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I Am FED UP With Murderous Bird Advocates Who Call for Poisoning Feral Cats!

An Audubon Magazine writer's suggestion to poison feral cats with acetaminophen, and the resulting shenanigans, have me seeing red.

 |  Mar 29th 2013  |   158 Contributions


A week or so ago, Audubon Magazine Editor-at-Large Ted Williams’ opinion piece was published in the Orlando Sentinel, and the entire cat blogosphere went ballistic.

The piece was against trap-neuter-return, not surprising for people in the hardcore “cats kill gazillions of birds and must die” camp, so nobody was surprised by that. What had us all appalled and furious about the article was this statement: “There are two effective, humane alternatives to the cat hell of TNR. One is [acetaminophen], (the human pain medication) -- a completely selective feral-cat poison. But the TNR lobby has blocked its registration for this use. The other is trap and euthanize.”

Of course cats catch and kill birds! It would be naive to think they don't. ... Cat carrying dead bird by Shutterstock

The TNR lobby has blocked the drug’s registration for the use of deliberately poisoning feral cats? I wonder why! Maybe because it’s a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to kill outdoor cats -- feral or otherwise. Or maybe because, according to an article in Petplace, this is what happens when a cat is poisoned with the stuff:

  • Stage 1 (0-12 hours). Symptoms include vomiting, dullness, difficulty breathing, lethargy, anorexia, weakness, development of brown-colored gums (instead of a normal pink color) and drooling.
  • Stage 2 (12-24 hours). Symptoms include swelling of the face, lips and limbs, uncoordinated movements, convulsions, coma, and potential death.
  • Stage 3 (more than 24 hours). Symptoms are associated with liver failure and include a painful belly, jaundice (yellow tinge to gums, eyes and skin) and an inappropriate mental state.

Acetaminophen poisoning is a slow, grisly, painful, horrific, and completely inhumane death!

But wait, it gets better: After outcry from community cats all over the country, the op-ed column was quietly sanitized to remove the acetaminophen reference. Fortunately, the Internet is forever, and plenty of people had the presence of mind to take screen shots of the original column before the Sentinel’s editors whitewashed it.

... but advocating for murder is RIDICULOUS! See the full op-ed here.

A couple of days later, after the calls for action continued, Williams issued a classic non-apology: “While the statement was not inaccurate, it was unwise because readers might construe it as a suggestion to go out and start poisoning feral cats. What’s more, the statement could be, indeed was, manipulated by feral-cat advocates into something I didn’t write or intend. I should have used the generic, lesser-known name.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way” and “I’m sorry X twisted my words” and "I should have used the generic name" are not apologies. They’re excuses.

Of course, cats also catch mice and rats, which are known to cause disease. Cat carrying mouse by Shutterstock

Williams was suspended from his role as editor-at-large for Audubon, a largely symbolic gesture, since the role of “editor-at-large” is a freelance position and not a salaried staff job. What does this mean? Poor Ted’s guest column won’t appear in the next issue of Audubon Magazine.

To the general surprise of nobody at all, Audubon’s “review of what had happened” resulted in the conclusion “we’re satisfied that there’s no larger pattern of missteps that would warrant further disciplinary action" and they reinstated him as a contributor.

Of course, that’s to be expected, given that “Audubon’s long-standing view, strongly supported by the best available science and laid out in a resolution by our board of directors, is that cats -- particularly feral cats -- are a leading cause of bird deaths.”

Best available science? Yeah, about that ...

Did they mean the work by Nico Dauphiné, another well-known cat poisoner? The one whose “studies” are based on other bad science? Seriously. Anyone with a little bit of time and a little bit of understanding of what constitutes sound research could check those studies and find good evidence to refute them. Just ask Catster Hero Peter Wolf, author of Vox Felina, who does that work every day. (By the way, his column on Williams’ reinstatement is also a good read.)

I just can’t wrap my head around the idea that people hate cats so much that they’re willing to advocate for their torture and murder! I can’t even begin to understand why people who consider themselves to be scientists could look at studies whose findings are extrapolated to the point of hysterical hyperbole from a ridiculously small sample size and fail to see the flaws in the research and conclusions. Unfortunately, I can comprehend how so many people can fall prey to a lie that, when repeated often enough, gains the status of truth.

I’m sick at heart when I think of the grim fate these cats could suffer. I’m tired of the constant drumbeat of anti-cat calls to arms. And I wonder when, if ever, the extremists in the bird-advocate camp will see past their irrational hatred.

Does this whole affair make you as mad as it makes me? Share your views in the comments.

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