Did you know the number one causes of bird deaths are pollution and habitat degradation caused by humans? This should be common sense to anyone following environmental research for the last...I dunno, fifty years or more. Or anyone with even half a brain. Yet, here we are where the average person will tell you the number one cause of bird deaths, causing mass bird extinctions globally, is the domestic cat, because some of some deeply flawed, obviously biased papers that somehow got passed the peer review process.
This rant brought to you by me, going through government websites to check what's on them, as I often do for fun, that it takes only a few hops to get to the US government itself promoting this stupid idea. Which isn't surprising, really, given the state of, well, every single regulatory body in the United States and the US still focusing on dumb shit like recycling plastic as a way to "save" the planet. Also, I'm really struggling more as time goes on to believe peer reviewed research really is as rigorous as it's claimed. Between all the cases of fake, paid for studies getting published that end up retracted when they get caught and all the weird nitpicking over "formatting" with little to no concern over the actual data I've heard about the process from professors and researchers, I feel like we probably need to work on creating some kind of agency or at least laws around checking how "peer reviewing" is even really being done. Because right now, the system is looking very pay-to-win, if you know what I mean. We can't just rely on the assumption something has been properly peer reviewed anymore. We need to be checking through papers ourselves and having more experts outside these reviewing bodies check. We need to educate the general public on how to read science papers and what to look for as signs of bad data, bias, or conflicts of interest. It astounds me how often I see young people fall for "research" about how safe a product is that is fully funded and done in house by the companies selling the products. My god, please don't be that naive.
But back to that main point. You've probably seen this spread on Reddit, Twitch, and Youtube a lot. It gets some push back on Tumblr, but Tumblr is a stupid place where people promote PETA as "actually no guys they're really good you've just been tricked". It's based primarily on piss poorly done study from 2013. See here
for why this study is a bunch of horseshit. This really, really kicked off this now over a decade long push to blame cats for declining bird populations. You've probably seen some more recent studies still promoting this idea, because they really, really want you to blame cats for this shit. And here's some debunking on that
as well. But I'll go ahead and highlight my favorite part of this more recent one--a study promoting that cats are still eating birds en masse that doesn't distinguish between scavenging and hunting, so thus includes emu, sea turtle, and cow as part of the cat's diet in its data to promote that cats are "hunting" too many birds. Sea turtle, man. What. And no, they're not claiming the cats scavenged all of that meat or were fed it by a human, they are claiming cats can hunt
cows. Quote from the link: "The authors offered a weak caveat that "many of the largest species recorded were likely to have been predated as juveniles or scavenged as adults,” but we think all can agree that cats’ predation of these species is very unlikely."
Cows. Man, cows. I think we can all assume if cow is in a cat's diet it was "scavenged" from human food
or as a product in food intended for cats
. Like holy shit. This is why you should always read papers. If you want more cat-bias, this same paper suggests cats are dangerous for potentially being rabies spreaders, a disease cats can definitely get but are far from being the most likely way you'd get rabies. The odds your cat will give you rabies is about the same as a dog, but we're not pushing for killing all pet dogs, now are we?
Why is everyone okay with this bullshit then if it's obvious bullshit? Well, simple, people, in particular people from European and European-influenced cultures, have a long standing history with blaming cats for pretty much anything. It's culturally ingrained. Hell, in rural areas of America, shooting cats and avoiding cat ownership is pretty encouraged because cats are "evil", unlike dogs. Cats are tied to the devil, witches, vampires, femininity, all those bad things. Blame a cat for something, and you don't need to present real evidence that you're correct. Many in those cultures will just believe you point blank. When I worked at a cat shelter, we struggled to adopt out any black cats. Staff were also more likely to label a black cat as "dangerous" than any other kind of cat to the point, we had to have an internal meeting over this to deal with this. So, even cat lovers often have anti-cat biases tied back to this stupid medieval superstitious nonsense, it's just more fine-tuned down to black cats rather than all cats. That's the first half of this.
The second half is birdwatchers complaining about the natural shifting in bird populations looking for an easy target. They're the primary promoters of this crap. I'll get more into that later. The third component of this is the most obvious. Who benefits from saying "actually, it's not pollution or habitat destruction, but cats that are killing all the birds"? I think you already know the answer. Why, polluting, ecosystem destroying corporations, of course. Who owns the mass media that overhypes this? People who also have vested interest in decreasing regulations and concerns over climate change.
