflict between stakeholders has permeated this case subverting the plan proposed by the Australian Department of the Environment. There is a general consensus throughout this article that population control has to be implemented but much conflict over the method used. Prominent Australian figures such as Brigitte Bardot and Morrissey have described the proposed population control methods as unnecessarily cruel, advocating neutering cats instead of killing them. It is evident that Bardot and Morrissey, as well as supporters, value cats as companions rather than as wild animals, as society often does (Loyd & Hernandez, 2015). Thus, value based conflict between stakeholders slows progress on feral cat population control, undermining efforts by resource managers.
In efforts to reconcile and create an environment supportive of cooperation with an outraged public, Australia’s threatened species commissioner, Gregory Andrews, wrote a letter to Morrissey that states that the government’s plan to kill feral cats is supported by a multitude of environmental nongovernment organizations as one of the most viable ways to control the spread of this invasive species. Reshaping popular opinion on cats and reinforcing state ideas of what makes up a healthy ecosystem is essential to state legitimacy as made evident in its attempts in this letter to alter public values to ones that accept cats as wild animals and threats to biodiversity with the encouragement of evidence provided by scientific government agencies.
Further, the state exerts discursive control on Australians by promoting culling as the only solution supported by the scientific community, likely because is the more economical option. Thus, interest based conflict over who pays the costs and who benefits, is also at play. The commissioner ignores capture-neuter-release methods in favour of traps and poison. This demonstrates the Australian government’s willingness to benefit from increased biodiversity at the lowest monetary price by taking action cost at what the public fears is immoral.
Clearly, conflict is restricting effective environmental resource management by impeding much needed feral cat population control. According to a study by Peterson, Hartis, Rodriguez, Green, and Lepcyzk (2012), without cooperation of key stakeholders, the implementation of large scale feral cat population control methods will be nearly impossible to achieve. Excluding the public by secretively euthanizing feral cats isn’t a viable option since even when “small scale cases are discovered the media attention and public scrutiny can create a backlash preventing effective feral cat management” (Peterson et al., 2012). Thus, value and interest based conflict prevents essential stakeholder agreement and must be overcome honestly through compromise and collaboration to allow Australian resource managers to control feral cat populations successfully.
Loyd, K.T., & Hernandez, S. (2015). Public perceptions of domestic cats and preferences for
feral cat management in the southeastern united states. Anthrozoos, 25(3), 337-351. http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/175303712X13403555186299
Pearlman, J. (2015, October 14). Australia writes to Brigitte Bardot and Morrissey to defend plan
to kill two million cats. Retrieved October 05, 2016, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/11930661/Australia-writes-to-Brigitte-Bardot-and-Morrissey-to-defend-plan-to-kill-two-million-cats.html
Peterson, M.N., Hartis, B., Rodriguez, S., Green, M., & Lepczyk, C.A. (2012). Opinions from
the front lines of cat colony management conflict. PLoS One, 7(9), 1-8. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044616
Tickell, O. (2016, April 12). Scotland's secret cat slaughter revealed in FOI documents.
Retrieved October 22, 2016, from http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/2987549/scotlands_secret_...