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.