December 4, 2007

Shoot the cat?

Feral cats... and the people who insist on protecting them.
“From an animal-welfare perspective, confining cats and shooting the cat, in the Galveston example, is wrong,” says J. Baird Callicott, a philosophy professor at the University of North Texas. Callicott, a past president of the International Society for Environmental Ethics, taught one of the nation’s first environmental ethics courses in 1971. He went on to say, however, that “from an environmental-ethics perspective it’s right, because a whole species is at stake. Personally, I think environmental ethics should trump animal-welfare ethics. But just as personally, animal-welfare ethicists think the opposite.”

Out of curiosity, I boiled down the Jim Stevenson case and sent it to a few environmental-ethics professors. Most agreed with Callicott: Shoot the cat.

“You’re trading a feral cat, an exotic animal that doesn’t belong naturally on the landscape, against piping plovers, which evolved as natural fits in that environment,” reasons Holmes Rolston III, a Colorado State University professor who is considered one of the deans of American environmental philosophy. “And it trades an endangered species, piping plovers, against cats, which as a species are in no danger whatsoever. Suffering — the pain of the cat versus the pain of the plover eaten by the cat — is irrelevant in this case.”

Much more at the link. We previously discussed the Jim Stevenson case here.

104 comments:

Simon said...

Personally I think such people should be fed to feral cats, but that's just me.

SteveR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SteveR said...

A friend once tried to "rescue" a feral cat and got a tendon in the top of her hand torn out by a claw. She'd be in favor of shooting them, but that's just her.

Paddy O. said...

Shooting cats is such a brutal concept. Or rather a brutal word choice.

We need to cull the cats. That sounds much more palatable.


I also suggest a cat leash law.
There are far too many cats in this world, running around messing with everyone's property and mucking up the balance of species.

Personally I like the method we use in the mountains where I live. Coyotes, bobcats, and raccoons. No cats are shot. No cats survive very long if left on their own. Don't ever see house cats outside here.

But not every area has enough of the natural predators to keep this up.

Zeb Quinn said...

I love false dichotomies. As in, we just have to whip our guns out right now and blow those cats away or else the plovers are forever toast. As if there are no other ways to remove the cats. As if, we tried as hard as we could, and it hurt our heads really bad we tried so hard, but we just couldn't outhink those feral cats. We just couldn't do it. So we gotta shoot them. No choice.

Paul Zrimsek said...

I've never understood arguments like Rolston's. If Species A is kicking Species B's ass up one side of the habitat and down the other, why would anyone go on saying that B belongs in the landscape and A doesn't?

Joan said...

Paul, because Species B is non-native and was inadvertently released into an environment in which it has no natural predators. It's not that we don't like Species B, it's that we like Species A just fine and don't want to see it wiped out. Or we like the new species, we just don't like the new species hogging all the food supply for every other indigenous species that then suffers as a result (think rabbits in Australia).

Zeb, you have a point but you're ignoring the economics here. It's a lot faster, quicker, and easier to shoot the cats than it is to trap and transport them away from the plovers.

I love cats. I have two cats that never leave the house because I fear they would either become pancakes or coyote snacks. We have a huge feral cat problem here in the Phoenix area because it doesn't ever get cold enough to kill them off in great numbers, and the coyotes don't penetrate into the city to keep the populations down.

You can't domesticate an adult feral cat, but the kittens usually are OK. The only real solution for dealing with a feral cat population has to involve, as Paddy said, culling. Every culling technique has its problems, but at least shooting is very target-specific, unlike poisoning.

Paul Zrimsek said...

It's not that we don't like Species B, it's that we like Species A just fine and don't want to see it wiped out.

It's an affective or esthetic judgment, then. Why is it posing as science?

no one said...

“You’re trading a feral cat, an exotic animal that doesn’t belong naturally on the landscape, against piping plovers, which evolved as natural fits in that environment,” reasons Holmes Rolston III, a Colorado State University professor who is considered one of the deans of American environmental philosophy.

Professor Rolston reasons poorly. His argument rests on the fallacy of false dilemma. Although piping plovers are endangered, this is due to "habitat loss and human activity near nesting sites," not feral cats. Although feral cats are a problem, sensible and humane solutions to the problem are available. There is no reasonable ecological basis for individuals to shoot feral cats as they individually see fit.

The Stevenson case is not "a case about the ecological balance." Based on the quote provided, Professor Rolston appears to know very little about ecology.

Simon said...

Paul Zrimsek said...
"I've never understood arguments like Rolston's. If Species A is kicking Species B's ass up one side of the habitat and down the other, why would anyone go on saying that B belongs in the landscape and A doesn't?"

Oh, Species A doesn't "belong" there because it didn't naturally evolve there. We put it there. What these people are really hostile to is any kind of human impact on the environment. Some people have a desperate need to feel guilty about something - race, humanity, you name it, someone's made a hook of it from which to hang their need to be guilty. But as Ann has pointed out, "the search for hooks comes after one's need to hang something on it" (Enforcing Federalism After United States v. Lopez, 38 Ariz. L. Rev. 793, 806 (1996)).

Richard Dolan said...

Joan: "we don't like ... we like ... we like ... it's just that we don't like ...."

Her way of putting it may not be elegant, but I think Joan's formulation gets it right. It's about what "we like"; Nature has nothing to do with it. The eco-ethicists' contrast between an "exotic animal that doesn't naturally belong" versus plovers that "evolved as natural fits in that environment" is just camoflage for the basic issue: what constructed environment fits our "likes." The invocations of "nature" don't make much sense when the entire discussion is about human interventions to impose our preferences in lieu of the results that would otherwise occur (naturally, as it were). So, if that is one's personal preference in terms of an outcome, you better find a way to sell it.

All that's changed from the days of English Romantic landscape architecture (complete with the then-popular instant ruins) is that present-day Americans have different tastes in their constructed landscapes. Instead of a newly built crumbling tower set in a carefully planted "wild" glade, we like piping plovers carefully protected from cats that, if Nature had her way, would make a meal of them. It's unfortunate but true that Mother Nature has even less regard for species preservation than the most rapacious strip-mall developer (if she did, we'd all be cro-magnons cowering from the reigning dinosaurs).

Where the basic discussion is about preferences (mainly aesthetic ones at that), the more natural dialog to make sense of the whole thing is economic. The eco-ethicists have their work cut out from them.

