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An Unlikely Ally Emerges in the Latest "Killer Cats" Kerfuffle

After an avalanche of anti-cat news articles, a new and surprising pro-cat voice joins the debate.

 |  Feb 1st 2013  |   15 Contributions


After last week’s media circus about a New Zealand philanthropist who wants to “eradicate” cats for the sake of native birds, the journal Nature hopped on the anti-cat bandwagon by releasing a study claiming that cats kill almost 4 billion birds a year. And as usual, the mainstream news media ate it up: Breathless articles about the ruthless murderers known as cats popped up in ordinarily respectable outlets all across the US and the UK.

Yes, cats do kill birds. It would be naive to think they don't. Cat watching hummingbird in flight by Shutterstock

Alley Cat Allies and the Humane Society of the United States condemned the study -- no huge surprises there -- saying it was based on biased and incomplete information. A more unlikely source to advocate for cats was the wildly popular blog Buzzfeed -- Buzzfeed! -- but more on that in a minute.

“Loss, Will, and Marra (the authors of the study) have thrown out a provocative number for cat predation totals, and their piece has been published in a highly credible publication, but they admit the study has many deficiencies,” HSUS President Wayne Pacelle wrote in his blog. “Their work is derivative of what others have done on the topic, and they have essentially rolled up what they could find in the literature and done their best to attach some numbers.”

Becky Robinson, president and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies, has even stronger words: “It seems as if the authors landed on a conclusion first and then cherry-picked through studies to support it. Some of the research they cite is more than a half-century old. They even cite discredited researcher Nico Dauphiné, who was convicted by a D.C. jury for trying to poison cats and then fired from her job at the Smithsonian.”

Dauphiné worked for Marra, one of the authors of the study.

But you know what else they kill? Rats -- and other small rodents. Even the Nature "study" concluded that cats kill five times as many "small mammals" as birds. Cat with a rat by Shutterstock

It’s the same old story: Anti-cat researchers trot out old, flawed “research” and use it to support their new, flawed “research.” It proves the axiom that if a lie is told often enough, it eventually becomes seen as the truth. And who loses in this war of lies? The cats.

“This so called ‘survey of research’ seems just another misguided attempt to draw attention to the decline of wildlife by manufacturing a fake debate,” said Robinson.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: it’s easier to blame cats than for us to take responsibility for our own actions -- habitat destruction in the name of development, pollution, and so on -- and realize that we humans are actually the biggest killers of wildlife.

I expected that Alley Cat Allies would chime in on this debate. I was pleasantly surprised to see HSUS take on the anti-cat forces. But I didn’t anticipate the reaction from Buzzfeed. I was delighted to see that it eagerly satirized the report’s findings in its own special way. Check it out and get a few laughs: I know I needed a humor break after two weeks of dealing with cat haters and bad science.

Sources: Alley Cat Allies press release, A Humane Nation blog

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