Tuesday 5 July 2011

The Disposable Cat Companion

The most important topic concerning the domestic cat today is the killing of up to ten million or more - we don't know how many - domestic, stray and feral cats and dogs in the USA every year. It has to be the most important subject because the life of a cat is the most important thing about a cat or any living creature.

cat in shelter
Photo by daveparker (Flickr)

I'll make one thing clear from the outset, this situation is not confined to the USA. I choose to refer to the USA because it is the biggest domestic cat market and I know it. There is no other reason. I am not being judgemental of Americans. I am simply trying to help to resolve a problem that has become tolerated.

The mass killing, commonly erroneously referred to as "euthanizing", is due to the overpopulation of cats. There are not enough people who want to be a guardian to a domestic cat. A lot of surplus domestic cats are killed at shelters.

It is accepted that the overpopulation is due to a segment of society who are not responsible enough in respect of cat caretaking. Some people allow cats to breed, then wander and some dispose of cats as they would a item of clothing that they have grown tired of. It is an attitude problem.

There has been a stable cycle of oversupply of domestic cats and killing of domestic cats for decades. Unhappily, it is a settled arrangement. Why is this?

One major factor is the policies of most animal protection organisations including the mighty HSUS that the euthanasia of animals is the best way to deal with animals in "physical distress". This is the stated policy of HSUS on their website. The concept of ending suffering by killing is confirmed by Miyun Park a former vice president at HSUS in a video on YouTube. We also read on the internet the way this policy is carried out - stories of high percentages of euthanasia at HSUS shelters.

I would argue that this is a misguided policy in respect of long term goals. The long term objective of HSUS and cat welfare organizations must be to end the cycle of cat breeding and cat killing as this is in the best interests of animal welfare. The mass euthanasia of distressed cats leads to the mass killing of unwanted cats and this provides a steady outlet for the oversupply problem. Mass killings supports careless cat caretaking as it allows people to be careless in their cat guardianship. It takes away the urgent need to deal with the root cause of the problem; irresponsible management of domestic cats by cat "owners".

If there were no killing of cats, in a very short time there would be a huge problem of unwanted cats on the streets, which would force the authorities to take steps that would genuinely resolve the domestic cat overpopulation problem.

The misguided policy of killing to remove the problem is fatally compounded by the fact, yes fact, that dead cats are a commercial resource that are turned into profit through the process of animal carcass rendering. The rendering of dead animals converts the carcass into a material that can be used to manufacture a salable consumer product.

The County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control runs six animal shelters. The director as at 2008, Marcia Mayeda, states in a letter dated 21st August 2008 that her department contracts with a large company, D&D Disposal Inc. to remove and render almost 100,000 dead animals from the shelters each year. A subsidiary of D&D is employed to render the dead cats and dogs (West Coast Rendering). This has taken place for 25+ years, the letter says. Many local animal care agencies in California use the same company (strange use of the word, "care" isn't it).

The very important point that I wish to make is that animal shelters that contract with commercial enterprises for the removal of dead animals have created a conflict of interest that seriously undermines their primary objective of saving the lives of companion animals.

If the shelters sell the carcasses to D&D the situation is even more serious as it would help sustain the shelter and the killing of cats and dogs. The cycle of careless cat guardianship - breeding cats - feckless relinquishment of cats - killing of cats is thus perpetuated. The commercial aspect of the arrangement makes the mass killing of cats across the USA tolerable as it allows it to fit into the consumer society. The whole process has been rejigged to become tolerable.

I am not saying that this conflict of interest is the sole and major cause of this unhappy situation. It is just one more compounding factor. One more brick in the wall. It needs to be dislodged, removed.

When a person goes to see a doctor because he or she is in distress the first objective is the welfare of the person not the killing of that person. Only under the most serious of conditions is the death of the person considered the best option and nearly always that is illegal. The same should apply to our companion animals. I say this not only for the animals but for ourselves as it would in the longterm help to resolve the oversupply of cats problem.

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