Eli Blake said...

Ultimately the explosion in the numbers of feral cats is a SYMPTOM.

The CAUSE is MORONS who 1. don't spay/neuter their pet, 2. let them run free, and 3. when they discover they can't give away half a dozen cute little kitties because the market is already saturated, then they abandon them someplace out in the wild.

Of course, 99% of them do either starve to death or become lunch for Wiley E. Coyote, but the rest of the cats become wild animals.

The same situation exists with cute little puppies, but people have no problem with the concept of shooting packs of wild dogs because they become dangerous to livestock and sometimes to people.

I can see the necessity for doing this, but if we don't want to be be doing it all the time then we need to get very serious about pushing spay/neutering. This can either be done with a stick (mandatory spay/neutering for pet owners who aren't registered as breeders) or a carrot (tax credits for people if they can prove they took a pet to the vet and had it fixed that year.) Either way, we should do more in the way of PSA's to inform people about how many animals are euthanized each year because of failure to sapy/neuter. But however we address the root of the problem, we have to do so or this problem will continue to be with us next year, and next decade, and next generation...

Well, enough of that. I wonder if the taxidermist here in town would mount a cat?

Zeb Quinn said...

Zeb, you have a point but you're ignoring the economics here. It's a lot faster, quicker, and easier to shoot the cats than it is to trap and transport them away from the plovers.

Hello? That's precisely the thinking that generates so much pushback.

And if you examine the economics question, what you're really saying is that, yeah, the plover lovers really do love the plovers, but not that much, and it really isn't worth much time and effort to save them the right way. That's telling all by itself.

Steven said...

Right, there are three arguments in principle for saving the plover.

1) The theological. Humans, instead of being just another natural species, are somehow unnatural/supernatural. Further, natural is better than unnatural/supernatural, and so changes to nature imposed by us are therefore objectionable. The plovers should thus be saved from the cats introduced by humans.

2) The aesthetic. The plovers are unique/diverse/whatever, and therefore should be preserved; the cats are of lower aesthetic value.

3) The practical. The plovers are important fillers of a practical role, and therefore should be preserved so they can continue to fill that role.

Nobody has presented a #3, so the whole question of the plovers-vs-cats is a debate on theology and aesthetics.

Zeb Quinn said...

To me, this cats versus plover question is easy. They really haven't explored all the options.

There's a similar issue, but thornier, going on in my neck of the woods. Here we have not one but two endangered species, both indigenous to the area and operating in their natural habitat. And one species, the sea lions, have voracious appetites for the other, the salmon. And thanks to man and the dam on the river, the sea lions have the salmon cornered and are eating them into oblivion. It's noteworthy that the salmon are endangered in the first place because of the dams. They've tried everything to keep the sea lions away, but nothing works. They keep coming back. Like I said, they're indigenous too, and salmon are their natural prey. It has been decided that they have to shot and kill sea lions to save salmon. Debate that one.

Google "sea lions Columbia River" without the quotes and you'll get back all you want and more on the topic.

SGT Ted said...

Joan: "we don't like ... we like ... we like ... it's just that we don't like ...."

Her way of putting it may not be elegant, but I think Joan's formulation gets it right. It's about what "we like"; Nature has nothing to do with it.


Exactly. I just don't see the difference of a cat being introduced into a new environment by a human or it floating there on a log or other means. Somehow what humans do is "un-natural" and thus bad, while whatever animals do is "natural" and thus good, unless it isn't. (Which is why I distrust the environmental movement; it is intellectually dishonest in this fashion.)

It seems to me that this is the old Christian based view of man being "above" or apart from the rest of the natural world comes into play here, quite unconsciously, by people who would otherwise reject the notion of any dieties influence to begin with.

There is also a tendency with such thinking to view the natural world as immutable and unchanging; a "preservationist" outlook which is silly as nature is always changing, whether humans "do" anything or not.

Pogo said...

Next step: culling humans.

We've had good practice at it these last 100 years. The best plan is to cloak it in this same sort of nature-love ethos. Talk about footprints and all that crap, as if you actually believe it, although belief is not truly needed. Get people to stop having kids, or kill off the ones in their wombs, for the sake of Mother Earth.

A few steps from there and you're onto the right path for absenting man.

jeff said...

"And if you examine the economics question, what you're really saying is that, yeah, the plover lovers really do love the plovers, but not that much, and it really isn't worth much time and effort to save them the right way."

The right way? What makes this the wrong way?

My house cat was a feral kitten. I got her real young and she has quite a personality, but I wouldn't try that with a grown cat. These are not Disney cats, living outside yearning to have someone adopt them. Other than the cuteness factor, how is this different that shooting rats? Or using traps on mice?

Richard Dolan said...

Zeb: "It has been decided that they have to shoot and kill sea lions to save salmon. Debate that one."

You might as well debate vanilla vs. chocolate. Or, better, Ch. Petrus vs. La Romanee. What we need is a Robert Parker scale for endangered species, along with the cult of connoisseurship that goes with it, to sort it these things out. (Zeb's "it has been decided ..." phrasing certainly suggests that some grand Pooh-Bah, a Lord High Master of Everything, has figured out the answer -- surely this is all waiting for a Mikado-like send-up to give this the treatment it deserves.)

So it comes down to the ratings: Sea lions, Columbia River variety (vintage '07) score a 93! Salmon (same provenance and vintage) a 94! Too bad for the sea lions, it seems. But stay tuned for next year's varietals/vintage ratings. Any connoisseur knows that these things vary with the seasons and taste fashions that are an unavoidable part of connoisseurship. The rest of us, of course, just follow our betters (that Pooh-Bah whoever he/she may be) and go with the higher scoring wine (endangered species, whatever). Until we don't.

Joshua said...

What these people are really hostile to is any kind of human impact on the environment.

Simon's ability to decipher the dark and unstated motives of complete strangers, while ignoring what those strangers actually say, is quite amazing.

jeff said...

"Simon's ability to decipher the dark and unstated motives of complete strangers, while ignoring what those strangers actually say, is quite amazing."

And those people actually say what, exactly?
Possibly he makes this assumption based entirely on these people's actions. I once argued with someone in Ohio who thought that we shouldn't shoot deer there. When I asked how we would keep them off the highways and keep them from starving once the abundant deer devoured all the deer food he told me that it wouldn't be a highway problem if it wasn't for us. That the deer were here first. I had to point out that us going away wasn't an option.

