ONTD Political

NZ environmentalist wants to rid country of cats?!?!

12:43 pm - 01/22/2013
New Zealand to eradicate pet cats? Purr-ish the thought!

It's for the birds, this one-man campaign to rid New Zealand of cats and return to the time when birds had no natural predators. It's not going over well: About half of New Zealand homes are graced with a pet cat.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Gareth Morgan has a simple dream: a New Zealand free of pet cats that threaten native birds. But the environmental advocate has triggered a claws-out backlash with his new anti-feline campaign.

Morgan called on his fellow citizens Tuesday to make their current cat their last in order to save the nation's unique bird species. He set up a website, called Cats to Go, depicting a tiny kitten with red devil's horns. The opening line: "That little ball of fluff you own is a natural born killer."

He doesn't recommended people euthanize their current cats — "Not necessarily but that is an option" are the site's exact words — but rather neuter them and not replace them when they die. Morgan, an economist and well-known businessman, also suggests people keep cats indoors and that local governments make registration mandatory.

Morgan's campaign is not sitting well in a country that boasts one of the highest cat ownership rates in the world.

"I say to Gareth Morgan: Butt out of our lives," Bob Kerridge, the president of the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told the current affairs television show Campbell Live. "Don't deprive us of the beautiful companionship that a cat can provide individually and as a family."

For thousands of years, New Zealand's native birds had no predators and flourished. Some species, like the kiwi, became flightless. But the arrival of mankind and its introduction of predators like cats, dogs and rodents has wiped out some native bird species altogether and endangered many others.

"Imagine a New Zealand teeming with native wildlife, penguins on the beach, kiwis roaming about in your garden," Morgan writes on his website. "Imagine hearing birdsong in our cities."

But many New Zealanders are against the campaign. Even on Morgan's website, 70 percent Tuesday were voting against making their current cat their last.

Morgan could not be reached Tuesday.

And the science remains unclear. Some argue that cats may actually help native birds by reducing the population of rodents, which sometimes feed on bird eggs.

Morgan's separate personal blog, in fact, has a separate campaign to raise $1 million to eradicate mice from the remote Antipodes Islands, where rodents are the only predators.

A 2011 survey by the New Zealand Companion Animal Council found that 48 percent of households in New Zealand owned at least one cat, a significantly higher rate than in other developed nations. The survey put the total cat population at 1.4 million.

In the U.S., 33 percent of households own at least one cat for a total of 86 million domestic cats, according to a 2012 survey by the American Pet Products Association.

Scientist David Winter said cats are indeed a problem in New Zealand, having contributed to the extinction of at least half a dozen New Zealand bird species. Writing on his blog "The Atavism," Winter said Morgan's campaign appeared designed to "start conversations."

Still, he added, "What hope is there for environmentalists in conversation where our side wants to take people's kittens away?"

Read more:

Gareth Morgan's website: http://garethsworld.com/catstogo/

The Atavism blog: http://theatavism.blogspot.com/2013/01/cats-arent-evil-but-they-are-problem.html


Good grief! SMH
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chaya 22nd-Jan-2013 06:49 pm (UTC)
chaya 22nd-Jan-2013 06:50 pm (UTC)
(seriously, though, couldn't you just suggest to keep cats indoors?)
lolahead 22nd-Jan-2013 06:56 pm (UTC)

I don't let my cats out, they are neutered and the only things they kill are pest insects like flies and stink bugs.
spyral_path 22nd-Jan-2013 07:03 pm (UTC)
He'd have a lot more luck with a campaign that educated cat owners about all of the benefits of keeping cats indoors. Indoor cats won't contract contagious diseases, get into fights, pick up parasites or get hit by cars. Cat owners will save lots of time and money they would otherwise spend on vet visits, de-wormings and flea control. And the birds would be safe too. That's a win win, and a much better sell than "your fluffy little kitten that you love more than anything is an environmental menace that you have to get rid of right now!
windsong_moon 22nd-Jan-2013 07:20 pm (UTC)
The people I know who have outdoor cats don't take their animals to the vet period, so it's not so much win-win in those situations.
calendae 22nd-Jan-2013 07:09 pm (UTC)
I don't know. Invasive species are invasive species, regardless of how much a family might love them. I think this guy has a point and a right to spend his resources in the manner he sees fit. He's not actually tearing people's cats away from them...
darth_eldritch 22nd-Jan-2013 07:11 pm (UTC)
Indoor cat, won't even look at birds.
maladaptive 22nd-Jan-2013 07:18 pm (UTC)
Ooooh this is missing the best quote from Bob Kerridge, though. “I love birds and I love cats and I believe in nature doing its thing – why interfere with that? I think as soon as we start to interfere with nature, we start to interfere in an area we really shouldn’t.”

