So, this week we’ve had the war on cats, and also the war on wild horses. Last week, it was the war on wolves; and the week before, the war on goats (with suicide-bomb dingoes as the weapon of choice). And those are just a few of the “wars” against our fellow animals that have been in the headlines recently.
Why are we always at war with the other animals?
This week’s war on cats was declared by the authors of the new book Cat Wars: The Deadly Consequences of a Cuddly Killer, who are calling for the removal of all free-ranging cats “by any means necessary.” This, the book asserts, is the only solution if we are to protect the many birds and other small animals who are killed by free-ranging cats.
Cats do, indeed, prey on native wildlife when given a chance. And despite years of trap/neuter/return programs for feral cats, the problem persists. But the cats are not the agents of the problem; they are the instruments.
The primary threat to wildlife, whether in this country or any other, is not cats or horses or goats; it’s humans. And Cat Wars is just the latest in a long line of wars being launched to redirect the attention and blame other animals for the problems we humans have created.
In the case of the war on horses, the plan, hatched and recommended to the U.S. government by the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, would involve killing tens of thousands of horses. Happily, in this case, an outcry from horse lovers has prompted the Bureau of Land Management to announce that it is dropping the plan.
The favored solution to almost any wildlife problem that we humans have created is almost always to kill more animals.Also trying to distance themselves from what they’ve written, the authors and publishers of Cat Wars are now saying they “do not support the inhumane treatment of animals.” But the cat’s out of the bag since the book is already in print, and “by any means necessary” is right there on the page.
Just generally, whenever there’s a problem with an “invasive species”, the solution is always to crank up the killing machine. In Australia, the government has launched a plan to eradicate at least 2 million feral cats by 2020. And they keep coming up with new-fangled devices, the latest being a hi-tech automatic camera-gun that can recognize cats and fire a paint-ball-type poison onto their coats, which the cats will ingest when they’re grooming themselves, and then “go to sleep.”
But the underlying issue isn’t whether it works or not; it’s that the favored solution to almost any wildlife problem that we humans have created is almost always to kill more animals.
Florida is currently waging war on Burmese pythons. These up-to-nine-feet-long snakes first arrived in the state about 20 years ago, thanks to exotic animal traders. People bought them as pets or for their roadside zoos, and then, when the snakes became too large to handle, they simply dropped them off in the Everglades, where they’re now proliferating and eating everything from small mice to large deer. The state has sponsored trophy hunts and other killing sprees, but it’s a losing effort; the pythons have established themselves and there’s no way of removing them.
Across the rest of the United States, we’re still at permanent war against coyotes. We’ve been trying to exterminate them ever since Europeans arrived on this continent and took over their lands in order to graze sheep, cows and other farmed animals. According to Project Coyote, we still kill roughly half a million coyotes a year. But, ironically, all we’ve accomplished is pushing the coyotes to adapt faster and better. The most wily of them, known as “super-coyotes”, have learned to thrive not only in the wild, but also in cities and suburbs. (Check ’em out riding the subway, for example.)
Other wars on “invasive species” have included Britain’s “badger wars”, New Zealand’s “war on possums”, and China’s “sparrow wars”. As part of his Great Leap Forward, Chairman Mao widened the sparrow war into a “Four Pests” campaign that would eradicate sparrows, flies, mosquitoes and rats.
And speaking of mosquitoes, we now have a full-steam-ahead war on zika-bearing mosquitoes, which, of course, is also wiping out vast numbers of collateral-damage bees, butterflies and other animals, too.
In yet another sad irony, we have the elephants who are fleeing the ongoing mass murder of their entire species. To be an elephant these days is a bit like being a refugee from Syria. In hopes of finding safety for your family, your best bet is to head for Botswana, which is known by the elephants as a last place of refuge on the African continent.
Botswana now has more elephants than any other country in Africa – 130,451 according to the Great Elephant Census (GEC), which counted a total of 352,271 elephants in the 18 countries surveyed and expects that there will be only half that number by 2025.
So what’s the proposed solution? You guessed it: “Cull” the elephants.“Elephants clearly have a cognitive ability to understand where they are threatened and where they are safe,” Dr. Mike Chase of the GEC told the BBC. “In this case they’re seeking refuge and sanctuary in Botswana where they are well protected.”
The trouble is that Botswana is becoming overwhelmed by elephants – a bit like Greece was feeling overwhelmed by human refugees earlier this year. And the refugee pachyderms are coming into conflict with the ever-ballooning human population. So what’s the proposed solution? You guessed it: “Cull” the elephants.
For the conservation groups that are trying their best to protect the elephants, it’s a last-ditch solution and a miserable one. They’re very aware that there’s one factor at the root of all these challenges … one factor that cannot be mentioned … one invasive species whose presence creates chaos and suffering for all the other animals … and one topic that’s always off the table when it comes to proposing solutions: the human factor.
Until and unless we humans can take a bit of responsibility, look squarely in the mirror, and admit that we, and we alone, are the basic problem, we’ll just keep trying to kill our way out of the death and suffering that we carry with us, while continuing to tell ourselves that we stand at the pinnacle of all creation.