Editorial: Pet subject strays into fantasy land

By Peter Fowler

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As Gareth Morgan continues his crusade against cats, supposedly to save native birds, one wonders what the end game is for him on the issue and whether he has a bad case of ailurophobia - the persistent, irrational fear of cats.

Each week Mr Morgan seems to find a new way to "skin the cat" and make the news, this week putting "wanted" posters up for SPCA board members at a small meeting in Karori.

Every year SPCA centres around the country receive 60,000 animals through their doors with 14,000 animal-welfare complaints, with many requiring return or follow-up visits. Much of this work is done by volunteers, and for Mr Morgan to put up childish wanted posters smacks of a shallow, attention-seeking media stunt against an honourable and important institution in our society.

Mr Morgan doesn't deserve any more coverage on this issue because his crusade is clearly now just self-indulgent fantasy. Hundreds of thousands of cat owners are not going to confine their cats indoors. It just won't happen. There's no popular support for it, political or otherwise. So where are we going with this? It just seems to be all about Gareth.

If we want to have a debate about saving native birds, let us start with the biggest culprit of all, humans. Look at a photo of Hawke's Bay from space. It is devoid of forest. The Once-ler has been and gone and the Lorax isn't going to suddenly appear to save our precious birds. Sure we have trees on orchards, but birds are actively sought and shot in that environment. Never mind the cats.

To see how birds thrived in Hawke's Bay before we chopped all the native forest down, visit Elsthorpe Scenic Reserve, where native birds flourish among the mature kahikatea, matai, miro and totara trees.

Habitat loss is the biggest cause of bird deaths, so if we are concerned about native birds, we should be restoring habitats.

Other factors killing birds are large-scale pollution, window collisions, rodent poison, oil spills, and automobiles, to name a few. How many birds has Mr Morgan run over on his extensive road bike trips? Shall we start a campaign to ban motorbikes because they can kill birds?

If he really wants to save native birds, Mr Morgan should visit Cape Sanctuary in Hawke's Bay and see how it is being done. It is owned by Julian Robertson, and the Hansen and Lowe families. These landowners have a worthy and honorable vision to restore the coastal communities of landbirds, seabirds, reptiles and invertebrates that would once have existed on the peninsula. These efforts are what should be focussed on.

Mr Morgan has been a worthy advocate of the environment, but his credibility in this area is rapidly faltering as he appears to teeter on the fringe. There are, after all, only so many ways you can skin a cat, and he now risks a legacy of "that rich nutter obsessed with wanting to get rid of cats".

- Hawkes Bay Today

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