Pogo said...

Simon's ability to decipher dark and unstated motives is quite accurate.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Next step: culling humans.

Abortion? Soylent Green?

It's a lot faster, quicker, and easier to shoot the cats than it is to trap and transport them away from the plovers.

Does Joan think that we have Annie Oakly or some other quick sure shot taking aim at the cats? Kapow and they are instantly dead. Or in the real world it is more likely that the cat is merely wounded and goes off to die a painful lingering death, is injured and can't hunt and starves to death or is injured and survives as a crippled cat. I've been "varmit" hunting and can attest that it isn't pretty. It is cruel, bloody and ugly.

I'm sorry ....given those more likely scenarios, I vote for the more expensive procedure of trapping sterilizing and relocating or the more humane (and yes expensive) euthanizing over torturing an animal that is merely trying to exist.

Zeb Quinn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zeb Quinn said...

Jeff:

I know about feral cats. They're undomesticated animals. Indeed fully wild animals, and not easily domisticated, if ever at all. But I also know about the people out there who get their cookies off bigtime shooting things, and some who specifically get off on killing cats. And I know about a lot of people out there who don't like cats so they're indifferent about what happens here. And I think all that's a big part of what's really going on here.

And the "right" way is to remove the cats and put them somewhere else, something they really haven't tried to do.

Check out some birds that were marked for death, the parakeets in Yacolt, Washington. The utility was going about secretly killing them when the folks caught wind of it. Now, since that story broke, the birds have been safely removed to another place.

jeff said...

"Or in the real world it is more likely that the cat is merely wounded and goes off to die a painful lingering death, is injured and can't hunt and starves to death or is injured and survives as a crippled cat. I've been "varmit" hunting and can attest that it isn't pretty. It is cruel, bloody and ugly."

I've been varmint hunting too. Sounds like your doing it wrong.
The only reason I can see not to shoot them is that apparently that doesn't solve the problem. The article points out that catching, fixing them, and releasing them is what eventually solves the problem. In other words, the manufacturing of new cats out paces the shooting of the existing cats.
The cat has to look forward to getting eaten by a coyote, poisoned, freezing, hit by a car, or any number of other painful deaths.

jeff said...

"And the "right" way is to remove the cats and put them somewhere else, something they really haven't tried to do."

Based on what? What makes it right? How do you know they wont cause a problem elsewhere?

It appears the functional and effective way to combate the problem is the catch/fix/release. But we are not talking about that. Why is it wrong to shoot a cat vs any other wild animal?

Original Mike said...

The plovers evolved in that eco-system and are therefore a valuable component of that eco-system. They disappear and the negative ramafications rattle on through the system. The is not true of the cats.

I'm not an expert in this field, and can't prove the previous paragraph. I'd be receptive to hearing a counter argument from an expert, but until that happens, I'm willing to bet the first paragraph is true. Given that, the right thing to do is remove the cats. Do it in a practical, cost-effective manner. If that's shooting them, fine. IF people who are offended by this want to pony up their own money to trap and remove them (to where?), that's fine too, as long as that remedy actually works.

SGT Ted said...

In other words, the manufacturing of new cats out paces the shooting of the existing cats.

Well, then they are obviously not shooting enough cats. They need more competent hunters.

Joan said...

I can see why the sea lions lose; we like to eat salmon. Someone probably fishes those salmon, and livelihoods are at stake if the sea lions are eating up someone's inventory.

There's that "we like" construct again -- it really is the only thing underlying all this stuff, as far as I can tell. The guy shooting the cats to protect the plovers isn't really protecting the plovers so much as he is protecting his business, which caters to birdwatchers. No birds, no income -- no brainer as to what to do with the cats.

Does Joan think that we have Annie Oakly or some other quick sure shot taking aim at the cats?

I don't know. I think there are people who are reasonably proficient at bagging small mammals. Whether or not they're assigned to some kind of cat patrol, I have no idea. My point was that the projectile weapon approach would most likely have fewer unintended consequences, and less expense, than trapping or poisoning, for example.

no one said...

Next step: culling humans. We've had good practice at it these last 100 years.

Humans have practiced "culling" a lot longer than 100 years. Technology may help us cull more efficiently now but the inclination to cull is not a recent development in the history of mankind.

Get people to stop having kids, or kill off the ones in their wombs, for the sake of Mother Earth.

The most prominent of those who argue in favor of population control primarily focus on the consequent benefits to mankind rather than Mother Earth. Further, I cannot say that I've ever heard an argument in favor of abortion rights that mentions benefits to Mother Earth.

A few steps from there and you're onto the right path for absenting man.

Although there are no specific religious references, is the commenter who posted these remarks intending to provide an example of Poe's Law?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

It appears the functional and effective way to combate the problem is the catch/fix/release. But we are not talking about that. Why is it wrong to shoot a cat vs any other wild animal?

I agree. The most functional way is the catch/fix/release method. I've done it myself on my own property.

The reason I object to the shooting method is twofold.

First: many people are just bad shots creating needless suffering.

Second: some sick people get their jollies on killing animals and especially cats and would be shooting for fun instead of for species reduction. That bothers me whether it is for cats, varmits, birds or anything else. Killing should not be "fun".

jen said...

And if you examine the economics question, what you're really saying is that, yeah, the plover lovers really do love the plovers, but not that much, and it really isn't worth much time and effort to save them the right way. That's telling all by itself.

What right way? Remove them to somewhere else? Where exactly can you put a feral cat where it won't do one or more of the following: devastate the local source of "feral cat prey"; starve to death; get eaten by a coyote; or bear litters of also-feral kittens. If you are going to say that the "right way" (I'm assuming you mean the humane way) to solve the problem is to remove the cat to "somewhere else", don't you now have a duty to make sure that the "somewhere else" is both safe for the cat and not devastating to the local species where you dump the cat? And I'm not at all sure you could find any such place, anywhere. Even the "catch, spay, release" mantra doesn't answer the question of where to release them where they are both safe and not going to wipe out indigenous species.

And no, the problem with wiping out indigenous species isn't that "people are bad, as is anything they do", the problem is that indigenous species generally fill a role in their local ecology - a role that the cats are unlikely to fill.

Also, I find it interesting that some people denigrate those who want to help an endangered species survive as "plover lovers" and question what reason there is for saving the plovers (as a species), while I wonder what reason anyone has for saving feral cats (as a species).

jen said...

