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Anti-cat advocates claim that cats should not be allowed outdoors because they are an “introduced” or “non-native” species. Although some of them claim they do not want them killed, this is disingenuous since free-living, community cats who are not social with humans often have no other place to go. The outdoors is their home. In calling, either explicitly or implicitly, for the round up and killing of cats, these nativists engage in a great hypocrisy: forcing onto cats a standard they refuse themselves to obey.

They are also “non-native” to North America. They belong to a species that is the most “invasive” the planet has ever experienced, causing virtually all of the environmental destruction, including the tragic decline of songbirds. And while they blame cats for harming birds, they kill or pay others to kill birds so they can eat them, supporting a vicious industry that kills billions of birds annually. And yet for reasons based entirely on narrow self-interest, they do not hold their own actions to the same standards which they impose upon cats: they do not force themselves to live exclusively indoors, they do not pack up and move back to Africa (the continent where humans first evolved), they do not stop eating birds, and they do not impose upon themselves or their fellow humans discriminatory standards which judge the worth of an individual based solely on the lineage of their ancestors.

We need a kinder, gentler, and more tolerant way of viewing the world and the distribution of animals upon it. We also need one more firmly grounded in science. Each species on Earth, writes Biology Professor Ken Thompson, “has a characteristic distribution on the Earth’s land surface… But in every case, that distribution is in practice a single frame from a very long movie. Run the clock back only 10,000 years, less than a blink of an eye in geological time, and nearly all of those distributions would be different, in many cases very different. Go back only 10 million years, still a tiny fraction of the history of life on Earth, and any comparison with present-day distributions becomes impossible, since most of the species themselves would no longer be the same.”

This never-ending transformation—of landscape, of climate, of plants and animals—has occurred, and continues to occur, all over the world, resulting from a variety of factors: global weather patterns, plate tectonics, evolution, natural selection, migration, and even the devastating effects of impacting asteroids. Close your eyes and randomly stick a pin on any location in a map, then do a Google search of that region’s history and what you will invariably find is that at some point in time, that location looked very different than it does today, as did the plants and animals who resided there. Over 10,000 years ago, a sudden burst of monsoon rains over the vast Sahara desert transformed its dunes into a savannah which could sustain life, including people and giraffes who migrated into the area which today is once again a barren expanse of sand. Roughly 74 million years ago, Tyrannosaurs, Ceratopsians, and Sauropods roamed the continent of North America which was divided down its middle by a vast, ancient sea. In the distant past, the now frigid polar regions of the Earth were moist, temperate and blanketed by forests. The geographic and fossil records tell us that there is but one constant to life on Earth, and that is change.

So under what pretense does an arbitrarily picked “single frame from a very long movie” chosen by people who refuse to practice what they preach trump the right of cats to live, wherever they may be?

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