How is this institutional blindness from the No Kill movement any different from that practiced by HSUS, PeTA, and the ASPCA?
I doubt anyone gave Nathan Winograd a more positive -- or longer -- review of his first book, Redemption, the battle-cry that launched the No Kill movement, than I did. Read that review here.
That said, you will notice that I do not mention, in my review, Nathan Winograd's take on feral cats.
There's a reason for that: Winograd's position on feral cars makes no sense and, in fact, it makes the opposite of sense.
You see, Nathan Winograd stands full square for pointless mass killing.
No, not the mass killing of cats -- the mass killing of birds.
Billions and billions of birds.
Travis Longcore puts a point on it over at the Urban Wildlands Project in an article entitled No-Kill Movement Means Death for Birds:
The no-kill movement represents a radical agenda that prioritizes unowned cats and the rights of cat feeders over the welfare of birds and other wildlife and the rights of people who enjoy and care about them. When confronted with the staggering number of individual mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds killed by free-roaming cats, the response by no-kill advocates is often that this does not matter, unless wildlife populations as a whole are affected. To quote one such advocate from a social networking site: “Even if it were true that cats kill 500 million birds a year, that "figure still does not tell me anything. I also need to know how many birds in total die annually, and how many get born.” Scientists have documented that high predation levels can affect wildlife populations, but the more troubling issue is that feral cat advocates appear unable to feel compassion for the unnecessary suffering of hundreds of millions of individual birds and other animals, even while they insist that euthanasia of a single feral cat is immoral and reprehensible.
Longcore misses a larger point, however, which is that Nathan Winograd and the No Kill movement have fallen into exactly the same kind of intellectual morass they accuse the Humane Society of the U.S., PeTA and the ASPCA of falling into.
What do I mean?
Let me be clear, but in order to be clear, I need to go back a bit.
In going back, I want to note that the No Kill movement did not start out with evil in their hearts anymore than HSUS or the ASPCA did.
Nor was the No Kill Movement completely cut free from the mooring of reality anymore than the HSUS or the ASPCA was back in 1970.
And yes, all three did have a theory, and that theory worked -- up to a point.
Let's start where the No Kill movement got it right, which is that when it comes to feral cats, adoption is not an option.
Feral cats are wild animals, and they cannot be brought back inside and turned into a pet anymore than a pickle can be turned back into a cucumber again.
Because the No Kill movement clearly understands this, they have proposed a Trap-Neuter-Release (TNR) paradigm as a way of handling feral cats.
The theory here is that neutered and spayed cats will establish "territories" in order to keep out other cats, and that these neutered-or-spayed cats will eventually die off, meaning that cat colonies will disappear due to "natural" attrition.
Sounds like a plan, but there are three fundamental problems:
- Feral cats do not have territories. If they did, there would not be large feral cat colonies to begin with.
- Feral cats kill birds, and not just a few of them, but dozens a week, hundreds a year. Rather than a "no kill" situation, a cat colony is a planned, systematic, institutionalized, "mass kill" situation.
- TNR has not eliminated a single feral cat colony. Not one. Ever. Because cats do not have territories, and because people continue to abandon cats, cats that die from disease, vehicle impact, and predation (and how can any of that be called humane?) are simply replaced, and the killing of birds and the spread of disease continues apace.
The bottom line is that there is no such thing as a feral cat policy that is "no kill."
Instead, a feral cat colony is a "kill dozens every day" sink hole for birds.
The argument that feral cats are no different than any other kind of wild animal is an interesting one.
You see, if we have a rat colony we do not feed the rats, we poison them or trap them. We fine people who feed them, whether they are feeding them intentionally or unintentionally.
We also hunt and trap a heck of a lot of wildlife in this country, don't we?
Nationally, we trap and shoot over 500,000 coyotes a year, and in my little state of Virginia alone we trapped over 80,000 raccoon and 30,000 fox (red and gray), and shot about a quarter million white tail deer last year.
Treat feral cats like wildlife?
Yes, that is exactly the idea.
We manage a lot of wildlife with traps, bullets and poison.
Is it completely crazy to say we should be doing the same with feral cat colonies that are killing billions of birds a year and spreading disease?
Of course not.
If the No Kill movement was honest, it would simply admit this.
The problem is that the No Kill movement is now in exactly the same place the Humane Society of the U.S. and the ASPCA were when No Kill showed up -- painted into a corner by its own rhetoric and the recruitment of people to the cause who have embraced a flawed public policy frame.
No Kill was never no kill, was it? Sick and aged and seriously injured animals were always put down.
So, right from the start, the No Kill movement tripped at the starting line. No Kill was actually "low kill".
So what is No Kill movement really about if it is not about never, ever killing (which it is not)?
No Kill was, and is, about getting local pounds and shelters to aggressively market their dogs and cats to prospective pet owners rather than simply allow lazy local pounds to kill healthy dogs and cats that could otherwise make someone a fine pet.
A grand idea. Full standing applause.
But truly feral cats do not make fine pets, do they?
Nor are there enough barns in America to turn every feral cat into a "barn cat," no matter how nice an idea that sounds like. Most barns are full up with barn cats right now, thank you.
And so, the No Kill movement embraced a Trap-Neuter-Release policy based around maintaining feral cat colonies.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
But Trap-Neuter-Release is fatally flawed.
It simply does not work because it assumes things about cats that we now know are simply NOT TRUE.
So what to do?
That's the question for people like Nathan Winograd.
Will he simply double down on failure while demonizing anyone who questions his paradigm -- same as HSUS and the ASPCA and PeTA did to him when he showed up?
Or will he fess up and admit that T-N-R was an experiment that has failed, and that Trap and Euthanize (T&E) is the way forward (to the end) for feral cat colonies?