There’s no denying that nature can be cruel; beautiful and sublime, yet cruel. That whole "survival of the fittest" business means that bigger, stronger and smarter creatures quell smaller and weaker creatures to endure, resulting in no shortage of cruel carnage. Such is nature.
Take cats, for example. A University of Georgia and National Geographic study attached kitty cams to outdoor cats to reveal some shocking results. Our purring, fuzzy, beloved kitties are killing machines once they hit the fresh air. Free-roaming house cats take out an estimated 4 billion wild animals across the U.S. every year, including birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
In New Zealand, cats have contributed to the extinction of nine native bird species and have an impact on 33 endangered native bird species. For much of history, native New Zealand birds had no predators and flourished, but since the arrival of mankind and our cats, dogs and rodents, many native bird species have suffered.
Which is where philanthropic economist and businessman Gareth Morgan steps in. Morgan envisions a New Zealand free of cats. His website, Cats To Go, was set up to promote the campaign. It opens with, “That little ball of fluff you own is a natural born killer. Every year cats in New Zealand destroy our native wildlife. The fact is that cats have to go if we really care about our environment.”
Needless to say, Kiwi cat lovers are not too happy with the concept.
Although Morgan doesn't come right out and suggest that people euthanize their cats (although the site does mention it as an option), he urges pet owners not to replace their cats when they die. He also pleads with people to keep their cats indoors and suggests that local governments should make registration mandatory.
"Imagine a New Zealand teeming with native wildlife, penguins on the beach, kiwis roaming about in your garden," Morgan writes on his website. "Imagine hearing birdsong in our cities."
New Zealanders love their cats, and in fact, the country boasts one of the highest cat ownership rates in the world. As of Jan. 22 on the Cats to Go site, 71 percent of pollsters voted against the cat sweep.
"I say to Gareth Morgan, butt out of our lives," Bob Kerridge, the president of the Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, told the current affairs show "Campbell Live." "Don't deprive us of the beautiful companionship that a cat can provide individually and as a family."
And although Morgan’s site lists statistics showing how the flushing of felines would help the avian set, other experts say that if an ecosystem were suddenly rid of cats, the order of things would quickly go to hell in a hand basket. Cats keep the rodent population in control; to remove cats from the equation would create a domino effect of ecological mayhem.
To that end, Morgan notes, “we need to get rid of cats and rats if we are to achieve our vision of a pest free New Zealand.”
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