But then, why are some conservationists even promoting it? You'll note it's only birdwatching related groups that do. What I find interesting about this is the shift to calling the cat, a human-domesticated animal that have been with humans for 10 millennia, the same length as dogs and likely longer than cows, as "one of the most widespread invasive animals ever". How long does an animal have to exist in an area before it's native? Surely, in plenty of these locations, the cat has been there for multiple thousands of years now. As far as I can find, the earliest record we can find to clue us in about cat domestication is in the middle east, in Iran, from about 10,000 years ago. Should all cats be confined only to Iran? The domestic cat is associated with multiple "old" religions outside Iran, including through the goddesses Freyja, Artemis, Hecate, and Bastet. Domestic cats were especially sacred in ancient Egypt. Japan has multiple folklore tied to the cat that are older than the colonization of America. How far back is back enough? Cats are wherever humans travel. How can the cat be the most invasive animal if we are not? After all, our ancestors belong somewhere likely in the middle east or the upper part of Africa. Should we all migrate back there too? Where should the dog go? Though added after the Chinese zodiac had already existed, there are myths around why the cat was not in the Zodiac. The cat has been in China for at least about 2000 years now. How can we call something that's been deeply embedded already in the human culture globally for literally thousands of years and therefore, been interacting with the local ecosystems for just as long "invasive"? Part of how natural selection, evolution, works is due to migration related forces. Migration in and out of areas is part of nature. How long must something be there before we accept it now is part of that place? Should they be removed? Should they all be returned to their original "source"? Can you ever truly even define the "origin" of something so neatly when both domestication and speciation are not neatly done events where there's a clearly defined "end" and "start" of an organism versus what it came from?
Freyja with Bygul and Trjegul
Not to go all Ellie Sattler on you, but at a certain point, an ecosystem evolves and living organisms that may have previously lived on that land are no longer suitable for that environment. It's one of the major concerns when dealing with the potential ethics of de-extinction programs. Should we bother to revive animals and plants we've caused the extinction over decades or centuries ago and return them to where they once lived? Nature moves on. Whatever niches those organisms previously filled have now been filled by something else. Reintroducing them after a long enough time could actually seriously disrupt the current ecosystem in that area and cause a whole new set of species to go extinct instead. Regardless of getting into human-caused extinctions, it's important to note--nature itself is always causing extinction to occur
. That is the way the system operates. At some point, let it go. Leave the animals and plants to sort it out themselves who will survive.
Any attempts at eradicating an invasive species from even a small area, like a tiny island, have always been massively expensive and rarely work. But killing en masse seems to be the go to for most idiots, because it's the easiest thing to try. Kill, kill, kill. Find something to kill. Or the equally stupid idea of introducing something else to hope it kills the thing you want it to kill, and well, you can guess what happens there--now you have another invasive species that's probably also overpopulating and causing another set of new extinctions. Nature is always "balancing out" whatever is in it. Not everyone wins the game.
When I was at college, I remember a student asking a botanist I had as a professor for Plant Ecology why we didn't just kill all the invasive plants in Georgia. She took us then on a nature walk in the woods behind the school and we spent the class identifying the plants out there, and whether they were native to Georgia or not. More than 70% of the plants we identified that day were technically "invasive". The land adjusted though. Invasive is a loaded word, generally one avoided by actual environmental scientists and one I immediately take as a red flag when I see someone making claims about protecting the environment. The number one cause of the Earth's biosphere suffering right now is us, it's been us for centuries. Possibly even millennia, depending on how you look at it. There is no species on the planet that has "invaded" as much land as us and killed off as many other species as us, and that's pre-Industrial revolution. Hell, that may even be pre-human civilization. We are the cause of the current mass extinction, however broadly or narrowly you wish to define it. That's simply a fact. We pose more threat to every single living organism on planet Earth than any other organism poses to any other organism. But we don't go around saying the solution to that is "well, let's just off ourselves", now do we? Only extremists make suggestions like that, but we certainly have no problem dishing that out to animals causing far less damage because some bird watchers don't like how nature functions and we can't get over hating "witches" and other old, superstitious fears.
