“To believe we can live without taking life is delusional.”
— Barbara Kingsolver, ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’
What happens here is that people dump their unwanted kittens and cats because they can’t bear the thought of harming their cuddly pet who is all sweetness and innocence. Put them in a box, instead, and leave them in the parking lot at Roaring Beach. Perhaps, someone will come along and take them home.
This never happens and once out of the box, hungry and needing to survive, the once domesticated cats’ atavistic skills emerge and they quickly mutate into four legged furry feral psychopathic killers of enormous skill. They breed up and become a deadly menace to a native wildlife that is defenseless against their iuhunting skills. Left unchecked, feral cats can rampage through an intact eco-system faster and create as much lasting damage as a D9 bulldozer pillaging a rainforest.
As a wildlife rehabilitator, I see firsthand the damage cats do to birds. Of all the ways human beings casually slaughter “protected” wildlife, letting domesticated cats outside is by far the most egregious, and the most easily shrugged off. People who wouldn’t dream of taking a shotgun and blasting a bird out of a tree let their cats outside, which accomplishes the exact same thing but in a slower and more horrifying way.
email from a “sensitive woman”
In Tasmania, humans are the only predator that can control them.
Therefore, I choose to kill. If there are long term implications to my karma, so be it.
After mentioning this to a friend in America and explaining the difference between feral and domestic cats, she wrote back (I feel with good intention):
“I want to alert you to the reaction you will evoke in most civilized, life respecting women…indeed ALL of the women I know, if you share, I shoot cats.”
“…killing cats and kittens is way off the range of acceptable behavior… and it goes against everything that women love in men…tenderness, respect for life.”
“…it seems the readiness with the gun and drowning is a very primitive and violent response. What is all this KILLING about.”
Speaking for myself — and, possibly, all tender men and women committed to bio-diversity and healthy eco-systems who have an intimate, sacred connection to the land — not to kill feral animals is what is unacceptable. To turn a “blind eye” to this massive problem, to let others deal with it, or hope the problem goes away, is no solution.
To preach a high-minded, city oriented, “civilized” utopian world view of total pacifism where the lion sleeps with the lamb is a little too fuzzy headed for my rural sensibilities.
“Take a walk in the green dark”, I suggest to my big city oriented brothers and sisters. Avoid the misguided idealism that bounces off parking lights to such an extent that the complex, paradoxical, shadow reality of the underbelly of existence in our visceral world is refused entry unless accompanied by shame and guilt.
To remain aloof to the soulful sufferings that exist in personal decisions requiring a choice between life and death is a shallow ethicalness. The natural world doesn’t operate this way. Being animals ourselves, we have to understand this.
To me and my muddied world view, there is a certain dysfunctional spirituality in city people who would condemn my actions.
Could it be that by living an entrenched urban life they have become as comfortably domesticated as their house cats and are now so dis-connected from the tilled and soiled workings of Nature that they have forgotten what it actually means to fully live on, in and with this earth in a holistic, nonjudgmental way?
The Dalai Lama endorsed the killing of Osama bin Laden saying that “if something is serious… you have to take counter-measures”.
The feral cat problem is serious. Very serious.
With the feral cats, there are casualties other than birds. Every marsupial mammal is prey: wombats, pademelons, wallabies, bandicoots, quolls. The larger size of the wombat and wallaby is no defense when they come into contact with cat scat because feral cats (and their scat) carry a fatal disease called Toxoplasmosis that causes blindness, paralysis, respiratory disorders, and loss of young due to stillbirth and spontaneous abortion.
For one year I fed a blind pademelons carrots and other fresh vegetables in order to keep him alive as long as possible. Heart wrenching.
Let me speak in plain language about the holiness of the heart.
I choose the word “holiness” deliberately because I believe that if a sentient being is to be killed (executed, to be more blunt) it is imperative that a deep felt compassion for all victims — the perpetrator and the perpetrated upon — be evidenced along with the purely rationalistic legal and scientific justifications.
At Harvard in April 2009, the Dalai Lama explained that “wrathful forceful action” motivated by compassion, may be “violence on a physical level” but is “essentially nonviolence”.
The sacredness of each earthly life must be taken into account. Only then can the killing be morally and ethically permissible.
The above photo I took two days ago and it demonstrates another example of how humans have altered and whacked the balance of life into a hugh imbalance. The brownish water in the foreground is centuries old top soil washed into the sea after recent rains because of the clear-felling of forests. This human induced catastrophe will result in the loss of sea grass and habitat for marine plant and animal life. On land, the land will suffer the loss of soil that took hundreds of years to accumulate.
We humans have pretty much messed up the natural balance of most environments. It is no different in Tasmania. Living in the bush is hard. The realities here of life and death face you daily and choices have to be made. Abandoning cats and kittens is the creation of just one more imbalance among many.
What I’m trying to do by culling feral cats is to try and redress this particular imbalance. There is no other way than shooting or drowning. Yes, I could take trapped cats or kittens to Hobart and have them euthanized, but why? They will die in the end. I’m willing to accept the burden of doing this alone.
And a burden it is. It causes me hugh distress; similar, I expect to that of field doctors practicing triage: a system of priorities designed to maximize the number of survivors.
Looking into the eyes of a caged feral cat just before pulling on the trigger; hearing the frantic struggle of a kitten fighting for her/his life while being drowned. A callous heart could do this easily. A caring and tender heart suffers.
It shouldn’t go unnoticed that, aside from the Dalai Lama, the quotes used in this blog are from women. I take seriously their guiding words — affirming or not — as they reflect the spiritual path I chose to walk: a spirituality based on an eco-feminist, indigenous, Gaian understanding of this world. Where mindfulness and compassion pray together.
Along with words, I also turn to the “felt sensory experiences” of living on the land to guide me, and if lucky, offer affirmation to what and why and how I defend, nurture and live alongside the many souls inhabiting Windgrove.
Serendipitous possibly, but just as I was photographing the dirty waters and mulling over the immense difficulty of changing human behaviour — and whether or not it’s worth the effort — a wedge-tailed eagle flew into the frame of my camera.
Need I say more?
Comments on this perplexing issue would be welcome.