A couple of weeks ago, Canadian radio commentator St├®phane Gendron was talking about how to deal with the problem of stray and feral cats: "First of all, cats have no business being in the road," he said during a broadcast on CHOI 91.9 Radio X. "If it’s a stray cat in the road, bang! I accelerate."
We expect shock jocks to say over-the-top things. After all, they’re the radio airwaves’ version of Internet trolls: They shoot off their mouths and get people enraged, presumably because their adolescent, insecure souls long for the ego gratification that comes with pissing off legions of people.
The difference here is that this particular shock jock is also a mayor. He holds this office in the small town of Huntingdon, Quebec, about an hour southwest of Montreal.
Huntingdon apparently has a serious problem with stray and feral cats; there is no animal shelter in the town, and it doesn’t have the money to "humanely euthanize" every stray cat at the vet. What have public officials done about this so far? The town council just passed a bylaw requiring all pet owners to have their animals sterilized or face a fine.
Gendron complained that "many dozens of stray cats" visit his property and "cause problems." Oh, all right, dude. I guess that makes it totally okay for you to say sick crap like, "The other day I backed up over a newborn, and I’m sure it didn’t feel a thing. The pickup passed over him like it was nothing."
You know what would be a better idea than pissing and moaning without researching real solutions for a stray and feral cat problem, Mr. Gendron? Trap-neuter-return, that’s what! I bet you wouldn’t even need to spend any of your little town’s precious budget. There are lots of volunteer groups that conduct TNR operations. A 30-second web search revealed two of them based in Montreal. Even if they can’t drive an hour to help you, I bet they can point you to people who can.
Mr. Gendron, you certainly are within your rights to say inane and gross things on the air. But the problem is that you’re also the mayor of a town. As such, you’re the most prominent voice of your community in the world at large. And your neighbors are just as upset as the SPCA and your fellow radio show hosts, if this CTV report is any indication.
Gendron issued something of an apology. "On July 9, 2013, I made some greatly exaggerated remarks about the nuisance caused by the overpopulation of stray cats in our urban and rural environments," he said in an open letter posted on CHOI Radio X’s website. "I agree that my comments did nothing to advance the debate, and this issue remained unsolved to this day. For all these reasons, I apologize. My ‘black humor’ was inappropriate for such a discussion."
That’s nice. Meanwhile, the SPCA is still conducting an investigation to see how much, if any, truth there is in Gendron’s claims of being a cat killer.
Mr. Gendron, being a shock jock may afford you an opportunity for stupid adolescent thrills, but being an elected official requires you to act like an adult. Make up your mind what you want to do. From what I’ve read, your broadcast career hasn’t exactly taken a stellar path. Because you’re not in any danger of becoming the next Howard Stern, I suggest you don’t quit your day job.
About JaneA Kelley: Punk-rock cat mom, science nerd, animal shelter volunteer, and all-around geek with a passion for bad puns, intelligent conversation, and role-play adventure games. She gratefully and gracefully accepts her status as chief cat slave for her family of feline bloggers, who have been writing their cat advice column, Paws and Effect, since 2003. JaneA dreams of making a great living out of her love for cats.