Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Feline Target Practice

A man in Wisconsin wants to legalize cat hunting. Naturally, there is some uproar about this idea. According to his claim, 2 million wild cats kill somewhere between 47-139 million songbirds annually. His proposal is that cats should be listed as unprotected species and therefore legal to hunt, just like gophers or skunks. Oddly enough, cat hunting is actually legal in South Dakota and Minnesota.

As a veterinarian (in training) I feel as though I'm expected to be appalled by this proposal but I think it highlights some of the interesting conundrums of my chosen profession. The last three years, I've been trained to treat cats with high quality medicine. This week I'm on my oncology rotation which means I spend a good deal of my day talking with owners whose cats (or dogs) are undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy for their various cancers at a fairly substantial cost ($2000-3000) in the hopes of giving them a few extra months or years of life. How can I justify spending my days "saving" cats and not be upset by legislation that would allow them to hunted? On the other hand, I've also been trained to treat birds. I have some ethical objections to keeping birds as pets, but I can understand the need for veterinary care for those birds that are raised as pets. Who's to say that the cats' lives are more important than the birds'? Or vice versa? The fundamental relationship between predator and prey makes the premise of the veterinary profession seem almost silly. Of course, I'm also not a vegetarian, so I actually eat some of the animals I treat. It boggles the mind.


At 3:43 PM, April 13, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are the reasons cat hunting bothers me:

1) People who don't know what they're doing are going to try to kill cats to save birds, and what if they're a bad shot and the cat dies in agony?

2) People who hate cats will shoot cats to be cruel, not to save birds.

3) Escaped/lost pets could get killed.

4) If they're really concerned about songbirds going extinct, they'd stop destroying the birds' habitat - I really doubt cat predation is wiping the birds out.

So I just don't see that they really have a reason to do this and that there isn't an alternative that's more humane to cats and birds.


At 6:51 PM, April 13, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What if they successfully kill all the stray/feral cats and the songbirds take over?? You know, population control comes to a grinding halt and suddenly the gajillions of sweet little songbirds becomes pests (and perhaps a new target for trigger-happy hunters looking for victims).....next thing you know, people will have cute colloqial sayings like, "Nothing's certain in life but death, taxes and songbirds." Or maybe it'll just inspire Hollywood to remake that Hitchcock classic, The Birds.


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