Proponents of cat slaughter try to legitimize the mass killing under the false mantel of “environmentalism.” There was a time when the environmental movement sought to protect animals and plants from chainsaws, traps, poisons, and guns. Fueled by biological xenophobia, it now uses those very things against animals and plants.

Biologists, ecologists, and ethicists are calling out their own colleagues for launching a cruel, violent, dishonest, and I would argue criminal war on cats. They claim that the call by ecological xenophobes like Peter Marra to eliminate cats “by any means necessary” is “wrong and fuel an unwarranted moral panic over cats.”

Worse than a “moral panic,” it has fueled a war on cats that has led to cats being hunted with bows, hung by the legs and disemboweled, and getting their heads cut off while alive. A New York Times piece written by an adherent to Marra’s bankrupt philosophy, is replete with photos of cats being gutted and includes the following celebration of killing:

  • “Long after midnight, as the truck turned back toward the farmhouses, and the men shot their fifth or sixth cat, Mark W. opened one up to find that it had been carrying five kittens that were close to term. Their skin was translucent and velvety, and when he took them out of the cat, they made their first noises. ‘Five little killers,’ he said.. he used a knife to cut their heads off.’
  • “[R]eleasing an arrow never felt so good,” one bowhunter wrote on Facebook next to a photo of a dead cat…”
  • “They were the first feral cats he had ever killed, and when he took photos to commemorate the event, which he later posted on Instagram, he posed just as he did with his other hunting trophies: gripping his compound bow on one side, holding up the dead cats by their tails and grinning into the camera.”

Nativists like Marra blame cats for harming wildlife that is caused by humans, particularly habitat loss, climate change, pesticides and other poisons, and hunting. According to the authors of the new paper, Marra’s approach inflates the impact of cats, is based on oversimplistic math assumptions, ignores true causes like habitat loss, ignores the benefits of cats, leads to cruelty, and lacks rigor. In short, it is unethical and unscientific. Finally, Marra and other xenophobes ignore that “trap-neuter return programs… can work when done rigorously.”

Most importantly, the authors in the Conservation Biology article argue against killing cats and posit the idea that “free-ranging cats should be accepted as legitimate members of their ecosystems.”

Other biologists and ecologists are calling the paper “an important and comprehensive rebuke” to Marra’s allegations about cats. They likewise reject Marra’s unscientific, unworkable, dishonest, and an ideological “Us vs. Them” approach.

The article, while an important attempt to restore sanity to the “environmental” movement, stopped short of calling Marra and his ilk hypocritical. They are. Humans, by their own (il-)logic, are “non-native” to most places we reside in on Earth. We 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 birds. Some, beholden to the violent philosophy of xenophobia, blame cats for harming animals, while simultaneously supporting a viciously cruel industry that kills billions of birds and other animals annually so they could eat them.

Yet for reasons based entirely on narrow self-interest, nativists 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 the continent where humans first evolved, and they do not stop killing and eating other creatures.

Moreover, “non-native” and “invasive species” are terms that have entered the lexicon of popular culture and become pejorative, inspiring unwarranted fear, knee-jerk suspicion, and a lack of thoughtfulness and moral consideration. They are language of intolerance, based on an idea most of us have rejected in our treatment of our fellow human beings — that the value of a living being can be reduced merely to its place of ancestral origin.

We need a kinder, more tolerant and saner vision of environmentalism. On a tiny planet surrounded by the infinite emptiness of space, in a universe in which life is so exceedingly rare as to render every blade of grass, every insect that crawls, and every animal that walks the Earth an exquisite, wondrous rarity, it is breathtakingly myopic, arrogant, and quite simply inaccurate to label any living thing found anywhere on the planet which gave it life as “alien” or “non-native.” There is simply no such thing as an “invasive species.”

The article, “A moral panic over cats,” in Conservation Biology is here.

A summary of the article, “Calming down conservation’s cat fight,” in Anthropocene Magazine is here.

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