Cats and Conservationists
The Debate Over Who Owns the Outdoors
162 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
Cats and Conservationists is the first multidisciplinary analysis of the heated debate about free-roaming cats. The debate pits conservationists against cat lovers, who disagree both on the ecological damage caused by the cats and the best way to manage them. An impassioned and spirited conflict, it also sheds light on larger questions about how we interpret science, incorporate diverse perspectives, and balance competing values in order to encourage constructive dialogue on contentious social and environmental issues.
On one side of the cat debate stand many environmentalists, especially birders and conservation organizations, who believe that outdoor cats seriously threaten native wildlife. On the other side are many animal welfare advocates, who believe that outdoor cats generally do not pose a major ecological threat and that it is possible for cats and wildlife to coexist. They believe that it is possible, mainly through trap-neuter-return projects (TNR), to keep free-roaming cat populations in check without killing large numbers of cats.
Careful analysis suggests that there remain important questions about the science on both cat predation and TNR effectiveness. Yet both sides of the conflict insist that the evidence is clear-cut. This false certainty contributes to conflict between conservationists and cat lovers, and obscures common goals that could generate constructive discussions and collaborative efforts among scientists, policymakers, conservationists, and animal welfare advocates. Cats and Conservationists aims to facilitate such collaboration in order to manage outdoor cats and minimize the damage they cause. It also offers models for constructive debates about the public role of science in other polarized public conflicts over science and environmental topics.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: The Cat Problem
Chapter 3: The Science Problem and Framing
Chapter 4: The Values Problem
Chapter 5: The Social Problem
Chapter 6: Conclusions
"Cats and Conservationists provides a fascinating look at how social conflicts arise and become entrenched. People on all sides of the outdoor cat problem are extremely passionate about their respective positions—kill them all, kill some, trap, sterilize, and release them, or leave them alone—and Dara M. Wald and Anna L. Peterson clearly show how these polarized and often personalized debates require us to carefully study not only how science is done, but also to come to an understanding of how people use and misuse scientific data and the social implications of these practices. While the ecological role and fate of outdoor cats continue to be a hot topic, so too are questions about humans' place in nature and what nature really means. This refreshing look at the outdoor cat problem makes it clear that both the data side and the social side of science need to be given equal consideration, and that people can strongly disagree about how to deal with problems we originally caused and from which we often casually stroll away as if we are the perfect animals." —Marc Bekoff, coauthor of The Animals' Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age
"Cats have long lived with and alongside humans, but over the past decade, cats in our communities—particularly cats who spend time outdoors—have become a flash point in a nasty new culture war. The so-called 'cat wars' have pitted cats against wildlife, cat lovers against bird lovers, and one set of scientific 'facts' against another set of competing 'facts.' Dara M. Wald and Anna L. Peterson plunge into the cat wars, but rather than further fanning the flames, the authors of Cats and Conservationists work to clear the smoke. They help us understand why the debate about cats and wildlife has become so polarized and unproductive, and how we can move forward—by recognizing that all sides are working from a set of well-reasoned moral commitments, by identifying a surprisingly robust core of shared values, and by using science not as a weapon, but rather as a tool for building consensus and crafting solutions. This book is a must-read for those working directly with trap-neuter-return programs, and those working to protect birds and other wildlife from predation—stakeholder groups with much more in common than first meets the eye. But Cats and Conservationists is relevant to all of us, even those of us who may not really notice cats or think about human-cat interactions. Cats and Conservationists is about real and imagined conflicts between cats and wildlife, but it is also, perhaps more importantly, about people—about what and who we value and how we communicate." —Dr. Jessica Pierce, author of The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the End of Their Lives