Something else "fun" I noticed while looking into this cat paranoia is that there was often some anti-bird stuff in there too. Now, bird watchers wouldn't dare suggest killing predator birds, they like to check them off on their list too. However, I did notice loads of tips on how to protect seed-eating birds from bird-eating predator birds, including providing shelters for them and other ways to hide them from their natural
predators. This extended to tips not just on the "keeps cats away", but other natural
ground predators of birds. Birdwatching groups are using cats as their scapegoat, but they're actually pro-interfering in nature in general if it means they get to watch as many non-predator birds as possible hang out around their human dwellings. Exactly what about that is related to conservation
? Snakes eat birds, other birds eat birds, birds are a natural
(and small) component of feline diets, all kinds of animals eat birds. They have an in with cats though, because they're domesticated. They live wherever we live. They've been domesticated for over 10,000 years, as long as dogs. Few would dare label a dog "invasive", and yet we are fine with doing it for cats for their history being effectively the same as dogs as to why they are wherever they are.
American cat-haters will claim cats were brought by European settlers and have only been here as long as the colonies in America, which is still at this point several centuries. Colonization of the Americas began at the very end of the 15th century, right at the cusp of the 15th and 16th century. If we round up to the 16th century, that's a roughly about half a millennia. That's absolutely long enough for an environment to have already began, if not outright adjusted to new species. But what about all the birds going extinct due to cats? Well, that's the funny thing. The devil's in the details. While cat introduction by European settlers can be attributed to those deaths, nearly all of them were under a very specific circumstance and time period--19th century on small islands. That's right. We're using justification to kill cats in the 21st century based on the loss of a few species of birds on small islands in the 1800s. But what about all those millions of birds killed by cats a year?
And how many were killed by human reasons each year? This is a distraction and displacement of responsibility to some non-corporate entity. Cats, personal carbon footprints, yada yada yada. It's always corporations and governments allowing corporations to get away with heinous things. That is always the real answer. It's why even when we do make some minor progress with anything environmental, it's never enough as it should be, it's never soon enough, and it's always in a way that causes the least amount of financial damage to the people causing the highest amount of physical damage to the planet. Before this current cat-blaming shift (which started strongest in 2012-2013 and has only ramped up since), people were all too eager to blame wind turbines, and point out the "irony" of an eco-solution actually causing "mass death". This was of course, bullshit, and just another tactic in a massive stream of neverending bullshit spewed each year to stop focus on the actual people causing all of this. It never ends. It's why the Amazon is being destroyed--all those campaigns in the 90s were just to steal the land from indigenous tribes who were managing the forest properly with some controlled fires to now being stripped down by companies from out of country for max profit. Many green initiatives are greenwashing in disguise, if not some other kind of Trojan horse to snatch something from a vulnerable group. That's too lengthy of a subject to cover here, but it's is exhausting. I get why people fall for this shit, because agencies labeled as "good for the Earth" are often anything but. I recently retracted my section on better sourced fountain pen friendly paper because the organizations overseeing that stuff have been caught not actually doing what they claim and have been working to actively promote destruction of forests at this point by using their supposed mission of protecting forests as the very leverage to destroy it. (This is true for many animal welfare groups as well. Fuck PETA, obviously, but also the AZA, the WWF, ASPCA, the whole lot of them.)
Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) has been the most effective way of reducing feral cat colonies. I know I'm referencing this site a lot, but it just has a lot convenient, quick summaries. Here's a list of research papers on the effectiveness of TNR programs
. And here's an article
from Snopes debunking some other common nonsense spread by the cat-haters about the supposed destruction.
Hilariously, I've seen people heavily promoting coyote as helpful cat killers as a great solution to this problem, including calling them "natural" predators of domestic cats. (How can they be the natural predators of an animal that's supposed to be invasive to their land? Hmm...) I would classify them as such wherever coyote are naturally, but in my own state, Georgia, coyote are not native to here. They've only come into our state since the wolf went extinct here. Coyote have been here well under 100 years, but are being championed as a great solution to get rid of animals that have been here for far longer. Meanwhile, wolf reintroduction programs have pretty much lost all major ground here. Wolves are scary and big, coyote are smaller and thus "cute". A lot of people seem to think they're like dogs. While coyote generally don't attack humans, coydogs (coyote-dog hybrids) might as they're more aggressive than coyotes and dogs, similar to wolfdogs. And just like with cats here in the South, proper spaying and neutering of dogs is nowhere near as common as it should be. This could be it's own little problem in the making, at least for human-animal interactions. Coyote will likely eventually really just be another part of the Georgia landscape now that both the wolf and the mountain lion have gone extinct in the state and coyote are thriving. I don't reject that, but I do find the logic here in coyote vs cat to be telling that this really isn't about "invasiveness" in the slightest. Coyote is labeled a pest here, killable on sight for a bounty, while simultaneously being promoted as an animal to save the birds.
