This is probably the silliest op-ed I have seen in many years. At least on conservation issues. It argues that seeking to control feral cats is unnecessary since there is no evidence linking species extinctions to feral cat predation. It doubles up on the stupidity by arguing that the dislike of feral cats reflects a “common” value in our migrant-based Australian society of antipathy towards migrants. National extinctions are an environmental disaster but avoiding extinctions should be a minimal type of conservation effort. Of course we should be concerned about the dramatic reduction in range that many Australian species have experienced since white settlement.
As the author notes feral cats have caused extinctions on islands and this understanding can be used to understand how feral cats, together with foxes, have caused a dramatic reduction in Australia’s fauna on the mainland. Moreover there is specific and incontrovertible evidence that feral cats are implicated in the local extinctions of mainland species such as native rats. The reason feral cats are such a problem in Australia is that they have few natural predators and their numbers grow rapidly. Indeed one suggestion for controlling cats is to reintroduce dingos, quolls and Tasmanian Devils as predators. Australian native mammal populations are under severe threat with the range of such species having contracted dramatically. There are an estimated 1.5 million feral cats in Queensland alone so the scale of wildlife losses will be enormous.
Conservationists dislike feral cats not because they are analogous to migrants but because the Australian environment is valued. The evidence this clown introduces for the view that dislike of feral cats reflects a form of racism is one foolish remark on “dewogging” by a National Party politician. Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence that such remarks – even if they were widely held – have had any impact on conservation policies.
The author teaches sociology at the University of Tasmania. I hope his classes show a bit more respect for evidence and logic than this careless, stupid and utterly irresponsible op ed. Why write this rubbish and why should The Age publish it?