EDITORIAL – ‘Catfight’ on the Sister Islands

Cayman Compass is the Cayman Islands' most trusted news website. We provide you with the latest breaking news from the Cayman Islands, as well as other parts of the Caribbean.
Cayman Compass is the Cayman Islands' most-trusted news website. We provide you with the latest breaking news from the Cayman Islands, as well as other parts of the Caribbean.

The claws came out last week in discussions about how best to control the Sister Islands’ booming feral cat populations when animal advocates turned to the courts to stop the Department of Agriculture and Department of Environment from culling the strays.

A judge granted animal advocates’ request to prevent the Department of Agriculture and Department of Environment from carrying out plans to destroy the wild animals, starting on Little Cayman. Later in the week, the judge lifted the injunction but only upon assurance from directors of both departments that they would not proceed with culling before he has heard the full application for judicial review.

The Cayman Islands Humane Society and Feline Friends brought the issue to the court on the basis of urgency, and because, they say, neither group nor the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee were consulted in the decision to cull the animals. It is their position that there are more humane ways to control wild cat populations. They say they are willing to help trap, neuter, vaccinate and release the animals as an alternative to the cull.

The Compass takes no editorial position on the relative benefits of “TNVR,” as the animal advocates’ preferred method is commonly called, versus culling. In fact, we are highly skeptical of the wisdom of allowing environmental advocates or, worse, activists to “manage” populations of wild animals, at all.

We can’t help but wonder out loud what the position of the Humane Society and Feline Friends (not to mention our learned judges) might be on culling green iguanas or even lionfish, not to mention feral dogs and our burgeoning feral fowl population.

We, and we presume the judiciary, would have serious concern over who among us (individuals or institutions) should have standing in court to halt, or interminably delay, regulatory actions with which they disagree. It is a very slippery slope.

For example, if we are unhappy about the fire at the George Town Landfill (and we are), can we approach the court to enjoin trash collection?

Why stop there? The same principle could be applied to Customs, Immigration, and any other government service. The end result would, of course, be paralysis, leading to civic chaos. Put another way, the courts must give wide berth – with a bias toward deference – to public bodies carrying out their prescribed and routine responsibilities.

Not unlike the feral cats that are believed to be a problem on all three islands – threatening wildlife, spreading disease and generally just getting in the way – there is a proliferation of issues leading to petitioning the courts for redress. This can be resisted only by the judiciary itself.

Further, the courts also have no role in fashioning “compromises” between disagreeing groups. As we have already stated, we have concerns about the quotient of wisdom God has given to human beings to make God-like choices about which species should live and which should die – perhaps that is an editorial for another day – but we would encourage our governmental and regulatory bodies to resist either judicial or advocacy group “pressure” to interfere with the course they have chosen.

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  1. To repeat myself from the Feb 21 article:
    The feral cats cause much more suffering when left in the wild, neutered or otherwise. TNRV is a wasted effort and a counter productive answer to the problem. It is indisputable that cats kill the local indigenous animals, most notably our endemic and very rare Rock Iguana. They will kill anything they can catch, even if it is not for food. And yes, they “play” with their victim while it is alive and suffering. I own a (house) cat, I know this to be true. Beyond that, if you saw the condition these poor invasive animals are in, you would agree that the only humane thing to do is to put them down. They are not made for this island environment. Asking for an injunction in the name of humanity is having the exact opposite affect. It is killing our local wildlife in a horrific way, and it is prolonging the suffering of these poor creatures.
    It is admirable that the Humane Society and Feline Friends help find good homes for the cats that can be domesticated and saved, but as the editorial says this issue is no different from that of the Green Iguana, Lionfish, or even rats. How can you logically support culling these creatures while railing against controlling cats with a humane culling effort? Because they have fur and you have one at home that will sit in your lap, if it feels like it? This serious problem can be humanely controlled with a culling effort, and it is irresponsible not to.

    • Well stated, Mr. Hillenbrand. TNR or TNRV or whatever other acronym of the day they are using for it has never worked in any area of significant size. It is not a feral cat population reduction plan. It is nothing more than a feral cat euthanasia avoidance scheme, promoted by cat advocates without regard to the cost to native birds and wildlife, public health, or nuisance issues and private property rights. It is ridiculous that this even merits discussion. Remove the cats. The cat advocates are more than welcome to keep them in enclosures on their own property if they wish. If they are unwilling to do so, then euthanize the cats.