Tuesday 3 November 2020

Tasmanian farmers believe that cat excrement makes their ewes lose their lambs

I have to be brutally frank and state that Tasmanian farmers are behaving in a pretty crude way. I'm told that some of them believe that the excrement from feral cats makes their ewes lose their lambs. This must come from the belief that toxoplasma gondii oocysts in the faeces of cats are ingested by the sheep which causes them to abort. Science proves that this happens but surely there is a less cruel way of dealing with the matter? It looks like ignorant behaviour to me. What I mean is ignorance of decency. I have learned that there is an effective vaccine against toxo. Why can't they use it?

They have a problem with toxoplasmosis although they probably don't realise that cats only shed toxoplasma gondii oocysts for a very short period of time and not all cats carry the disease (but apparently more than half do) but they kill them brutally nonetheless. The problem is that the oocysts are hardy and present a health problem.

I can't show a picture of feral cats strung up on fences as it is too crude and unpleasant so I'll show some sheep in Tasmania instead:

Tasmanian sheep. Picture in public domain.

This stringing up of cats on fences occurs apparently in remote areas of Tasmania and has done so for years. A conservationist has warned that the practice could "polarise" people's attitudes about feral cats. I think what he means is that cat advocates will hate it and therefore hate the people who do it and that will antagonise the ignorant farmers who do it. That's called polarisation.

Dennis Turner, a resident of Tasmania's Midlands said that hanging dead cat from fences is a statement to the government that not enough is being done about feral cats i.e. to get rid of them.

He believes that feral cats are the most destructive pest that you can come across. The uncle of Cindy Brook who lives in Longford, Tasmania, says that her uncle at Blackwood Creek near Cressy often hung dead cats from fences. It obviously isn't against the law to do this. I presume therefore that the Tasmanian law allows farmers to kill feral cats as they wish. In Britain it would be a clear violation of the Animal Welfare Act 2006. And the person who did it would be subject to a maximum prison sentence of two years together with a possible fine. In Tasmania? It's all part of day-to-day life. No bother, no worry just go on killing cats because you think they are pests.

The chief executive of Landcare Tasmania, Rod Knight,indicated that he didn't like the practice of stringing up dead cats because the debate about feral cats becomes too emotive and he hinted that it is cruel and unpleasant. Which it is by the way. He thinks it will divert the discussion away from the real issues which it does. It should stop and you don't need to find a justification for stopping it. It's just cruel, plain and simple. That is why it should be stopped.

The Australian Government's National Environmental Science Programme has quantified the cost of cat diseases in Australia at 6 billion Australian dollars annually and said that it caused 550 deaths and 8500 hospitalisations in Australia annually. We don't know how those figures were arrived at. No doubt there was a pile of extrapolations and guesswork. Apparently the report says that one in five cases of schizophrenia are caused by toxoplasmosis. They also say that 1 in 10 cases of suicide are caused by this protozoan. Once again we don't know where those numbers come from.

I think I'll leave it there because it's boring. The point to be made is that Tasmania is almost waging a war against the feral cat. The government hates the feral cat it seems to me and ignorant farmers killing them willy-nilly. It looks pretty barbaric and Wild West to me but I'm a cat advocates so what do I know?

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