There's a bigger menace than cats

By Ross Pringle


The heat appears to have gone out of the Gareth Morgan cat fight, with most comment or communication confined to emails and web postings poking fun at the economist.

It's a shame the idea was reduced to ridicule, because there was a real issue to be debated.

But before I get too far, I must confess to having a cat - two, in fact. Yes, they hunt, and they no doubt catch things they shouldn't. But they certainly do a fine job of keeping down the number of rodents, which are known to be a threat to various native species.

Depending on which side you're on, cats are either helping sustain species or pushing them to the brink of extinction.

There can be no doubt that felines are an established part of the ecosystem - whether introduced or not - and history is littered with tales of survival of the fittest. That doesn't mean effort should not be expended to control them and limit the damage they can cause. On that front, Morgan is absolutely right; measures should be put in place to manage breeding and spread of these potential killers.

Maybe it's as simple as neutering and registering cats in the way dogs are, to keep a handle on population and identifying where problems might exist.

But really, are cats the worst offenders around? I doubt it. If protecting native species from the ravages of an alien predator was Morgan's real aim, he should perhaps have taken a good look in the mirror first. There must be serious doubt that cats could come close to causing the devastation to native species that mankind has managed.

Through destruction of habitat, poisoning waterways, introducing species into ecosystems where they don't belong (like cats) and even killing them ourselves, humans have wrought more harm to more species than cats could ever hope to.

So sure, let's have a debate about our feline friends, but we shouldn't be so blinkered as to skip out on our own responsibility.


- Wanganui Chronicle

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