Editorial: Predators, parasites, and cat rescuers
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1997:
Cat ladies, and gentlemen, who venture into dark alleys alone to catch and neuter
seemingly endless legions of ferals, could teach the rest of the animal protection cause quite a
lot about patience, endurance, fortitude and strategy.
While Cleveland Amory said he formed the Fund for Animals to put combat boots
on the little old ladies in tennis shoes, younger advocacy leaders long derided cat-rescue as
beneath concern, somehow less important and less glamorous than saving the seals, the
whales, the elephants, and the dolphins. Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral has a
stronger record than most at seal, whale, elephant and dolphin-saving, yet was ridiculed for
years after she once described herself to media as “a cat lady with a global perspective.”
Cat rescue did eventually become socially acceptable in advocacy circles, largely
through the efforts of ANIMAL PEOPLE publisher Kim Bartlett, who insisted in her former
role as editor of The Animals’ Agenda, 1986-1992, that activists had to address the suffering
in their own back yards in order to earn credibility with the public. Eventually so many cat
rescuers identified themselves among the activist donor base that today almost everyone in a
leadership capacity at least pretends to rescue one or two cats per million dollars raised by
direct mail, including those who figuratively tied tin cans to Bartlett’s tail for putting cat rescue
on the animals’ agenda. Some advised then––in writing––that activists should stay away
from the homeless cat problem, as a problem beyond solution.
They were puffed up and strutting then, claiming to have halted the Atlantic
Canadian offshore seal hunt in 1984, commercial whaling in 1986, elephant ivory and rhino
horn traffic in 1989, and netting tuna “on dolphin” in early 1990. They would join in a megamarch
on Washington D.C., they said, in mid-1990, then solve the homeless cat problem by
banning hobby pet-breeding in 1991 or thereabouts, on their way to abolishing vivisection,
shutting down zoos and aquariums, and sending all the animals to Primarily Primates.
Cat rescuers knew achieving the goals proclaimed for the 1990s would not be so
easy. Cat rescuers know that the cats you see are just the most gregarious members of a
colony, and that fixing them is just the beginning of halting colony reproduction. Many more
nights of vigilance are necessary, along with strategic innovation and ongoing investment.
Any cats who get to know a rescuer tell the rest that the rescuer is the devil; colonies often
become not tamer but warier. If the rescuer leaves the job incomplete, or fails to keep a fixed
colony under observation, new cats appear as if by magic to repopulate the habitat.
Cat rescuers understand that the work must be sustained, come flood, forest fire, or
the chance to raise $10 million around freeing Willy. One must take on the big problem, not
just the most visible edges of it, and unrelentingly keep after it, because only dealing with the
visible part achieves nothing.
Working mostly alone or in very small groups, at personal expense and risk, cat
rescuers and the veterinarians who neuter homeless cats at a discount have among them
earned much credit for helping to cut the U.S. animal shelter killing toll from a recorded high
of 17.8 million in 1987 to maybe 4.5 million last year. There are still too many homeless cats.
Yet few if any social problems have ever yielded faster to individual initiative.
The internationally visible atrocities that animal rights movement leadership mostly
left for dead a decade ago are meanwhile dismayingly resurgent:
• Japan purportedly halted commercial whaling in 1988, two years after the international
ban was to take effect, but has been allowed to unilaterally increase “research” whaling
year after year, to profitably sell the whale meat thus obtained, and to go “research” whaling
in the supposedly protected Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary.
• Norway, after a five-year moratorium, resumed commercial whaling in 1994,
coincidental with the purchase of $261 million worth of missiles from the U.S. in a deal brokered
by Vice President Albert Gore.
• The Atlantic Canadian offshore seal hunt, revived in 1995, reached pre-1984
scale in both 1996 and 1997.
• The elephant ivory and rhino horn trafficking bans are likely to fall, along with
protection of minke whales, at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
triennial meeting coming up June 9-23 in Harare, Zimbabwe. The primary propaganda front
for the ivory and rhino horn downlisting proposals is the Zimbabwe-based CAMPFIRE program,
which has received $27 million in U.S. foreign aid.