But back to that point about coyotes and feral cats, do you know what happens in an area where you kill feral cats all at once? Whatever predator was feeding on them moves deeper in, closer to humans looking for quick food. Mass kill programs are a good way to get that coyote, wolf, mountain lion, or whatever other predator you have nearby closer to your backdoor, desperately seeking any scraps it can get quickly, like your little chihuahua on your morning walk or trash out of your garbage can. TNR slowly causes a colony to collapse. Once the colony finally collapses, the predator, unable to get enough to eat there, has long moved on to somewhere else where there's a bigger supply of food. Of course, this is if there is land for them to hunt on left. Urban coyotes, for example, are often that way because there aren't as many places to go. Your old McDonald's and rats and any other small animal they can get will do just fine. You should always be cautious with small animals and small children where larger predators may be. As we continue to destroy the Earth, more and more of these kinds of animals will have no choice but to be right up on us.
Which gets back to how we got here, human caused destruction. For now, tale as old as time, when shit is bad, let's blame the cat. Coyote will get his turn eventually too when more are at your door because he's got nowhere to go either and he's hungry. Jaguar are currently making their way across the US now. I won't blame the jaguar for whatever it ends up eating. They're nearly extinct in their original homes. They're just trying to find somewhere to live. And that's how nature's supposed to work, at least in terms of survival. They'll survive where they can. The point of human-interventions in nature should be exclusive
to us fixing destruction we directly caused, like chopping down entire forests and filling the ocean with plastic, not when animals and plants start dropping due to natural selection. Sure, humans brought cats to the Americas and other places, but you know who came with them? Migrating humans. Cats have been in the US about as long as white people and longer than all other ethnic groups outside of Native Americans, who themselves originally came here via several different migrations out of Asia. Are we going to label white people an invasive group to America? If the cats must go, shouldn't all European everything go with them then? Farming techniques and general land management employed by descendants of European settlers have often been from European ideals or based on European land management, often to disastrous results. (That is how Georgia got Providence Canyon
, after all.) But no one serious would make such a suggestion as to remove all individuals with non-indigenous ancestry from the Americas. However you could measure that, you'd end up with some messed up results. Nearly every indigenous person in the Americas has ancestry to other locations, not all tribes across the Americas have US or Canadian federal recognition and LatAm/Abya Yala doesn't even use a system like that, not all individuals with ancestry to one that would qualify are currently registered, and plenty of individuals with tribal affiliation have, presently, 100% European genetics. Just a side note. I see dumb people on Tumblr seriously suggest this at times, without realizing following the narrow definition of US tribal affiliation would hilariously kick out Latinos with higher percents of indigenous ancestry while keeping people with 0% remaining ancestry, blond hair, blue eyes, and peachy pink skin still firmly on US soil. Tribal affiliation and indigenous ancestry are not one in the same thing, and have a complex history. Please think your extremist arguments through, children. The opposite, of doing it by DNA, would keep people who have lost cultural connection to indigenous practices while booting some who may no longer have the genetic make-up but still keep alive the practices. What would be more important in terms of the environment, what is more natural--the genes or the behavior these individuals have towards the land? Should we go by appearance, which would tell you far less about genes or culture than most think? Or, as we are all just one species, should even Native Americans be removed from here and sent back to our most ancient place, as that is where humans are originally "native" to?
This is a stupid argument, as stupid as claiming cats are the most invasive species ever while claiming they're invasive to locations they've been in for, in come cases, multiple millennia. We shouldn't go around slaughtering all cats. You should in fact keep your cats indoor. Not because of birds they rarely eat (even the "big" anti-cat studies mention it's primarily just feral cats that sometimes eat birds), but because indoor cats live longer and have generally better health and less exposure to parasites and fleas. You should spay and neuter cats and dogs (including through TNR programs), because this effectively decreases feral populations (which often start from abandoned or lost pets). If you can no longer care for your cat due to sudden changes in living situations, rehome your cat or find someone who can. I would avoid county run shelters though. They will kill your cat for something as minor as coming in with ringworm, a fully treatable condition. Investigate the conditions of local supposedly "no kill" shelters. There is no such thing as a true no kill shelter, they all have different rules on when they will euthanize. Ask questions on what "no kill" really means to them in their policy. If you do not currently have a pet, assess realistically if you can even take one in. Avoid breeders. If you discover a cat colony location, call around locally to see if there is a TNR program in your area or look into starting up one. If you see a cat with the tip of one ear cleanly clipped, that means that feral has likely already been spayed or neutered. This marking is used to help identify which feral cats still need to be sterilized.
