Audubon Editor Suggests Poisoning Feral Cats

Armed with the recently published “killer cat study” from the Smithsonian Biological Conservation Institute and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, TNR opponents are calling for increasingly extreme measures.

Travis Longcore was among the first, telling KCET reporter Judy Muller that “managing and controlling unowned, free-roaming cats will require euthanasia. There are not enough shelter spaces, there is not enough sanctuary space. And we have to stand up and be honest. But the thing is something is going to die in this equation.” Witch-hunt pioneer Stanley Temple chimed in a few days later with an op-ed piece in the Orlando Sentinel in which he referred to the work of Scott Loss, Tom Will, and Peter Marra as “a new study [that] for the first time provides a science-based estimate of the number of birds and mammals killed by cats nationwide.”

A week-and-a-half later came another op-ed, this one in the Baltimore Sun and penned by American Bird Conservancy president George Fenwick, who, like Temple, endorsed the Smithsonian/USFWS paper as valid science rather than the PR scam it truly is. “Local governments need to act swiftly and decisively to gather the 30 million to 80 million unowned cats,” argued Fenwick, “aggressively seek adoptions, and establish sanctuaries for or euthanize those cats that are not adoptable.”

All of which pales in comparison to the rhetoric unleashed by Audubon magazine’s editor-at-large, Ted Williams, in his own op-ed, published in today’s Orlando Sentinel.

“There are two effective, humane alternatives to the cat hell of TNR,” argues Williams.

“One is Tylenol (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. TE is practiced by state and federal wildlife managers; but municipal TE needs to happen if the annihilation of native wildlife is to be significantly slowed.”

While it may be true that “toxic effects are rapid,” I have to question just how humane it is. But here’s a better question: Why in the world was such a recommendation* published in a mainstream newspaper?

I don’t imagine Williams (whose 2009 article for Audubon was only slightly less bombastic than his latest rant) is bothered by such things, though, just as he’s apparently unperturbed by the numerous holes in the Smithsonian/USFWS paper—which, like Temple and Fenwick, he likes to call a “study.” Indeed, it’s difficult to tell what Williams finds out-of-bounds in fueling the ongoing witch-hunt against free-roaming cats. Witness, for example, his bizarre reference to FIV as “AIDS-like.”

Who exactly is Williams trying to appeal to here?

On the other hand, and as I suggested in my comment to his op-ed, I suppose Williams and his colleagues need all the help they can get, struggling for relevance in a society increasingly disdainful of their culture of (publicly funded, scientifically indefensible) killing.

* No doubt some will argue that Williams is not actually recommending that cats be poisoned with Tylenol, only stating that it is effective at killing cats. Nonsense—his mention of Acetaminophen is entirely unnecessary to his central argument.

Thanks to Laura Gretch, Community Cares Manager for the San Francisco SPCA, who brought this story to my attention.

Literature Cited

1. Williams, T., “Felines Fatale.” Audubon Magazine. 2009. September-October.