That's right, bringing an invasive species that's decimating the local population isn't interfering with nature, but that totally alien species sending the local animals into extinction is just "nature doing its thing."

I think the plan would never work because people love cats, but I can see where Morgan's coming from. Unfortunately there really isn't a way to save NZ from cats, realistically, that doesn't involve some sort of ban or removal program.
moonshaz 22nd-Jan-2013 07:28 pm (UTC)
Actually, there is. It's called "Keep your cats indoors, people!"

If people could be persuaded to do that (along with spaying and neutering, which eliminates most of the urge to roam), the cats would not be able to interfere with local fauna.

It's actually VERY simple. The part that isn't simple, of course, is persuading people to change their habits.
windsong_moon 22nd-Jan-2013 07:19 pm (UTC)
Outdoor cats really are a problem, so I see his point.
akashasheiress 22nd-Jan-2013 08:27 pm (UTC)
But do you really think he's accomplishing anything by calling cats evil?
eyetosky 22nd-Jan-2013 07:42 pm (UTC)
... so you're a Batman villain, is what you're saying. You're saying some Batman level shit right here, in a Pamela Isley kind of way.
moussaka_thief 22nd-Jan-2013 08:06 pm (UTC)
Why all the hate for outdoor cats? Holy moly! Is it a cultural thing? Most cats I know are at least partially outdoor cats. My cat loves the outdoors and, yes, occasionally kills small rodents (and the occasional big fat rat!) but in a city it ain't like there aren't enough mice and rats. Most of the time she's outside she is lying in the sun, nomming on grass or attacking sticks and leaves. For the record my cat is spayed and neutered and goes to the vet. Sheesh. Also, my aunt is a farmer and semi feral cats are important for keeping the rodent population down.

I've always felt sorry for cats who never go outside.
world_dancer 22nd-Jan-2013 08:10 pm (UTC)
Cats are an invasive species in New Zealand, Australia, and the Americas. They destroy native flora and fauna, killing off multiple different types of animals.

Therefore, in any of these places, an environmentally conscious pet owner has indoor-only cats. It's not the cats' fault that they're fuzzy little psychos. But it is the human owner's fault for every species they kill off. Bio-diversity is an important aspect of our planet that not everyone seems to get.
world_dancer 22nd-Jan-2013 08:06 pm (UTC)
I see where he's coming from.

But I think he'd have more success advocating responsible pet ownership: No cats outdoors, neuter/spay all cats, set out cat traps for strays so that they can be taken to the pound.

akashasheiress 22nd-Jan-2013 08:21 pm (UTC)
One thing I've noticed about some of these folks is that they really, legitimately hate cats and seem to consider them honest-to-goodness-evil.
eyetosky 22nd-Jan-2013 08:24 pm (UTC)
Well, they kinda are. And by "kinda", I mean "really".
ikhouvanjou 22nd-Jan-2013 08:28 pm (UTC)
possiblyevil 22nd-Jan-2013 08:36 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure where people are getting this "making people give their cats away" part from. Did I miss something in the article? All I read is him mostly suggesting "hey spay or neuter and don't let your cats out, maybe consider not getting another once yours passes away on their own".
ginger_maya 22nd-Jan-2013 08:42 pm (UTC)
Dude might have good intentions but he's going about it in the worst possible way.
yeats 22nd-Jan-2013 09:12 pm (UTC)
what about just putting bells on all outdoor cats? that used to be a law in a lot of places
bluebombardier 22nd-Jan-2013 09:27 pm (UTC)
That just encourages cats to go into super stealth mode. They learn to move without jingling and become even better hunters.
homasse 23rd-Jan-2013 04:59 am (UTC)
pleasure_past 22nd-Jan-2013 10:02 pm (UTC)
I feel like you really need to re-evaluate your life choices if you are spending your time trying to get your nation-wide campaign against kittens off the ground.
lozbabie 23rd-Jan-2013 09:24 am (UTC)
Perhaps you should educate yourself on the damage cats can do in New Zealand.

I think he's going the wrong way about it, but starting a 'keep your cars indoors' would grab less headlines.
sasha_davidovna 22nd-Jan-2013 11:53 pm (UTC)
I agree with others that his time and money would be better spent educating people about keeping their cats indoors, but I do think there's something to be said for trying to reduce the overall population as well, especially since New Zealand has so many exceptionally vulnerable species.

muggy_wump 23rd-Jan-2013 01:45 am (UTC)
Firstly, and most importantly, here is a video of Stephen Fry's friend having his head shagged by a Kakapo.

This is just one example of New Zealand's amazing and unique wildlife... which unfortunately is utterly defenceless against all land predators.

