The Wars on Wolves, Cats, and Other Animals: It's Time to Forever Close Down the Killing Fields

"From a conservation ecology perspective, the most desirable solution seems clear—remove all free-ranging cats from the landscape by any means necessary." (Cat Wars, pp. 152-153)

Killing wolves for eating steaks left at their door like room service and removing all free-ranging cats “by any means necessary”

The past few weeks, along with many other dedicated people, I’ve been been working hard to stop the killing of wolves in Washington state and to expose the shabby science and one-sided hysterics, and to call attention to a call for removing all free-ranging cats “by any means necessary.” These are but two real life examples of widespread wars on the lives of nonhumans animals (animals), including direct or indirect endorsements of groups that claim to be on the side of the animals. It’s sickening, and even if these brutal assaults worked, they are ethically repugnant and absolutely and unquestionably unnecessary. And, they don’t work.

Details and updated information, including media coverage, about the slaughter of the Profanity Peak wolf pack can be found on the website of the organization Predator Defense. More information can also be found in “Defenders of Wildlife = Defenders of Livestock? Why Do They Support Killing Wolves in Washington?” and “Defenders of Wildlife and Other Conservation Organizations Support Killing Wolves: Livestock Win,” and links therein. The details of slaughtering these animals basically comes down to killing the wolves for eating steaks left at their door like room service. You can keep abreast of the on-going situation with Predator Defense’s updates.

Removing free-ranging cats “by any means necessary:” Turning garbage into gospel

“Cats are going to bear the brunt of a problem that not only includes us, but also defines us. The problem is far more complicated than designing a better poison...” (Fiona Probyn-Rapsey on Australia’s war on feral cats)

It’s not surprising that the call for an all out assault on the lives of free-ranging cats is far more well-known than the slaying of members of Washington’s Profanity Peak wolf pack. Indeed, in the case of free-ranging cats, the publishers and authors of the book at hand, Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer, have both issued disclaimers saying they are against the inhumane treatment of any animal. Nonetheless, the call to remove all free-ranging cats “by any means necessary” (p. 152-153) somehow slipped by the authors, editors, and other pre-publication readers. And, I cannot find any public statement amending their suggestion about how to remove all free-ranging cats. Clearly, the authors are not advocating removing free-ranging cats softly. Rather, they are advocating outright and unregulated removal "by any means necessary." When I asked some people what this meant to them, answers ranged from trapping, snaring, poisoning, bludgeoning, and shooting. A number of people feared we would see violence "in the name of science."

The publishing business also can be an interesting enterprise and the publication of Cat Wars show how this is so. To wit, I was asked by a representative of the publisher to delay my review of Cat Wars until the end of September after the book became available. However, there already was one review on Amazon and the book actually became available in the beginning of September, despite what the publication date was supposed to be. After learning about the book and what it offered, I turned down a free copy from the publisher. It didn’t feel right to get a copy and then criticize its numerous flaws and misguided call for potential violence against all free-ranging cats.

The are many problems with Cat Wars. You can read about them in a number of essays including “A New Book Called ‘Cat Wars’ Calls For Killing Free-Ranging Cats,” “Cats and Humans: There’s No Need For War,” "’Cat Wars"? Let's call a ceasefire,” and links therein. Becky Robinson, President and founder of Alley Cat Allies, notes “Cat Wars is a dangerous book that puts the lives of cats at risk.” It surely does.

One of the most thorough reviews that takes “the science” behind Cat Wars to task is called “By Any Means Necessary”: War is Declared on U.S. Cats,” and, if you read only one essay, this is the one to go to. A summary of this piece reads as follows:

Cat Wars is, to anybody familiar with the topic, an obviously desperate attempt to fuel the ongoing witch-hunt against outdoor cats “by any means necessary,” including the endorsement of discredited junk science, an oceanful of red herrings, and B-movie-style scaremongering. The book’s central thesis—that outdoor cats must be eradicated in the name of biodiversity and public health—is, like the authors’ credibility, undermined to the point of collapse by weak—often contradictory—evidence, and a reckless arrogance that will be hard to ignore even for their fellow fring-ervationsists.

