A moral panic over cats

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Journal Article
Conservation Biology, 2019, 33 (4), pp. 769 - 776
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© 2019 The Authors. Conservation Biology published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Society for Conservation Biology. Some conservationists believe that free-ranging cats pose an enormous risk to biodiversity and public health and therefore should be eliminated from the landscape by any means necessary. They further claim that those who question the science or ethics behind their arguments are science deniers (merchants of doubt) seeking to mislead the public. As much as we share a commitment to conservation of biodiversity and wild nature, we believe these ideas are wrong and fuel an unwarranted moral panic over cats. Those who question the ecological or epidemiological status of cats are not science deniers, and it is a false analogy to compare them with corporate and right-wing special interests that perpetrate disinformation campaigns over issues, such as smoking and climate change. There are good conservation and public-health reasons and evidence to be skeptical that free-ranging cats constitute a disaster for biodiversity and human health in all circumstances. Further, there are significant and largely unaddressed ethical and policy issues (e.g., the ethics and efficacy of lethal management) relative to how people ought to value and coexist with cats and native wildlife. Society is better served by a collaborative approach to produce better scientific and ethical knowledge about free-ranging cats.
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