I can see why the sea lions lose; we like to eat salmon. Someone probably fishes those salmon, and livelihoods are at stake if the sea lions are eating up someone's inventory.

There's also the "minor detail" that if sea lions eat all (or even most) of the salmon, and not enough of the salmon are preserved for a breeding population, then the sea lions will starve to death. So, either way, the sea lions die.

Unless I'm missing some aspect of the situation?

no one said...

They disappear and the negative ramafications rattle on through the system. The is not true of the cats.

Feral cats do not represent a significant threat to the existence of the piping plover. Even so, it is sensible to remove the feral cats from the local environment. There are reasonable, efficient, safe and humane ways to do this. Shooting cats is not one of them.

If we want to protect the piping plover, we need to restore and protect habitat for them. Let's not pretend that shooting feral cats will save the piping plover. It's just not true.

Paco Wové said...

"...it is sensible to remove the feral cats from the local environment."

Remove them to where, exactly?

Shoot and be done with it.

Pogo said...

Humans have practiced "culling" a lot longer than 100 years.
I said we'd had alot of practice in the past 100 years; not none prior. More than in all other eras combined, actually. So now we are really, really good at it.

I cannot say that I've ever heard an argument in favor of abortion rights that mentions benefits to Mother Earth.
I have.

If there are no specific religious references these remarks cannot rightly be said to provide an example of Poe's Law, unless the term is redefined.

AllenS said...

Humanely trap them and then use them for medical experiments. You know, like finding cures for AIDS and heartburn. Important stuff like that.

no one said...

Remove them to where, exactly?

The feral cats don't represent an immediate or significant threat to piping plovers. It is sensible to remove them in time, not in place.

Shoot and be done with it.

Shooting is unlikely to be effective, efficient, safe and humane. It's the preferred solution for those who'd prefer to act now and think later.

Revenant said...

it trades an endangered species, piping plovers, against cats, which as a species are in no danger whatsoever. Suffering — the pain of the cat versus the pain of the plover eaten by the cat — is irrelevant in this case.

Makes sense to me. Actually, killing the cat probably represents a net savings in animal life even before you factor in the endangered species thing.

Lawgiver said...

Harvest the feral cats,cook them up to look and taste like salmon. Feed them to the sea lions. Problem solved.

Joshua said...

And those people actually say what, exactly?

Uh, there were a lot of quotes in the article. Read them.

MadisonMan said...

we need to restore and protect habitat for them.

Restoring habitat includes getting rid of non-native predators. Feral Cats, for instance. What does restoring habitat mean to you?

The outrage over shooting feral cats is dustless black pepper, IMO. Shooting them is cheap and easy. 1 gun + 1 bullet = 1 dead cat.

Blake said...

Further, I cannot say that I've ever heard an argument in favor of abortion rights that mentions benefits to Mother Earth.

Wasn't there a story last week where a woman decided to abort her child to save Mother Earth?

And, Eli, in a lot of the US, there is a puppy shortage. Here, if you want a puppy, you have to pay thousands to a pet store, or pay hundreds and go through an interview/paperwork/etc process after which you don't really own the dog.

Kittens not so much.

Joshua said...

Shooting them is cheap and easy. 1 gun + 1 bullet = 1 dead cat.

You're wildly overstating the cost of eliminating the feral cat menace! It's actually 1 gun + X bullets = X dead cats.

no one said...

I said we'd had alot of practice in the past 100 years; not none prior. More than in all other eras combined, actually. So now we are really, really good at it.

As a percentage of total population, the last century was not remarkable for the degree of culling. Humans have been good and keen on culling for a very long time. The efficiency in culling in the last 100 years reflects little more than technological improvements. The proclivity to cull is a characteristic common to all eras.

If there are no specific religious references these remarks cannot rightly be said to provide an example of Poe's Law, unless the term is redefined.

I've seen broader definitions of Poe's Law that don't require specific religious references, such as this one:

Poe's law refers to the situation where you see an argument that is so patently ridiculous that you think it has to be a parody, but you can't really be sure because you have seen many equally idiotic arguments made by fundys and woowoos that were completely sincere.

Since you object to a broader definition, I'll retract my suggestion that your comment is an example of Poe's Law. Instead I'll apply the Gish principle.

The Gish Principle:
When confronted with an argument that is ludicrous, it is more charitable to assume that the perpetrator is lying than to assume he believes his own words.

Pogo said...

Bullets?
We don't need no stinkin' bullets!

jeff said...

"First: many people are just bad shots creating needless suffering.

Second: some sick people get their jollies on killing animals and especially cats and would be shooting for fun instead of for species reduction. That bothers me whether it is for cats, varmits, birds or anything else. Killing should not be "fun"."

Which could arguably be said for all hunting. But what is it specifically about cats? Or is it the hunting in general?

Joshua said...

There is some good crazy at the Cat Defender blog.

http://catdefender.blogspot.com/2007/11/bird-lovers-all-over-world-rejoice-as.html

Original Mike said...

We don't need no stinkin' bullets!

Taser 'em, bro!

jeff said...

"Uh, there were a lot of quotes in the article. Read them."

Why do I have to research your comment?

peter hoh said...

Jeff, re. your 12:01 comment: that anti-hunter's sentiments are foolish.

First, let's address the egregious factual error: the deer were nowhere near as plentiful in the time before humans arrived on the scene.

Having chased away their predators, I think it falls on us to manage the deer population. An overpopulation of deer is not just harmful to the people who encounter them on the highway or the farmers who lose crops to them. Too many deer are harmful themselves and to the environment.

I have not read through all the comments yet. Did anyone mention the documentary, "Cane Toads"? Wow, they certainly have their haters.

Pogo said...

As a percentage of total population, the last century was not remarkable for the degree of culling.
Percentages? How very German.
I'm not convinced you are correct on that. But by the sheer numbers, we killed the most in history.

I've seen broader definitions...
You brought up religion vis a vis Poe, did you not? Why, if unrelated?

Poe's law ...an argument that is so patently ridiculous that you think it has to be a parody
And you think my argument is patently ridiculous exactly how?

The Gish Principle:
When confronted with an argument that is ludicrous

Again, why "ludicrous"? You admit culling is common to humans, and more expertly and broadly done in the last 100 years than in any other century, then you must be aware that the same millenialism, the same immanentizing of the eschaton is operating among certain peoples even today.

