War of words: Bob Kerridge vs. Gareth Morgan

Yahoo! New Zealand January 29, 2013, 12:12 pm

Economist Gareth Morgan and head of the SPCA Bob Kerridge face off in a war of words over Morgan's plan to clamp down on domestic and stray cats allegedly destroying Kiwi wildlife.

Gareth Morgan:

"First let me say I do not hate cats, how people every reached that conclusion is only for them to know. What I do not like however is the evidenced damage cats are doing to our native fauna. To Bob Kerridge and his fellow travellers I fully appreciate and respect your love for the domestic cat. That is not the issue and totally beside the point. Stray and feral cats originate from the domestic cat population so your constituency is responsible for that population as well.

Along with other introduced species including weasels, stoats, rats and mice the assault on our wildlife has got to stop. We cannot claim we are conservationists and justify pouring money into protecting and enhancing our environment when we willingly allow any of those species to wreak havoc. The hypocrisy of double standards is for those who hold them to justify.

Today Bob raised the SPCA’s little known Trap Neuter Release (TNR) policy. This despicable practice means that stray cats are no longer put down by the SPCA as they once were, but instead neutered and released into colonies where they can continue to kill wildlife unabated; simply neutering a cat does nothing to stop the bloodlust. These stray cats are a nuisance to society and themselves as they carry disease, intermingle with ferals and ultimately lead miserable lives. To make matters worse these colonies are fed, which attracts new cats and ensures their population keeps rising despite the de-sexing policy. In short TNR is an expensive failure – it leads to more stray cats, especially as people avoid the cost of neutering.

Bob has asked me for money for the SPCA. I will help his neutering and chipping programme but not until he abandons his discredited TNR policy and joins me in advocating that people that do this should be prosecuted along with those that allow their cat to stray on my property.

Domestic cats should be controlled. Cat owners have no right to allow their animals to wander across my property and slaughter wildlife. Incredibly, from the mail I’ve received, too many cat owners do think this is their right. Containing cats within the owner’s property is the minimum of responsibility cat owners need to accept. Even then their animal can still slaughter passing birdlife, but that is for the cat-owner to defend to society.

Local councils have been laggards in this space and need to step up their vigilance. You cannot justify spending ratepayers money on the one hand on ecological reserves while on the other you don’t hold cat owners to account. I would like to see New Zealanders acknowledging that the environment is important to them and walking the walk on this, not simply paying lip service to the sentiment. To that end you should be cage-trapping cats that wander across your property, boxing them and delivering them to the local Mayor’s office for them to deal with. Council need to urgently bring down bylaws that force cat owners to register, micro-chip and neuter their cats, impose fines on cat-owners that need to retrieve their cats from the local Pound and euthanize unclaimed cats.

Arguably the greatest economic opportunity New Zealand has is the monetisation of its natural capital. I am writing this from Lanzhou, the most polluted city in the world where the natural environment has been totally ruined by a blatant disregard of the value of environmental capital. Citizens wear masks, many are dying from the impact of air pollution and smoking, and the wildlife is non-existent, the biodiversity severely compromised. People here look at what we have in New Zealand with intense envy. We are sitting on a goldmine.

As the late Sir Paul Callaghan said to me in his dying days – “you have got to do something to awaken New Zealanders awareness on just how important our environment is. I am relying on you to promote Pest-Free New Zealand”. To which I said, “thanks Paul for that hospital pass”. Some of you will know that Sir Paul had twigged to the economic potential of our environment when he coined that phrase about “making New Zealand a place where talent wants to live”. This, I’d suggest to you is the greatest economic opportunity New Zealand faces – to capitalise on the destroyed environments elsewhere, make ours better and better and from that encourage not just tourism but also quality immigration.

What I am asking is for New Zealanders to enforce accountability on cat ownership and for those owners who cannot confine their cat 24 hours a day to either face the consequences or to make this cat their last because the unintended consequences of cat ownership are too harmful. In terms of what people can do about rats and mice once this cat population is confined, we do of course have the mousetrap.

Finally I want the SPCA to dump TNR. Not only is this practice open to legal challenge as cruelty to animals, but its violation of the Biosecurity and Wildlife Acts is well worth pursuing. Any lawyers out there want to give Bob Cat a run for his money on this then join the team (sorry I couldn’t avoid the pun). The Society for the Protection of Cats (SPCA) needs to take a long hard look at itself in the mirror. "

Bob Kerridge:

"Cats have been persecuted for Centuries by Popes (the work of the devil), Royalty (burned in sacks as a crowning sacrifice), and by the occasional zealots (think London and the great plague). This possibly explains the reason cats find it difficult to totally trust humans … and who can blame them ?

Fortunately in New Zealand cats have not been subjected to such serious oppression, in fact the contrary applies, for they are the country’s most popular companion animal. They reside in 806,000 homes, representing 48% of households, with a domestic population of 1.419 million. 83 % of those who live with cats consider them to be a member of the family, whilst a further 10% view them as trusted companions. In essence cats epitomise that strong loving bond we are privileged to be able to share with all animals.