While I disagree with calling cats evil (no animal is evil... except perhaps Komodo Dragons), I think his idea is pretty sensible, particularly for people who live in rural areas. He's not advocating that Mr Tibbles is ripped from nannas arms and euthanised... Just that people should consider other, more responsible forms of pet ownership in this ecologically delicate area. Unfortunately, such a plan would mean that unwanted cats and kittens would be euthanised... however, I don't think it's fair to prioritise the cat's life over the hundreds of native bats, birds, lizards and frogs it will eat in its lifetime if left to roam freely, especially when these species are so unique and special.

Of course, the cat could be kept indoors... but many cats are unhappy living inside, and an indoor cat can also escape. Ideally, people could own cats that have bred to be happy indoors, and spay/neuter them at an early age.

Basically, whatever choice you make, CUTE ANIMALS WILL DIE. Personally, I am on the side of native wildlife... If they die off, it can have catastrophic effects on the wider ecosystem.
mysterysong 23rd-Jan-2013 02:10 am (UTC)

I'm a cat person through and through, but they are such a problem in NZ/Aus. It's not just the cats as pets either, it's the feral cats that are the biggest problem. There's a wildlife sanctuary here in Adelaide, that's set up to be cat free, and they've got pictures of feral cats and pelts from ones they've shot. AND THEY ARE HUGE! Seriously, feral cats turn into monsters! We've more of a responsibility to the native wildlife, given their unique nature in NZ/Aus, than we do feral cats.
livinghope 23rd-Jan-2013 02:39 am (UTC)
This actually sounds terrific to me. But I'm super allergic to cats and it's very frustrating to not be able to go to anyone's house because it seems like everyone owns at least one cat, if not several.
dixiedolphin 23rd-Jan-2013 03:13 am (UTC)
I love cats. Grew up with them and, were it not for the fact that I have a very cat-unfriendly dog, would probably have one now. I have to get my kitty fix right now by playing with the neighbor's adorable black kitty who hangs out in the apartment courtyard.

But this guy is 100% right. Cats are a MAJOR problem to ground nesting birds in island ecosystems (like the Kakapo in NZ). You can't just say "Well, keep the cats indoors.." because even if 90% of cat owners are good, responsible, and do that (and that's being damn generous, because how many pet owners really are that responsible?), you'll still have cats that escape on their own (I had a cat once that escaped multiple times... slipped out the front door, ripped open a window screen, etc). And the 10% that doesn't keep their cats indoors... or worse, the ones who dump their cats when they get bored or leave them behind when them move or whatnot... well, they'll STILL contribute to the feral cat problem.

The only way to truly end the threat of cats to native wildlife in a place like that IS to phase them out. Spay/neuter all of them and refuse importation of more.

People will live on without being able to have cats as pets. Just like people in places like CA live without having ferrets.

Weighed between a critically endangered species (there are only 126 surviving Kakapos, for example) or an extremely over-populated species like domesticated cats... well... honestly, I think the native wildlife takes precedence.

All that said, I doubt this guy will get any traction. Because as necessary as something like this might be to preserve native wildlife, people will reject it in favor of their own desires. That's just the way of things.
ennifer_jay I just really love cats.23rd-Jan-2013 03:35 am (UTC)

no worries new zealand kitties i will adopt you xoxo
amber_protocol Re: I just really love cats.23rd-Jan-2013 03:41 am (UTC)
Noooo, you cannot has my cats! *clings to them*
blunder_buss Relevant icon is relevant23rd-Jan-2013 06:12 am (UTC)
Honestly, I don't see why there's such a backlash against this. Cats usually live about 15-20 years, so just not replacing one when it dies is pretty reasonable. It's not like it's a kitty Logan's Run where every cat is killed after a few years.

Fact is, they are natural born killers and feral cats really can be little assholes. And considering that NZ's wildlife is even more vunerable than Australia's, this is probably a wise policy to take.

Edited at 2013-01-23 06:14 am (UTC)
tsu_ 23rd-Jan-2013 07:07 am (UTC)
I love cats (have 3), but having lived in Australia and realised what a menace they are to wildlife I won't keep one unless they are neutered and indoors-only. They kill more often than people realise. Part of the problem is feral cats as well - for instance in Grampians, cats and foxes (both introduced by colonists) have been known to kill baby joeys (baby kangaroos) and wallabies. I think within Victoria parks/reserves, they and other introduced predators are hunted by rangers to keep the ecosystem in check even though it's not widely publicised

** I used to work in Melbourne University's zoology dept, feel free to ask questions.
lozbabie 23rd-Jan-2013 09:27 am (UTC)
Where my parents retired to (in New South Wales) doesn't allow cats. Which caused a problem as they still had my kitty (she was 12 when I moved cross country and the get advised against moving her due to age) Thankfully we were able to rehome her with a high school friend. She lived till she was 18 (I remember putting on Facebook we were looking for someone and got a chorus of 'she's still alive?'
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