I don't think that's even arguable, much less silly.

no one said...

Restoring habitat includes getting rid of non-native predators. Feral Cats, for instance. What does restoring habitat mean to you?

You are confusing protecting habitat with restoring habitat. In this context, restoring habitat means to return land to use as habitat for the species in question.

I mentioned the importance of protecting habitat too. For piping plovers, disruption of nesting sites by human activity represents a greater threat to the species than feral cats. If the objective is to preserve an endangered species, it is sensible to focus on significant threats instead of insignificant ones.

As I said earlier, the feral cats should be removed in an effective, efficient, safe and humane way. They don't pose an immediate, significant threat to piping plovers that requires shooting.

Joshua said...

Why do I have to research your comment?

Yeah, it's really unfair to expect you to actually skim the article that is linked and quoted extensively in the post. Mouse clicks are teh hard!!1!

peter hoh said...

Cane Toads the movie.

Lawgiver said...

Did anyone mention the documentary, "Cane Toads"? Wow, they certainly have their haters.

I am one of those haters. Caning any animal is loathsome. Do they still cane people in Hong Kong?

no one said...

Shooting them is cheap and easy. 1 gun + 1 bullet = 1 dead cat.

Hunting is not a risk free activity. Fortunately most hunting takes place in areas far away from human activity and is therefore relatively safe for other humans.

Feral cats tend to live in and around areas of human activity. How would you rate the benefits of the occasional 1 gun + 1 bullet = 1 dead human scenario?

no one said...

Wasn't there a story last week where a woman decided to abort her child to save Mother Earth?

I don't know, was there? Citation?

MadisonMan said...

restoring habitat means to return land to use as habitat for the species in question.

Never mind that it's right next to a population of free-roaming non-native predators.

I'm going home to my cat.

peter hoh said...

Now if we could only engineer a feral cat which would take out European starlings, pigeons, and other invasive species, then I'd be all for them. Unfortunately, the year-round Canada geese would be a little too large for them.

Invasives are funny things. We had quite the controversy errupt here in Minnesota with the idea that earthworms are invasive in the northern forests and create measurable environmental damage.

The talk-radio guys all had a field day. "What do you mean, harmful to the environment? If they are good in the garden or on the farm, they have to be good in the environment. How can it be otherwise? What are the crazy environmentalists going to claim next?" And so on, until some other scandal caught their attention.

peter hoh said...

lawgiver asked, do they still cane people in Hong Kong? I think that was Singapore.

Joan said...

no one, I'm not sure how you could've missed this story, it was all over the blogosphere last week: Meet the women who won't have babies - because they're not eco friendly.

peter hoh said...

The women who won't have babies aren't eco-friendly?

Call me confussed.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Or is it the hunting in general?

Jeff: Hunting in general where there is no intention utilize the killed animal for meat .

Trust me, I've been hunting and am pretty good with a shotgun (geese, pheasant, quail, grouse...skeet)and I have personally cleaned and eaten the animals that I have hunted. I have never hunted deer because 1. I don't want to field dress and skin clean a deer and 2. not so easy to accurately one shot a deer and I admit to not being so good at several hundred yards with a rifle. I'm not anti hunting nor am I anti gun. Quite the opposite. I'm a NRA member.

However, to kill animals for fun (call it sport if you want, I don't) for trophies to hang on your wall or just to see them blow up is not my idea of hunting or sport or fun. If the cats need to be removed to save the birds, so be it. BUT, it should be in a humane way that causes the least amount of suffering.

Revenant said...

some sick people get their jollies on killing animals and especially cats and would be shooting for fun instead of for species reduction

The ironic thing about that is that cats themselves "get their jollies" from killing things for fun.

no one said...

But by the sheer numbers, we killed the most in history.

You may be correct though I doubt you can establish it as fact. The relevant point is that the large numbers from the last 100 years have not come from practice but efficiency. Mankind has consistently practiced culling.

You brought up religion vis a vis Poe, did you not? Why, if unrelated?

I understand that Poe's Law is sometimes considered to apply only to religious arguments. Therefore I qualified my question.

And you think my argument is patently ridiculous exactly how?

Look at what you wrote:

Get people to stop having kids, or kill off the ones in their wombs, for the sake of Mother Earth. A few steps from there and you're onto the right path for absenting man.

Population control concepts are based on what is beneficial for human populations. Abortion decisions are rarely if ever based on what's good for Mother Earth. Your attempt to connect environmental sustainability and abortion rights to "absenting man" is ludicrous.

I don't think that's even arguable, much less silly.

It's silly. If you're seriously worried about "absenting man," your attention should be drawn to religious/racial/cultural/political intolerance. Refer to the history of human "culling" and the continuing advances in the technology of killing for more information.

no one said...

Never mind that it's right next to a population of free-roaming non-native predators.

I assume you think that feral cats pose a significant and immediate threat to the piping plover population in spite of the opinion of ecologists.

jeff said...

"However, to kill animals for fun (call it sport if you want, I don't) for trophies to hang on your wall or just to see them blow up is not my idea of hunting or sport or fun."

Again, that isn't what we are talking about. I equate this with hunting down rats, which I have done before. I neither hang them on my wall or eat them. Same thing with rabid raccoons and skunks. I understand what you are saying and am not trying to be insulting. If we stipulated that some sort of game warden was hired to shoot the cats, would that remove your objection to it?

rhhardin said...

The trouble with loose housecats is that they don't obey the Lotka-Volterra equation, which governs populations of wolves and rabbits.

When rabbits get scarce, wolves follow them down.

Housecats, though, are fed whether there are songbirds or not. They hunt bcause it interests them, not for food. So they can really wipe a population out.

Feral cats are another matter, disposing of the housecat argument, as they are not fed regardless. They ought to get scarce when the food gets scarce, unless there's a constant resupply of feral cats from the housecat population.

jeff said...

"Why do I have to research your comment?

Yeah, it's really unfair to expect you to actually skim the article that is linked and quoted extensively in the post. Mouse clicks are teh hard!!1!"

Sigh. You took a shot at Simon and to back it up you threw in something about ignoring what people say. Nothing about what people, or what people in the article said. So yes, It is too much trouble for me to try to figure out what quotes you may or may not be referring to.

no one said...

Thank you for the link Joan. How could I have missed such an important story?

