Apparently for the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), what's good for the goose isn't so good for the gander. ABC claims to be a champion of environmental protection and sustainability when it endorses killing outdoor cats as the only way to save birds, despite a century of failed catch and kill policies. But now, ABC is opposing a recent U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal for "sustainability" and wildlife protection, because this time birds are in the crosshairs, not cats.
ABC has come out against the proposal to kill 16,000 cormorant birds on East Sand Island, Oregon over the next four years. The Army Corps of Engineers' goal is to reduce cormorant predation on juvenile salmonids and salmon smolt. ABC's 23-page letter to the Portland District Office accuses the proposal of ignoring and misinterpreting scientific data, and condemning it for lacking "adequate justification and explanation of why the same result cannot be achieved through non-lethal methods."
This argument is familiar to me. For decades, cats have been routinely rounded up and killed in shelters as fall guys for bird population declines. But the real reason bird populations are suffering is the same reason salmon populations are struggling: humans. It's humans who destroy the natural habitats of wildlife, poison water resources and land with pesticides and industrial pollutants and prey on birds and salmon through hunting and overfishing.
The American Bird Conservancy is right to criticize the Army Corps of Engineers' misguided plan. Humans are responsible for the vast destruction of the environment which devastates bird and salmon populations. As a society, we have a tendency to blame animals for the ecological disasters we cause, because it relieves us of the responsibility to change our own behavior. But this does nothing for the animals who continue to suffer as we destroy their habitats and argue about which animal to kill to save another. Passing the buck to birds or cats and refusing to acknowledge our own responsibility only exacerbates the crisis. Neither cats nor birds are to blame -- we are.
Although we agree with ABC on this issue, we hope that the double standard they have created for themselves is not lost on them. This is a wake-up call for the American Bird Conservancy. When you support the mass killing of one animal to protect another, you create a dangerous precedent that puts the lives of countless innocent animals at risk. You can't oppose eradicating birds to protect salmon and then turn around and support eradicating cats to protect birds. This is a hypocritical cycle in which all animals lose. Alley Cat Allies values all animals, including birds and salmon. All animals have a right to life.
Killing off 16,000 cormorant birds is not the ethical or effective way to save the salmon, just as killing cats is not an ethical or effective way to save birds. Humans are the single greatest threat to cats, birds and salmon. But the threat we pose comes with a choice. The more time we spend killing one species to save another, the less time we have to work together to save them all.
We don't have to choose--learn how you can protect cats and birds at www.alleycat.org/SaveTheBirds.
Becky Robinson is the President and Founder of Alley Cat Allies, the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection of cats.