As I’ve suggested elsewhere, I don’t claim to have all the answers to the numerous complex questions raised in the feral cat/TNR debate. But I’m very interested in asking better questions—the sort of questions that might stimulate a more conscientious debate of this important issue. Vox Felina, I hope, will help me do that—and, who knows, perhaps arrive at some answers too.
So, now that I’m getting started, I keep coming back to the words of Gary J. Patronek, the former Director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, and one of the founders of the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium. My copy of Patronek’s 1998 article, “Free-roaming and feral cats—their impact on wildlife and human beings,” published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association (JAVMA), is becoming rather shabby, as I continue making notes in the margins and covering it with a rainbow assortment of highlighter.
Patronek begins his final section, “Conclusions and Possible Solutions,” with this:
It is unfortunate that the debate about free-roaming cats is often framed as pro-cat and anti-wildlife, or vice-versa. This attitude polarizes groups and individuals who otherwise have common concerns about animals and the environment, and is a barrier to developing effective public policy.
Let me be clear: though I am certainly in the “pro-cat” camp, I am not at all “anti-wildlife.” I’m far more interested in finding common ground than I am in further polarizing the parties involved. That said, I will not stand idly by while opponents of feral/free-roaming cats—and TNR in particular—mishandle, misconstrue, and misrepresent the research for PR purposes.
The “effective public policy” Patronek refers to is needed more urgently than ever. But to get there—to really tackle this incredibly complex issue—we first need to untangle some of what’s being said. This is precisely what I intend to do with Vox Felina. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis put it so eloquently, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”