So what’s got the birders in a tizzy? Well, I am not a journalist, but as far as I can tell it went something like this:
1. Freelance writer Ted Williams wrote a column about the environmental problems caused by feral cats. Rejecting the popular management strategy of “trap-neuter-release” (TNR), Williams proposed instead that cats be trapped and euthanized.
2. The Orlando Sentinel – the same paper from which I learned, as a youngster growing up in Central Florida, of such world-obliterating events as the ’88 defeat of Michael Dukakis and the ’96 defection of Shaquille O’Neal to the Lakers – printed Williams’s piece (since revised). (Looking at the Sentinel’s sad website today, the dreary font squeezed in between huge, flashing ads, you’d think they hadn’t touched it since Shaq left town.) Importantly, the Sentinel listed Williams as “editor-at-large for Audubon magazine.” (That was technically true, though the cat piece had nothing to do with Audubon.)
3. A whole lot of people got pissed, and they let the National Audubon Society know about it.
4. NAS responded by announcing they had suspended Williams’s work for Audubon magazine and would remove him from the masthead “pending further review.”
Enter the birding-bloggers. They leapt to Williams’s defense, led by the biggest birding blog of them all, 10,000 Birds. One of the site’s managers (owners? head bloggers?), Corey Finger, called the NAS reaction “sad, stupid, and short-sighted,” and wondered whether a Williams-less Audubon magazine would be worth reading. And yes, he dropped that bomb – “cat crazies” – evoking (for me, anyway) a traitorous mob, hell-bent on subjugating humanity to some sort of feline despot. Angry comments from both sides piled up on the blog, as well as on the many Facebook shares of it. The stakes were high – some truly emphatic posts earned dozens of “likes.” Another top birding blogger and personality, Sharon “Birdchick” Stiteler, chimed in with an emergency podcast on the subject. Overall, her language was somewhat less inflammatory than that of Mr. Finger, but in her own folksy way she, too, came down hard on the NAS.
In short, it seems the blogging luminaries are of one mind on this subject: NAS “caved.” They missed a golden opportunity to stand up to the ignorant bullies who advocate for trap-neuter-release. They threw their man Ted under the proverbial bus full of cat crazies. Of course, what you’ll want to know next is, “Where does Birding for Humans stand on all this?”
Well, here are some things about me: I am a birder. I own and love a cat. My cat does not go outdoors, but he sometimes kills crickets that wander into my apartment. He usually eats them.
I don’t know whether euthanizing feral cats is a good thing overall, but I think it should be judged mainly on its effectiveness at conserving native wildlife – not on how cute cats are or whether they did anything to deserve death. Animals die, including people. I don’t like it any more than Woody Allen does, but that doesn’t change anything. If I have to choose between wild, native birds and feral cats, I choose the birds. If I had to choose between wild, native cats and feral birds, I would choose the cats, even though I can’t go for a walk in the mountains without being 90% sure a mountain lion is going to eat me, or possibly just kill me for fun. I’m not sure which would be worse.
And there you have it. The point, if there were a point, would be that the birding blogosphere is a serious place – like, apeshit serious. If President Reagan had been into birds, and born like a thousand years later, he would be blogging right now about the “evil empire” of cat people.
Holy shit – has anybody thought of shooting missiles at the cats yet?