Until now ! Enter Gareth Morgan, a modern day zealot, and self-proclaimed saviour of the feathered with an absolute loathing of the warm and furry.

The highly tempestuous language used to support his view that all cats must go, (although he now denies having said that), illustrates the degree of savagery aimed at cats who he describes as “the only true sadists of the animal world, serial killers who torture without mercy”.

Curiously Mr Morgan has elected to vent his fury on the domestic (companion) cat. who do not quite fit his description. This is supported by scientific evidence. Research tells us that fewer than 50% of domestic cats bother to hunt at all, the remainder preferring vermin, invertebrates, the seasonal cicadas and lizards, with birds well down their food chain, (with native birds representing less than 1% of their total kill).

Of greater significance this misguided missile aimed at cat owners, most of them responsible, is so aggressive that it is likely to gain enemies rather than converts, and therefore is most unlikely to achieve whatever it is he thinks he wants.

An even greater danger to emerge from this doctrine of cat hatred is the likely emergence of some extremists, some of whom already exist, who will take great delight in abusing and injuring cats because their hatred of them has been even more aroused. In this regard Gareth Morgan can be held totally accountable.

Characteristically, those who oppose Mr Morgan’s views are also subjected to verbal abuse, including (not surprisingly) the SPCA and me personally. Apparently we have no interest in birds, which is strange considering our SPCA BirdWing group of volunteers who care for them in their thousands, or the fact that my planting at home is designed to attract bird life to ensure we see in the dawn to the early morning bird calls, and the constant day time trill of the visiting Tui. Surrounded by all this bird life our two ‘serial killers’ have presented us with one sparrow and one fledgling thrush over the last three years.

Due to my own animal welfare principles I fully concur with Dr Brian Edwards’ contribution to this debate who “feels sorry when any living creature is killed. I don’t make the distinction between a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ species in the animal world”, he has stated. That he accused Gareth Morgan of ‘animal racism’ is appropriate, however predictably earned him an acidic retort.

The fact that stray cats have not been targeted by Mr Morgan comes as a surprise, (maybe that’s round two). Sadly our domestic cats are very disposable, and stray cats are the result of these irresponsible people who discard their ‘entire’ cats to fend for themselves. The existence of these strays is not the cats’ fault and accordingly we take responsibility for their welfare by de-sexing them, identifying them, and returning them to their colonies where they are fed and cared for. There is a veritable army of wonderful volunteer cat carers who will rise in revolt, supported by the SPCA, should they become another Morgan target.

Then there is the third category of cat, namely the ‘feral’ (not to be confused with the stray) who live, unseen, in bush-clad areas and who are not dependent on humans for their food. If he is really serious about protecting native birds, this surely is the sector on which Gareth Morgan should be focussing, for research indicates that for sheer survival these cats predate more profusely.

There is however a conundrum here in that if these cats are removed from those remote areas, rodents and other more fearsome predators will gain free reign, and greater bird carnage will occur as a result. This is not a dilemma I need to solve as the feral is a declared ‘pest’, so its up to the conservationists (and perhaps eccentric economists), or nature itself (which I prefer), to resolve.

So where to from here Gareth Morgan ? You have announced stage two of your assault will be launched next month and will, as you put it, “wind up the anti’, whatever that means. If so, bring it on, but perhaps you would be wise to rethink your tactics and join with us to bring about a positive solution by encouraging responsible cat ownership.

Why not put your money where you busy mouth is and support us by assisting with the funding of de-sexing and micro-chipping of every domestic cat in the country. That will make a positive difference, and will free up SPCA funding to add to our bird rescue activities !

If you don’t want to do that, and you continue on your ridiculous resolve to be rid of all cats, I can only repeat what I have already said : “Butt out of our lives, and don’t deprive us of the beautiful relationship that a cat can provide, individually, and in our families”.

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  1. Debbie09:23pm Thursday 31st January 2013 NZDTReport Abuse

    The SPCA is vested with a constitution about 'protection of cruelty to animals' - what about 'cruelty to our environment' ... NZ has the highest ownership of cats in the World and one of the highest rates of extinction and endangered species in the World ... go figure! How dare SPCA have promotions such as 'Free Friday' and give kittens away for free like lollies ... how dare they have a TNR policy to 'save' feral cats! How dare they have 'feed stations' for feral strays and accept sponsorship to do so. Shame SPCA!

  2. Hebe04:24pm Thursday 31st January 2013 NZDTReport Abuse

    I wouldn't be one bit surprised if the SPCA was forced to admitt that they secretly let un-neutered cats into the bush under the cover of darkness - and just neuter a few to KEEP GETTING DONATIONS. Bob Kerridge should be given a LIE DETECTOR TEST that goes on for several hours until the hard nut breaks down and confesses all his deceptions.

  3. Peter03:25pm Thursday 31st January 2013 NZDTReport Abuse

    This is Peter2! Bob K seems to want it both ways. He quotes stats indicating the incredible number of cats in the country but wants to keep them "safe" by neutering them & allowing them to run wild. This lunacy, given the number of birds they kill every day. His views also seem to be at variance with the (reported above) policies of his agencies....eg..."what do you expect us to do with them"? If our environment is to survive, Gareth M's scheme should be adopted with some compromises on both sides. At the moment, the "war" appears to be similar to the USA's anti & pro gun lobbies.

