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Dude, joking about crushing stray cats is not cool. What? You weren’t joking? Duuuuuude……

Posted by Karel Minor in Uncategorized

You may have seen the sudden flurry of indignation surrounding a report on feral cat management released by the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.  First, let me say this report is mostly a rehash of things you can find throughout the internet, that it is not a well written report and is full of uncited and unfootnoted “estimates” and “assumptions” (good luck getting that level of quality through your dissertation defense, boys), and it appears to be researched and written by a bunch of students.

Despite having pretty much disregarded the entire work in my “Firstly”, it does bear notice that it has a couple particularly stupid and politically tone deaf suggestions, such as shooting feral cats and using “crush traps” to control feral populations.  I guess as long as they don’t video tape the crushing while wearing high heels, those traps might be legal, but really, boys, crushing feral cats?  If anyone takes away a win on this school project, it’s the AVMA, much vilified for not taking more humane positions on things like allowable euthanasia techniques, but relegated in this report to the bleeding heart class by these hard-hearted undergrads for presumably drawing the line at stoning cats.

While this “report” is not worth the litter pan lining it will become, even total absurdities like this will become fodder for someone’s effort to justify something stupid down the road.  “Why did I shoot all the cats in my neighborhood?  Because U of N said it was the way to get rid of them.”  The defense rests.

However, I would like to make the case that we animal people bring this nonsense on ourselves through our unwillingness to ever accept any approach or variety of approaches to solve a problem unless it is the oneapproach we happen to endorse.  By doing so, numbskulls can sling together bits of chaff with their wheat in reports like this with a clean conscience by telling themselves that because we oppose everything unreasonably, even some things that may be reasonable, then anything must be reasonable, even the intellectual turds like cat crushing.

By selectively choosing the reality we will recognize and limiting the targets we address while at the same time applying our thesis universally, we open ourselves up for easy intellectual target practice.  TNR is a great example.  For years, advocates rightly faulted the sheltering community for insisting that trap and euthanize was the only solution and that TNR was not an alternative.  TNR advocates were right.  We were ignoring an option because we (and I was part of that We twenty years ago, although in my defense I was 22) were dogmatic in our attachment to the concept that a feral life was an inhumane life. 

Now, however, the sheltering community is increasingly seeing the light and recognizing that there are alternatives and maybe a feral life is not preferable to a sure death (especially for the cat).  Guess what?  Now the TNR community is increasingly becoming dogmatic that TNR is the only solution.  How funny is that?  They point to limited studies, which even this piece of crap report rightly says are neither definitive nor substantial, claiming that we now have proof of the effectiveness of the golden way of TNR.

Not so fast.  The problem is that TNR folks ignore one big problem.  No matter how good your TNR program is, no matter how much educational outreach you do to the community, right now some people and municipalities just don’t want feral cats around.  It doesn’t matter if they are fed, monitored, sterilized- they just don’t want them.  Period.  That is not unreasonable.

If there are not other alternatives offered to them by the feral advocates and if TNR is the only one on the table, people who don’t want feral cats will not only find another “solution” they will find it in the pages of reports like this and will decide that we (and now I lump the sheltering community in with the TNR advocates since we are viewed by the general public as cut from the same cloth) are not honest partners in finding a solution.  We are instead zealots faithful to our one true religion and accepting no other faith as legitimate. 

The other trick our side plays, generally against ourselves, is the game of bad calculus.  This is a special talent of He Who Must Not Be Named for fear of setting off the tracking hex which will draw his dark power down upon our lowly organizations.  OK, I’m kidding, I mean Nathan Winograd.

His central thesis of “stop the killing” is perfectly acceptable and was, in fact, being widely embraced before he showed up to lay claim to it.  His problem and the problem that helps lead to reports such as the U of N report, is when he starts to use voodoo math to justify his arguments and to vilify all others.  Just like Reagan’s so-called voodoo economics were faulted for working on paper but not in the real world (interestingly by those in his own party, specifically G. H. W. Bush who actually coined the phrase, making the parallel here even more apropos ), the No Kill Lord’s math demonstrably only works on paper, just like many TNR arguments.

You can list the replacement rates within communities all you want but numbers are not animals and people are not subject to biome calculations.  No matter how much you pad the case with side arguments, the calculus is central to the argument and the the calculus only works if you assume equal desirability and equal desire.  But we know that is not the case.  People do not make decisions based on math, they make them based on personal feeling.  And people feel they want kittens and puppies.  Again, that is not unreasonable.  Our desire to save every animal life does not obligate the rest of the world to decide they want a 15 year old black cat rather than a seven week old calico kitten.  It’s all fuzzy math and as soon as you replace numbers on a page with actual, real lives, it isn’t quite so easy.

And if you question that, just look at a different but similar model: human adoption.  People are clamoring to get a baby, but orphanages still have older kids sitting and waiting.  On paper, there are more than enough people to adopt every non-infant child.  But in the real world, if you are ten years old and black, it doesn’t matter if you are a child or a dog, you will have a harder time being adopted than a cute white puppy or baby.  To deny that, even with voodoo adoption economics, is a lie, not a disagreement.

And I won’t even get started on the bad math the Spay/Neuter crowd slings around about two unsterilized cats leading to 400,000 in five years or whatever some still claim.  I just looked out my window and saw grass, not cats.  That one is clearly indefensible.

So, since a snarky slam on what seems to be more an educated school boy prank than a serious feral cat control report has started to morph into a semi-rant about our own side, I’ll distill it down into a couple sentences.

As long as we continue to be dogmatic and inflexible, there will be no one to have a conversation  with about our concerns except those who agree with us entirely, and that is very few of those in the world.  As long as we cling to intellectual and mathematical exercises as the defense against addressing real world issues, in the face of much real world evidence to the contrary of our exercise, we will not be making the change we seek.  We need to be more open, flexible and honest. 

Otherwise, we just end up with more Ag heroes like the U of N boys who will probably spend their weekend hitting on chicks by telling them how much all us animal people attacked them for standing up to us and our stupid, bleeding-heart, Ivy-League, kitten-hugging, won’t-work-in-the-real-world, ideas.

PS- If you read this, Nathan, please don’t unleash the dementors.  I’m just a little nobody.  You’ll show your real power by ignoring me.

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