I don't see how the eco-friendly sterilized woman story relates to what I wrote about abortion rights though:

Further, I cannot say that I've ever heard an argument in favor of abortion rights that mentions benefits to Mother Earth.

The story is about a personal choice, not a policy position relating to abortion. In fact, abortion would never have entered into the equation if doctors has performed the sterilization she requested.

jeff said...

"Feral cats tend to live in and around areas of human activity. How would you rate the benefits of the occasional 1 gun + 1 bullet = 1 dead human scenario?"

Is that the basis for your argument? That would be a logical reason to be against it.

Pogo said...

The relevant point is that...
Relevant to you, maybe. I happen to think that 100 million dead in 100 years is a really really big number, and maybe even relevant

Your comment about come from practice but efficiency issimply stupid, as if the two are separable, and ignores the sardonic quality to my entire first post in this regard, wherein 'we have had lots of practice' isn't meant literally but as metphor for the vast death machines in the 20th century.

Don't be so concrete.

It's silly. If you're seriously worried about "absenting man," your attention should be drawn to
What crap. You don't agree with my conclusion? Fine.
Calling it 'silly' because it draws attention from what you consider a more likely cause is disingenuous narcissism.

The story is about a personal choice, not a policy position relating to abortion.
Now you are just being willfully obtuse, rather than accept the fact that you have been proven quite wrong.

MadisonMan said...

I assume you think that feral cats pose a significant and immediate threat to the piping plover population in spite of the opinion of ecologists.

Which ecologists are those?

From the linked article:
In the past decade, at least a dozen studies published in top scientific journals like Biological Conservation, Journal of Zoology and Mammal Review have chronicled the problem of cat predation of small mammals and birds. The takeaway is clear: cats are a growing environmental concern because they are driving down some native bird populations — on islands, to be sure, but also in ecologically sensitive continental areas.

I note that all the money the state of Texas spent on the trial of the accused feral cat killer was for nought. The jury deadlocked.

no one said...

Is that the basis for your argument? That would be a logical reason to be against it.

The best way to address the feral cat problem is to prevent the next generation from establishing itself. Aside from the problems of hunting feral cats in populated areas, shooting cats doesn't deal with the reality of another generation of feral cats coming into the same habitat as replacements.

Blake said...

Your attempt to connect environmental sustainability and abortion rights to "absenting man" is ludicrous.

Perhaps it would be if no environmentalists had done it first, and continued to do it pretty consistently from the time of Malthus.

no one said...

Which ecologists are those?

The ecologists who study the piping plover. For example,

"The most important limiting factor for Piping Plovers melodus subspecies is loss of habitat, mostly caused by human use of beaches, and the consequent human disturbance around nesting sites."

And

"The main threat to the bird is habitat loss as coastal beaches are increasingly developed for residential, commercial and industrial uses."

And

"In recent decades, piping plover populations have drastically declined, especially in the Great Lakes. Breeding habitat has been replaced with shoreline development and recreation. Availability of quality foraging and roosting habitat in the wintering grounds is necessary in order to ensure that an adequate number of adults survive to migrate back to breeding sites and successfully nest."

jeff said...

"The best way to address the feral cat problem is to prevent the next generation from establishing itself."

Yes, I know. I have stated that a couple of times. I am trying to find out why people are against shooting cats. Is it because they are against hunting? No, doesn't seem to be. Is it because they are cute while a rat is not? Jury still out.
If a homeowner has a fenced yard and one of those tiny little dogs in the back yard and a huge feral tom thinks that dog needs killing, are you for or against shooting that cat? Stipulate the home owner has no neighbors and is surrounded by hills so the bullet will not go anywhere it isn't supposed to. Shoot or not? Capturing and neutering not really a good option here.

jeff said...

""The most important limiting factor for Piping Plovers melodus subspecies is loss of habitat, mostly caused by human use of beaches, and the consequent human disturbance around nesting sites."

And

"The main threat to the bird is habitat loss as coastal beaches are increasingly developed for residential, commercial and industrial uses."


So of the two things, removing feral cats and people tearing down their condos and moving away, which do you feel is more likely to happen? Hint: people not leaving. I don't think the argument of
"it's the humans who are actually moving into the habitat are the problem and it isn't fair to complain about the cats killing all the birds since there would be more birds if we didn't live here so the ones that cats killed wouldn't matter as much." is going to get you far.

rcocean said...

Feral cats need to be eliminated as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Shooting accomplishes this.

Any argument against this is simply simply based on liberal emotion.

no one said...

Now you are just being willfully obtuse, rather than accept the fact that you have been proven quite wrong.

Perhaps it would be if no environmentalists had done it first, and continued to do it pretty consistently from the time of Malthus.

I can no longer apply the Gish Principle to these two commenters. They appear to believe the remarkably ridiculous things they write.

no one said...

Shoot or not?

It depends on the local laws. I have no objection to the shooting (to kill) of a feral cat if it is done legally, safely and as humanely as possible.

MadisonMan said...

How does the fact that the main negative impact on Piping Plovers is habitat destruction somehow mean that feral cat predation shouldn't be taken seriously? If habitat destruction is not a big problem in a place like, oh, a National Wildlife Refuge, shouldn't secondary and tertiary threats be addressed? Or do cats a free ride because they're not operating bulldozers or otherwise driving? (Well, most of them aren't!)

Alas, I cannot read the relevant J. Wild. Mgmt. article on-line.

Revenant said...

I'm not convinced you are correct on that. But by the sheer numbers, we killed the most in history.

He's right, actually. As bloody as the last century was, only around 2% of the population died by violence. The historical average for humanity, based on the best information we have, is well into double digits. Civilization lowers the murder rate, and as a species we are becoming progressively more civilized.

I think you have to talk about that sort of thing in percentage terms. If you don't then murder automatically becomes "worse" as the population grows, even if the murder RATE drops.

no one said...

Jeff, your comments have been well reasoned. However, your last comment falls victim to the false dilemma fallacy. If we want to protect the piping plover, we may have to restore lost habitat. Removing feral cats from the habitat may not save piping plover.

If we care about preserving the piping plover, it's worthwhile exploring the distinction between what we need to do and what we are willing to do. But the immediate issue is feral cats in the plover habitat and what to do about them.

If we are honest about the threats to the plover, we are forced to admit that the survival of the plover does not depend on the shooting of feral cats. In fact, since hunting feral cats would probably involve disturbing plover nesting areas (since predators hunt in these areas), does hunting cats result in more harm than good?

