Published on Huffington Post on 4/2/14.
The old idea of a cat vs. bird feud works well for cartoons, but trying to apply this to the real world is just looney.
It’s not cats who birds should be worrying about — it’s us. Human impact on the environment has already destroyed many avian habitats. Despite this very real threat, national bird groups are conducting misguided campaigns that pit cats against birds and distract from the complicated threat posed by humans.
They’re spreading dangerous misinformation, and the underlying message is “kill even more cats.” But already, 70 percent of cats who enter our nation’s pounds and shelters are killed. Feral cats have almost no chance of getting out alive. And yet, bird groups advocate for more deadly round ups and more laws to punish compassionate citizens who care for these cats. They desperately cling to the most tenuous arguments against cats — even when there’s no connection to birds.
These groups rally around cruel catch and kill methods, even though they’ve failed to stabilize cat populations for the last century. Their goal is to preserve the status quo — keep killing cats. We are already killing millions of cats a year. It’s not helping birds — or cats — and we can do better.
While bird groups cling to propaganda, Alley Cat Allies brings real improvement. Tireless advocacy has prompted shelter policy reforms, and made lifesaving Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs for feral cats mainstream. More than 430 municipalities in the U.S. have officially endorsed this humane, effective approach.
As other groups try to roll back this progress, we are protecting both cats and birds. We recently launched our educational campaign Save the Birds to ensure that people know the truth about the very real, very pervasive threat to birds. Our video and infographics show just how many birds are killed because of human impact.
Habitat destruction, climate change, and pesticide use are just some of the human pressures on bird populations, and they will only increase if we continue blaming cats. As an organization founded on respect for all animals, Alley Cat Allies is speaking up to save birds and protect cats.
Cats have lived outdoors alongside people for more than 10,000 years, and the relationship between cats and birds hasn’t changed. It’s the relationship between humans and the environment that has changed.
The United States Census Bureau estimates the current population at 317.6 million, nearly 70 million more than in 1990 (a 28 percent increase). We’re poised to add 23 million more people per decade in the next 30 years. That kind of growth is unprecedented, and it has consequences. This rapid population growth — and use of resources — has already had an astounding impact on wildlife.
Dozens of ecosystem types have declined drastically as a direct result of humans. In the past 30 to 40 years, several North American shorebird species have declined by more than 70 percent, primarily because of wetland habitat loss, according to Craig Davis, a researcher and associate professor at Oklahoma State University. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimate that the U.S. alone lost 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands from 2004 to 2009 — about seven football fields every hour. These critical losses were 25 percent greater than the previous six years — a stark reminder of how quickly humans can devastate nature.
Climate change, undoubtedly a problem for the whole planet, is a major threat to birds. The National Wildlife Federation calls climate change “the most serious threat this century facing America’s migratory birds.” A recent review of nearly 200 scientific studies suggests that climate change will cause 600 to 900 land bird extinctions by 2100.
That’s not all. Window collisions kill nearly 100 million birds a year, automobiles kill another 80 million, and pesticides kill 70 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Current wind turbine designs kill 440,000 birds per year, but the New York Times reports the figure could exceed 1 million by 2030 as the number of wind farms grows.
When faced with our own impact and the tough steps required to mitigate it, some find it more convenient to blame cats. But we can’t settle for the easy option — especially when it’s wrong. Alley Cat Allies’ guiding vision is a society in which people value the lives of all animals. That’s why we stand up for cats and birds.