• The Bill Clinton/Albert Gore administration actually supports “indigenous” whal-
ing, including the Makah proposal to resume whaling off Washington state after a 70-oddyear
hiatus, to go before the International Whaling Commission for approval in October.
Since someone almost everywhere could advance a claim to having whaled as a traditional
pursuit until the whales disappeared a few generations ago, this could be the beginning of the
end of even a pretense to maintaining the whaling moratorium.
• The House has already passed a bill, backed by both Clinton and Gore and leading
Republicans, to repeal the U.S. dolphin-safe tuna import standard. This would bring the U.S.
into compliance with World Trade Organization policy, which also holds that the U.S. should
be able to export beef treated with hormones into Europe, regardless of European Community
policy. The “dolphin death bill,” as it is called, is now before the Senate.
• The Endangered Species Act, for the third straight year, is in imminent danger of
being amended out of effective existence––and has never been enforced consistently for any
purpose other than protecting popular landscapes under the “critical habitat” clause, as the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service have proved utterly
unwilling to fight hunting, fishing, and trapping.
Time to worm the cause
ANIMAL PEOPLE pointed out in our May editorial how the environmental movements
sold out serious animal protection by courting the old-line hunter/conservationists,
whose philosophy of kill-it-to-save-it can be traced from CAMPFIRE back to the 1881 massacre
of 20,000 passenger pigeons at Coney Island in a benefit shoot hosted by the New York
Association for the Preservation of Game. The latter was an antecedent to the National
Wildlife Federation, which expanded from the New York group in 1936 to become the present
well camouflaged umbrella for 49 state hunting clubs.
We have previously pointed out, many times, how the World Wildlife Fund has
advanced the interests of trophy hunters since inception––by trophy hunters––in 1961, while
raising funds largely from animal lovers who have no idea their gifts are hiring lobbyists to
help preserve ways and means of shooting elephants.
We have reported in depth on how animal exploiters have stalked the animal protection
cause for more than a decade, pursuing strategies outlined in the 1985 Canadian government
paper Defence of the Fur Trade, the 1986 Thomas Grey paper Launching The Offensive,
Pro-active Response to the AR Threat (1987) by fur trade consultant Norman Helm, and the
1989 American Medical Association Animal Research Action Plan. Their strategies were
essentially those of any predator: wait for the victim’s mind to wander, then pounce. They
advised allowing and even encouraging animal advocates to use tactics alienating public favor,
distract themselves with side issues, and waste political energy attacking popular targets of
related purpose, such as zoos and aquariums, which also attract people who love animals.
“The general public primarily wants to insure that animals are treated humanely, and
are not prepared to give up meat, leather shoes, or wool coats,” the AMA paper stated.
Unstated but perhaps implicit was that if the public ever recognizes how not eating
meat can save more lives than finding cures for the most common cancers, and gives up meat,
given up with it will be the foundation of the ancient conceit that animals exist for human use.
Talk the public out of meat-eating, and all forms of exploitation lose their first defense. But
overcoming the human meat habit would take real tenacity: campaigns sustained over several
generations. Helm, for one, hinted that the interest of activst leaders in halting the abuses
which color their most effective appeals might diminish proportionate with rising personal
income. All of the strategists anticipated that the economic weight behind institutionalized
animal abuse could outlast the trendiness inherent in a cause whose funding depends upon the
surge of emotion raised by effective direct mail.
None of them feared the glib quick-hit artists who make a media splash, raise bucks,
and go thataway. Rather, they feared the rise of cat ladies with global perspective, who stay
with issues––not to be confused with endlessly reprinting successful direct mail pieces even
after they become long obsolete.
Staying with issues means staying on top of developments, intercepting opposition,
recognizing distractions and diversions, and keeping donors and the public informed and
interested not only to the achievement of a token victory but to the dissolution of opponents.