For the record, I'm not making the argument that feral cats don't cause problems for plovers and other bird populations. Like you, I'm suggesting that the problem deserves a smart solution. I don't think shooting feral cats in populated areas is a smart long term solution.

jeff said...

"I can no longer apply the Gish Principle to these two commenters. They appear to believe the remarkably ridiculous things they write."

That would work better if you could demonstrate why their statements are ridiculous. I went back thru the comments I missed the extreme dumbness of what they said. Perhaps if you could explain why you disagree? It looks like on one topic someone mentioned the lady that had the abortion for mother earth. You asked for a cite, one was given. You then said she wouldn't have had an abortion if she had been sterilized and that it was a personal choice. I just skimmed, so if I have that wrong, let me know.
I think another was that if we go down the road to abortions for mother earth, it is a short step to culling the existing population. That seems to be a agree/disagree statement, but not a ridiculous one.
What am I missing here?

jeff said...

"If we want to protect the piping plover, we may have to restore lost habitat. Removing feral cats from the habitat may not save piping plover."

Yes, but that isn't going to happen in Galveston anymore than people are going to move out of Ohio for the deer. While it would accomplish the stated objective, it just isn't going to happen.

"I don't think shooting feral cats in populated areas is a smart long term solution."

Somewhere in that article it pointed out that where remove/fix/replace is tried, the population stabilizes and is more effected by attrition. So if historically it works and shooting doesn't then I go with what works. I just think the people wanting to outlaw it do it because it's a cat, and historically cute.

JSinger said...

As if there are no other ways to remove the cats. As if, we tried as hard as we could, and it hurt our heads really bad we tried so hard, but we just couldn't outhink those feral cats. We just couldn't do it.

There's a basic point that's being missed here. These aren't *legally* feral cats. If they were, trapping and removing them would be an appropriate response. But these cats are "owned" by John Newland and the other low-grade Michael Vicks who keep feeding them.

And even in locations where, unlike Galveston, the cat-feeding weirdos don't have legal ownership, they still have enough clout to prevent any systematic solution.

Pogo said...

I think you have to talk about that sort of thing in percentage terms.

Perhaps, but then you have to take great care not to fall into agreement with Stalin that The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic. This is especially true when considering that an entire people was very nearly exterminated, in Germany, Russia, China. More, this was state-issued violence in the absence of war, something that the world has little history of, at least in numbers like this, until now.

Sometimes big numbers are meaningful just because of their sheer size.
So there is something important

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
no one said...

How does the fact that the main negative impact on Piping Plovers is habitat destruction somehow mean that feral cat predation shouldn't be taken seriously?

I've said repeatedly that the feral cat population should be taken seriously. I don't think shooting feral cats in populated areas is a smart solution. I don't think it's an effective long term solution either. If we are going to try to solve the problem of feral cats, we need to start with enforcing responsible pet ownership. Otherwise we will continue to produce new generations of feral cats.

shouldn't secondary and tertiary threats be addressed?

Feral cats aren't the only piping plover predators. Crows, raccoons, skunks, and dogs (including pet dogs) are among other predators. Apparently many of these predators are drawn to nesting areas by trash left by beachgoers.

If piping plovers are worth protecting, we should take necessary and effective measures. Removing feral cats from the plover habitat should help at least a little if done intelligently, but it may not make a difference that will matter. That was my original point: the Stevenson case is not about a trade-off between feral cats and piping plovers. It's possible that we could remove all feral cats and still lose the piping plover. On the other hand, if plover habitat was sufficiently restored and nesting areas protected from human activity, plover numbers could increase in spite of the presence of feral cats.

Secondary and tertiary threats should be addressed, but assess honestly the impact of these threats and the costs and benefits of addressing them.

no one said...

More, this was state-issued violence in the absence of war, something that the world has little history of, at least in numbers like this, until now.

I don't know what you mean by "now," but this isn't accurate. It overlooks the democide of between 13 and 20 million Native Americans between 1500 and 1900. It ignores the deaths of more than 16 million Africans as victims of the Atlantic slave trade. It disregards the depopulation of the Congo in the late 1800s. It forgets about the mass extermination in Persia by Mongol invaders which is estimated to have reduced the population from 2.5 million to 0.25 million (i.e., leaving only 10% of the population).

no one said...

What am I missing here?

I don't know. I'm going to drop it because I don't want to antagonize the regulars. Maybe we can agree that ridiculousness is in the eye of the beholder.

Trooper York said...

Sally: Where did you come from?
The Cat: Hmm, How do I put this... When a mommy cat and a daddy cat love each other very much, they decide to...
Conrad: No, no, no, no, no. Where did you *come* from?
The Cat: My place, what do you think?
Dick Cheney: What are you doing here? Did Mary and Heather hire you as the babysitter?
The Cat: You pay a woman to sit on babies? That's disgusting... I do it for nothing.
Dick Cheney: (pulls out a pistol) Blamm! Blamm!. (shoots the cat in the hat) Dammit, do I have to do everything?
(The Cat in the Hat, 2003)

Cedarford said...

No One - Professor Rolston reasons poorly. His argument rests on the fallacy of false dilemma. Although piping plovers are endangered, this is due to "habitat loss and human activity near nesting sites," not feral cats. Although feral cats are a problem, sensible and humane solutions to the problem are available. There is no reasonable ecological basis for individuals to shoot feral cats as they individually see fit.

I'm afraid your reasoning is wrong. You fall into the fallacy that matters like war with Iraq, highway accidents, or species becoming endangered only have one Grand Root cause - mistaken WMD, excessive speed, and habitat loss - and other reasons or actions, like defying UN resolutions, highway drinking, or cats eating up endangered species must be ignored because it doesn't fit your "single cause" way of thinking.

In many cases, endangered "species pressure" on their surviving population has a variety of causes and all must be addressed.

The bald eagle was endangered in the lower 48 by DDT, hunting for it's feathers, habitat loss, nesting sites disturbed.

Simply saying it is "wrong" to stop hunting because "DDT was more significant" misses the point.

***************
Animal lovers have an additional emotional mindset that excludes any solution to "cute 'n cuddly" pests like goats infesting islands off California wiping out endangered species habitats, cute Aussie bunny rabbits wiping out the Outback, big eye-seals wiping out threatened steelhead trout runs in Oregon, deer-as-Lyme disease-spreading vermin in many suburbs, feral cats, plagues of rabid, but so sweet-looking raccoons...