  4. Peter02:27pm Thursday 31st January 2013 NZDTReport Abuse

    Have just had personally experienced this issue of stray cats. One took up residence in our garden over Christmas, Has made a complete nuisance of itself - even knows how to open windows that are ajar and sneaking into the house to steal food - even the dog biscuits! The birdlife (including a Tui) has significantly reduced - don't know whether they have been scared off or are no longer. Eventually caught the cat - and not wanting to be a NIMBY and just release it somewhere else - we took it to the local SPCA. They did not want to know. We were told in no uncertain terms that it was our problem; they had too many cats already in their pound, strongly opposed euthanasia and just because it was being a nuisance – that was not just cause to do anything about it. We have a lifestyle block which has chickens and regularly either sheep or cattle grazing the paddock. We have a Great Dane – which we took on from the Rescue Association – so we are not animal haters. BUT we do not need, want or desire a cat especially one that has foisted itself on us. The situation that we now find ourselves in – do we feed the cat – which means it will never go away – but if we don’t feed it – then our precious wildlife will be further decimated. Whilst I don’t advocate taking matters into my own hands I can understand how cats are often found drowned in streams and rivers. Come on SPCA wake up – there must be a middle ground here that will help protect our unique wildlife – and also respect the species as a whole.

  5. Sheryl02:05pm Thursday 31st January 2013 NZDTReport Abuse

    I don't have a problem with cats, I have a problem with careless owners who allow there cats to breed unwanted kittens that are left to fend for themselves. Everyone thinks kittens are so cute when they are little balls of fluff running around playing. Then they grow up into CATS. If they haven't been neutered or spay then u have big problems. "UNWANTED" kittens. Yeah sure there are responsible owners, but there are just as many if not more irresponsible owners. My neighbour has 3 unspay female cats that always have there damn kittens under my shed then act dumb when I say anything to them. The last time I took stray kittens to the SPCA I was asked what do u expect us to do with them. Cats do kill our birds, along with a list of other introduced pest. (stouts ferrets rats possums etc) they are all being trapped, Whats wrong with cat numbers being controlled as well. Its real easy for people to sit at home and defend there feline friends. How about spending a little time checking into the facts, They are natural born hunters and they do kill birds and other native species.

  6. Didda01:30pm Thursday 31st January 2013 NZDTReport Abuse

    The problem is that there are TOO many cats out there, The domestic cats that run away become stray and don't have their Whiskas to eat decided to eat whatever they can including our birds, This government really needs to sort this out, Everything to the goverment is talk and they don't do anything about it.....They can't even get Alcohol rules changed that will protect all of us, which is a huge thing in this country... Freaking useless NZ goverment at least the Australians have better stronger rules unlike this softy goverment

  7. Bob01:04pm Thursday 31st January 2013 NZDTReport Abuse

    Sheep shagger Kerridge

  8. Hohepa12:50pm Thursday 31st January 2013 NZDTReport Abuse

    Peter, I think you have made some very good points. As far as Gareth is concerned don't count on the $5 being paid as when he made $50 mil from investing $50,000 in his son's company, he said on TV that he was going to give it all to charity Instead, however, he gave it to a trust that is controlled by his wife which is not the same thing. Come clean Gareth. How much of the $50 mil has been donated to charity? Should have earned a pretty penny in interest by now.

    3 Replies
  9. Peter11:50am Thursday 31st January 2013 NZDTReport Abuse

    As is so often the case with these sorts of issues, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. As the joint owner of two cats, both desexed & both locked in at night, I feel somewhat in that position myself. Yes, over the years we have had the occasional - & I mean occasional - bird brought in. Usually a young starling or blackbird &, rarely, a waxeye. So I do not claim innocence in that regard. But I would be mightily displeased if one of our cats was trapped, caged & carted off for the sin of climbing over our fence, just because a neighbour had a snitch on them or us. This does not, however, seem to have delteriously affected our local bird population. In fact we have as many birds as ever including, to our delight, many tui. So I think that any criticism of pet cats is probably overstated. Wild & feral cats are another issue entirely. I am astonished that the S.P.C.A. are releasing neutered cats back into wild packs, no matter how worthy their feeders are. I have not, for instance, heard of similar treatment for dogs. Rather, I understand, they are put down if they are not found an owner. Desex, keep in at night, micro chip, all fine. Eliminate wild & feral cats? Well, perhaps, if we also treat equally all the other prerdators on native birds, so that the ecology is not further distorted. Keeping cats on your property? Get real. A dog can be contained by a reasonably fence. To contain a cat would require a total cage, so that is just silly. And trapping cats on ones property would initiate open slather by cat (& neighbour haters).

    3 Replies
  10. Brian11:38am Thursday 31st January 2013 NZDTReport Abuse

    For goodness sake get Hone down there to sort this mess out!


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