And most importantly, vote for stricter regulations and more oversight into mega-corporations. Research every single "green" and "conservation" organization for biases and hidden agendas. Check if research being heavily promoted by the media is actually meaningful or not. As I've mentioned elsewhere, you should be wary of people who promote recycling as the most important thing ever for an individual to do. Recycling is really the last thing you should consider doing, short of tossing something. Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle is a hierarchical order. The first option is always do not bring it into your house to start with
. And remember, ultimately, at the end of the day, little you do actually "helps" enough to save the planet, not even collectively. You should still participate in these actions not
because we "collectively" will be able to change the world by our individual actions in relations to products, but because in a properly protected world, this would be the things citizens would be expected to do out of upkeep for such a society and many things are just simply harmful to you to consume or use. The planet cannot support a mass-consumeristic global economy with limitless disposable comforts catered to every micro-labeled individual niche interests. We are not innovating our way out of that. If you have hope for the future, you need to get yourself already accustomed to the life you'll need to be living in a world like that. We need to work on unlearning that your expression of your self is one through ways that make you convenient to market to and by what things we own or consume. Hyper-individualistic cultures don't push empathy, they push sociopathy and greed as a more desirable traits for thriving in those cultures. The messaging that you, as an individual, matter in the fate of the planet was some quite clever work by the oil guys. It feeds directly into that inflated ego American culture gives everyone while simultaneously pushing the blame off themselves. That, coupled with our money worship and worship of individuals with money, and it's really not surprising that we've made so little progress that every year we break through already grim projections. We also must unlearn that solution should be easy. If you sacrificed nothing, you likely accomplished nothing as well. We won't save anything by posting an image of support on Instagram or fighting with a bot on Reddit designed to promote division. We have to do real work, and as much of it as we can, not as little as we can get away with and still get the social kudos for it.
You, individually, don't cause the destruction of the biosphere. You do not control the bigger mechanisms in the system that does, and there is little you can do at the bottom level. There is no ethical way to produce much of anything on Earth currently, if you follow down the supply chain far enough. It goes without saying your pets and any animal currently around you are non-factors in the current threats to the world at large. You should be leery of anyone who tells you a solution to a complex problem involves the mass killing of any living being, human or animal. You should be doubly suspicious if that mass killing of either group is to protect the planet, protect another vulnerable group, or to protect them from their own selves. You should be suspicious of every article that spurs hatred, fear, or anxiety in you when you read it. There are plenty of things in the world to be afraid of that are real, but news corporations favor these types of stories. More importantly, they are typically written in a pro-corporate manner. This is true more than at any point in the past as journalistic standards mean effectively nothing at this point. It's been a common thing in the science community to note that articles often misrepresent (if not outright lie about) findings to get more views/clicks, and the ones that correct the sensationalize articles and videos rarely get any attention, nor do article updates admitting to lying. The greatest threat to planet earth right now is humans, but not humans as a whole. It's specific rich humans who control how mega-corporations and industries are run. If these individuals collectively got together to work towards a solution to protect the world, they could and have all the power already to do that. They will not do so on their own. We, the rest of the collective population, need to remain focused on the goal of restricting these individuals' power to cause damage--via voting, promoting and pushing for legislation related to regulations, strengthening regulatory bodies and ousting "foxes" in those hen houses as it were, and rejecting wherever possible what we don't need in our lives. Stop falling for scapegoats. The source has never changed.
And rather than get your "knowledge" from social media and Wikipedia, make a habit of reading textbooks aimed at a college level and familiarize yourself with what different agencies do and do not do. I've brought up elsewhere before a lot of things in the US are flat-out not regulated at all
, so there is nothing "proving" their safety. For environmental education, I'd recommend against general "environmental science" books, as these are usually aimed at non-science majors taking the course as an elective. Look for more specific things like "Environmental Biology" or "Environmental Chemistry", and so on. I also recommend reading declassified documents and major lawsuits against corporations to understand how heinous things can be done out in the open and kept hidden or even promoted. For starters, as this would have plenty to find right away, I'd suggest reading up on DuPont. The most powerful in the world value money, not people, and certainly not any animal's well being.