Of course they don't bleed their hearts out for problem species that aren't so cute - like feral hogs, rats, cockroaches, and cane toads.

*****************
Jeff - If we stipulated that some sort of game warden was hired to shoot the cats, would that remove your objection to it?

Problem is in every community where it is argued that only agents of the state have the moral authority to kill surplus animal populations because it is a job, not a sport, and all the edible meat(mainly venison) is given only for the "homeless" to eat - in community after community, you have animal lovers attempting and mainly succeeding with their emotionally-driven bottomless pockets for lawyers - to block the owners of bird sanctuaries, farms - from protecting their property.

And there is something sick in saying that the sport of hunting should be abandoned along with the hunter's strong committment to habitat preservation so all the agents of the state harvest goes to "connected people" (venison a plenty for state cops, local officials, fish & wildlife employees) as well as the "homeless".

Akin to saying if there was a lobster population boom threatening crab and shellfish populations - that only state employees could be permitted to catch lobsters since they "wouldn't enjoy it" and lobsters would only be fed to "the homeless" (and stock the fridges of cops, local officials, and wildlife workers).

Quite stupid, and quite common a way of thinking on the East and West Coasts about dealing with varmint animals while sneering at evil hunters that Disney showed them were all bad...and help the beloved "homeless".

I am reminded that a wag said that discovery of a huge stockpile of 60 year old Jack Daniels in Kentucky this year - that it should be donated to "the homeless" like deer venison is. Because it would be "wrong" to sell luxury goods like aged Jack Daniels or venison to people that would pay premium amounts for it and add state revenue, and ordinary people would "enjoy getting the Jack Daniels reserve themselves too much to allow it".

Hattie said...

Hmm. I asked my cat about this, and he was, of course horrified. He told me he kills only introduced species.

Ralph said...

they would either become pancakes or coyote snacks
The first of our warehouse cats was named "Pancake" because he sniffs every vehicle that comes on the yard. He's been doing that nearly ten years without mishap. Most sociable cat I've ever met.
I've been trying to get my boss to have the newer feral cat fixed, but instead he feeds it. We gave away her first two litters, which pissed her off. The little slut's just had her fourth in the neighbor's cow shed, we think.

MadisonMan said...

It overlooks the democide of between 13 and 20 million Native Americans between 1500 and 1900.

Yes, it's too bad they weren't immune to introduced diseases. I wonder, though, if you can really blame the Europeans for that and call it a democide -- since they had little idea how the diseases spread. Democide to me (it's a stupid word I think) has always implied an edict to kill. There may have been one -- but the majority of deaths were disease.

no one said...

Yes, it's too bad they weren't immune to introduced diseases. I wonder, though, if you can really blame the Europeans for that and call it a democide -- since they had little idea how the diseases spread. Democide to me (it's a stupid word I think) has always implied an edict to kill. There may have been one -- but the majority of deaths were disease.

R.J. Rummel, creator of the word democide, estimates that although most native Americans died because of diseases spread by Europeans, "over the centuries of European colonization about 2 million to 15 million American indigenous people were killed by European settlers (i.e., victims of democide).

It's difficult to argue the position that European settlers didn't intend to kill Native Americans. The fact that most Native Americans died from introduced diseases seems to have been a "convenient" result for the colonial powers.

MadisonMan said...

The fact that most Native Americans died from introduced diseases seems to have been a "convenient" result for the colonial powers.

A gift from God.

MadisonMan said...

...and let me add:

When it comes to cats and birds, the majority of the deaths are from habitat destruction, so let's not shoot the cats.

When it comes to Native Americans, the majority of deaths are from introduced diseases, so let's focus on the shooting by the colonials.

Do you see a consistency in your thinking?

no one said...

I'm afraid your reasoning is wrong...In many cases, endangered "species pressure" on their surviving population has a variety of causes and all must be addressed.

I don't disagree that protecting endangered species requires consideration of all significant threats. However to argue that a minor threat to species survival is a critical threat while not bothering to address the primary threat is foolish.

It's clear you didn't understand my objection to Rolston's analysis. Rolston argues that there is a trade-off between feral cats and piping plovers. In fact that is a false choice. There isn't evidence that piping plovers are endangered because of feral cats, and there isn't evidence that piping plovers will not be endangered if feral cats are removed from the habitat. False dilemma, plain and simple.

Simply saying it is "wrong" to stop hunting because "DDT was more significant" misses the point.

This is a very poor analogy. I don't think anyone here has argued that feral cats shouldn't be removed from the habitat in one way or another. Your analogy also misses the point of Rolston's argument. Applying Rolston's reasoning to your example would result in the claim that there is a trade-off between hunting eagles and the existence of eagles. So if you apply his reasoning, the existence of eagles would have been assured if hunting had been banned but DDT use continued. In this context can you understand why that logic is faulty?

no one said...

When it comes to cats and birds, the majority of the deaths are from habitat destruction, so let's not shoot the cats.

You aren't following what I've written. The cats should be removed from the habitat, but not by shooting. In populated areas, shooting is not a safe way to eliminate cats. Since piping plover nesting areas are easily disturbed by humans, it makes little sense to have people hunt cats in these areas. It's far smarter, safer, and effective to eliminate the source of the feral cats as the primary method for addressing the problem. So, yes to removing cats from the habitat, and no to shooting feral cats. Also, if we want to protect piping plovers, don't pretend that eliminating feral cats from the habitat has seriously addressed piping plover survival threats.

When it comes to Native Americans, the majority of deaths are from introduced diseases, so let's focus on the shooting by the colonials.

This is an odd statement. The first issue was whether or not there have been massive numbers of people killed by democide prior to the twentieth century. The answer is yes, and I gave examples. The second issue is whether the death of Native Americans between 1500 and 1900 constitutes democide. According the the man who defined the term democide, the answer is yes.

I don't understand why you think this corresponds to a "focus on the shooting by the colonials." I assumed you wanted a refined estimate of the number of non-disease related deaths. I cited Rummel's estimate in response. Some people are hard to please.

Do you see a consistency in your thinking?

Absolutely. In the case of democide, I'm reporting the findings of people who have studied the subject. In the case of piping plovers, I'm reporting the findings of people who have studied the subject. Perfectly consistent.