Friday, January 05, 2018

No-Kill Movement Means Death for Billions

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:

  1. Feral cats do not have territories.  If they did, there would not be large feral cat colonies to begin with.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?



Garnet said...

I admit I'm quite disheartened at the fact that these TNR schemes exist in Hawaii. It's absurd because a lot of Hawaiian bird species are critically endangered. There are millions and millions of cats worldwide but once a bird species is extinct, it's gone forever.

I know that Nathan Winograd tends to argue that feral cat populations are not a danger to mainland species, but that's clearly not true for island species that evolved in an environment without mammal predators.

You can actually read his thoughts on this topic here:

where he compares biologists who remove non-native predators from areas where they are endangering rare birds or reptiles to Nazis.

So to answer your question - I think he will continue to demonize those who question his paradigm. For instance, to him, the biologists who cleared offshore islands around New Zealand of rats and stoats so species like Takahe and Kakapo could have a chance of surviving are comparable to Nazis.

His idea that invasion biologists are inconsistent with their view on humans puts him in the fanatic territory on this issue, in my opinion. Surely he doesn't need to be told why we don't treat human populations the same way we do rat populations?

geonni banner said...

I think a bunch of people are stuck in the paradigm that cats killing things is a good thing. As in the barn cat keeps the mice and rats down and that's a good thing.

What they don't remember or never knew in the first place is that the barn cat's kittens were routinely drowned, which helped to minimize the damage to local quail, or other birds that the locals were interested in eating or just enjoying.

Most barn cats could be better replaced by a proven ratter in terrier form. Both problems solved - no more rats & meece, and the bird population is left intact.

Sue said...

I tossed Winograd's book in the trash years ago when I realized he had every sympathy for every feral cat, but none for the birds, small mammals, and reptiles that feral (and stray) cats kill in huge numbers.

tuffy said...

speaking from a vet's perspective who has done work at shelters, i totally agree that TNR has failed, and was never a good idea to start with, despite good intentions. i also agree that feral cats kill LARGE numbers of birds, more so than most indoor-outdoor house cats that aren't nearly as hungry, or motivated, nor in as a good shape as feral cats are for successful bird capture. (most owned cats are fat, in my clinical practice experience.)

i will say regarding ratting though, when our neighbors got their barn cat, the rodents disappeared. a godsend. that cat keeps rodents out completely from their farm and ours.
a pack of terriers could do a good job too, but that cat is on patrol 24/7. it really is magic.
poisoning rats, or any wildlife, is a terrible idea--rats carry the poisons throughout a large area and wildlife, dogs and birds are badly affected, sometimes horribly so (i saw the results in practice), especially in the case of the newer neurotoxic rodenticides.
better to secure and/or remove possible food sources, put up owl and raptor boxes and perches, and encourage fox. even geese are known to catch rodents!

however, we have (natively planted) unconventional, grazed, farmland with many trees and brush and do enough to encourage the habitation of large amounts of birds and other wildlife; this certainly offsets any occasional bird this barncat may do in. this is not true for many, or most areas that cannot support a lot of birds, especially native birds, only to have feral cats kill the ones that are there--whether native or not.

Jennifer said...

I find it weird that Predator Free New Zealand says so little about cats. Get rid of rats, possums and stoats and cats will take over the bird killing niche. And I'm not convinced that ferals are more of a problem than pets, at least not everywhere. I was up my big mulberry tree yesterday; the berries are ripe and drawing lots of birds. Who did I meet but the neighbors cat. Feathers on the ground.

PBurns said...

Cats have been wiped out on 7 New Zealand islands. From m personal observation, I do not believe cats can survive in true wilds in most scenarios, as they seem to be like roaches, brown rats, and pigeons in requiring a nearby human presence. I’m in the US, however, so it may be that we simply have top end predators that clip them off

Liz Marshall said...

Did Winter Storm Grayson mean that feral cat colonies along eastern USA seaboard are wiped out to any degree? How would foxes, possum, deer, birds and livestock have come through it? Especially worrisome as upcoming weekend weather is also forecast to be bad.

Unknown said...

I would carefully hesitate to say that animal control departments that wind up euthanizing a lot of animals are being in any way lazy. There's a lot of pit bulls and cats that nobody wants. So,high-euthanasia outfits are probably doing the best thing for a lot of animals for all the reasons you spoke about. The market for cats and pitbulls is in a state of extreme contraction and what we're seeing is Extreme resistance of that contraction buy pet food industry funded extremist groups.

BirdLover said...

One problem we have in the US with the feral cat lovers is that they are so hysterical and are so ready to attend public hearings and carry on about the cats. IME officials do not like these events and will avoid responding to the problem of feral cats killing wildlife in order to avoid dealing with these hysterical people, primarily women of various ages. I have to wonder if some aren't infected with toxoplasmosis due to their behavior. The situation is serious and we should all take every opportunity to speak up about the importance of eliminating feral cats!

Karen Carroll said...

Owl nest boxes and perching poles for raptors have shown to be an effective control for rodents. Along with terriers as a backup.