Of course, one point of contention centers on the actual number of birds who are killed by free-ranging cats. In this essay we also read about a paper published by the senior author of Cat Wars called “The impact of free-ranging domestic cats on wildlife of the United States,” published in January 2013. The author of “By Any Means Necessary” writes, “With its ‘estimate that free-ranging domestic cats kill 1.3–4.0 billion birds annually in the contiguous U.S.’—which the authors describe more than once as ‘conservative’—the paper attracted immediate media attention. Unfortunately, the underlying science was only rarely called into question. To this end, he cites an excellent essay by Barbara King, Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary, called “Do We Really Know That Cats Kill By The Billions? Not So Fast.”

We also read, “The fact is, the best estimates available suggest there are only 3.2 billion land birds in the entire country. Were the authors’ estimates even remotely accurate, birds would have vanished from the U.S. long ago. This was, in other words, classic junk science.”

In another review of Cat Wars by Colin Dickey we read, “Cat Wars is one of those strange books, reading which one can feel generally comfortable with the authors’ conclusions while growing increasingly frustrated with their bad faith arguments, rhetorical sleights-of-hand, and other abuses of the reader’s trust. A chapter that focuses on cats as disease vectors is the worst offender.” Mr. Dickey also writes, “Cat Wars also bends over backward to paint cat-owners, particularly those who advocate for outdoor lifestyles, as unstable and poorly educated.” Furthermore, “This point-counterpoint continues for much of a page, never getting any more thoughtful than this. Such language — including the gallingly general ‘science says’ — enlightens no one, and serves only to quell dissension and shut down meaningful debate.”

Along these lines, the reviews on Amazon offer a panoply of opinions, and, as of this writing, are around 90% one star and 10% five star reviews. There are no intermediate two, three, or four star reviews, that would indicate reviewers sort of liking and not liking the book. The scientist in me got me to look at 50 other books in the same general area, and there is not a single one that has such polarized reviews. Clearly, Cat Wars lays out a “them — cat lovers” versus “us — bird lovers” agenda.

What’s also interesting is that some of the five star reviewers insultingly accuse those who don’t like Cat Wars of having not reading the book. They write, but don’t come close to convincingly arguing, something like, “If you don’t agree with this book you don’t understand the science or you’re stupid.” These are cheap shots, and it’s clear from some of the favorable reviews that the reviewers also didn’t give the book a good, if any, read.

The real problem is that there are too many of us: There are far too many innocent victims

I can go on and on about how wrong it is to kill other animals “in the name of science” or “in the name of humans.” There are far too many innocent victims of human arrogance and domination, and it’s got to stop.

Of course, as many point out, the main problem is not the animals themselves, but rather there are too many of us, and, as we trespass into the lives of other animals, we do whatever we want and trump their interests in living in peace and safety with our arrogance and willy-nilly domination of other beings.

Let’s close down the killing fields once and for all, for all times and for all animals

Here, I just want to provide some excellent resources for you to read about the assault on wolves and cats, and ask you to politely contact conservation groups and other organizations that indirectly or directly support lethal, and, in some cases, brutal, solutions, to human-made problems (a long list of organizations with different points of view can be found here). There’s no shortage of “conservation” and “humane” organizations that should be nicely asked to say unequivocally, “The killing must stop and the killing fields must close right now.”

The time is now to forever close down the killing fields on all animals. And, I ask you to do so with all your heart. Nonhuman animals need all the help they can get, and calling for wars on these magnificent beings is a horrific precedent for future generations.

Other animals are not disposable objects. The life of each and every individual matters.

Note: A reader reminded there also is a war on horses; please see, for example, “The BLM Goes Off The Deep End And Votes To Kill 44,000 Horses.” Of course, the BLM plan is to kill the individuals, not to euthanize them (please see “Animal Euthanasia Is Too Often Slaughter”).

Marc Bekoff's latest books are Jasper's Story: Saving Moon Bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate Conservation, Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship, and Conservation, Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence, and The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson). The Animals' Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age (with Jessica Pierce) will be published in early 2017.

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