Why is it so important to protect bird species that are endangered by New Zealand's cats?
Because our natural environment is arguably our greatest asset. And because the economic value of [our environment] has hardly been capitalized on, and it is continuing to rise at an exponential rate, as the rest of the world cursed by high population density sits in its own nest.
I'm currently in Shanghai where wildlife is at a minimum because of callous disregard -- actually I think they eat cats over here. The environment here is not very pleasant at all, as pollution is horrible. When people ask where I'm from, and I say NZ, they immediately talk about our fantastic environment and how much better it is than theirs. [There was] an article was in the Shanghai Times yesterday on our campaign, and people have shown a lot of interest in the subject. I think they yearn for an environment that is now pretty much lost to them.
In NZ we have a ridiculously large opportunity to monetize our environmental assets and we are letting it slip away, as the government instead eases restrictions on resource exploitation and rolls back protection of our environment. I want to not just raise New Zealanders' consciousness about this but also make them think of the huge economic opportunity we are letting slip through our fingers.
What is your plan to eliminate the NZ cat population?
To educate the public and have them carry out the action. Here are the main elements of what would do it;
All cats to be registered, chipped & neutered -- raising the barriers to cat ownership to those similarly already faced by dog owners. Chipping instead of collars is because cats more easily slip collars. [Ed: Chipping, or micro-chipping, means inserting an implant under the skin for identification.]
Citizens to be encouraged to cage-trap cats wandering on their properties and turn them in to the local authority.
Cats surrendered to the local authority Pound, to be euthanized if unregistered, to returned to registered owner who is fined.
Councils to offer free disposal of cats. Vets are prohibitively expensive.
Does New Zealand have a history of tax and regulatory policy around cats, or is your suggestion blazing a new path here?
It's a new path, we are quite strict on dogs and prohibit lions and tigers but on cats we are totally negligent.
Do you wonder whether a campaign to eliminate ALL cats might be un-strategic? Why not press for a cat limit per household, or seek ways to preserve certain bird species that don't involve forcibly neutering the cat population?
Neutered cats still kill for pleasure, and unless research has shown that neutering projects fail to reduce the size of feral cat colonies materially -- the problem being that getting 100% neutering coverage is too expensive for people and so they disobey such laws -- abandoned kitten litters and feral populations actually rise. Birds are only one of the species at risk, we have heaps of unique skunks, geckos, and insects that also are under siege from the cats humans have introduced to these islands.