Cats provide camouflage for Australia's failure to act on environmental destruction

January 24, 2020

Anyone who follows this blog knows I've written about cats. A lot.

Probably the best part of 100 times on this blog, and then taking it back to 2008 on the old blog another 300 times or so. But really, all of those writings can be summed up in just a few words.

The government inflates (lies) about the impact of feral cats as cover for more significant issues with the environment.

We saw it in 1998 when the NSW state government passed cat-restricting legislation which would go on to fail in all of its stated aims of "protecting wildlife", while the government continued to clear vast pockets of viable habitat killing millions, if not billions, of native animals.

We saw it in 2009, when the QLD government ran the same anti-cat agenda, passing laws and generating hysteria, while simultaneously presiding over some of the biggest coal mine developments in the country.

We saw it in 2014 when both cat-hating charities and cat-loving charities in WA joined forces to pass laws and fundraise on the back of killing cats. These resulted in some of the most draconian cat ownership laws in the country, and the development of a cat bait which was funded by a joint project between sheep farmers and the Australian government. Yes, sheep farmers - or to put it another way - farmers of non-native grazing livestock who require tree-cleared and pasture-grass sowed properties to raise their stock and a huge contributor to native animal extinction.

We saw it in 2017 when the national government's representative for native animal protection, the Threatened Species Commissioner (TSC) declared they would kill 2 million cats by 2020. Only to have his estimates of cat populations in Australia suddenly revealed to be inaccurate to the tune of tens of millions by native animal charities who had been hoping the $50 million (now ear-marked for broad-scale poisoning with the government's own poisons) might instead be invested into their own charity coffers and used by them to buy up property. Meee-ow!

And we saw it again in 2017 when the TSC joined forces with our RSPCA to condemn cats and give the RSPCA cover for their ongoing campaigns of impoundment and killing - but also to greenlight broadscale use of the government's new cat-bait laced with 1080, a poison that according to the TSC was no more dangerous than a cup of tea, downplaying the obvious and known risks to ALL animals (including companion animals) given as few as 1 in 100 baits are taken by the target species and the unimaginable cruelty of poisoning animals to death with 1080.

So while the government clears, farms, mines and poisons for profit the environment, they want to direct your attention to... cats!

And of course, in recent history, issues with the environment have grown exponentially.

We've seen widespread coral bleaching in waters off the Northern Australia coast, due to above-average sea surface temperatures. Reefs off Arnhem Land have bleached, and there has been a mass die-off of mangroves stretching from Borroloola to Queensland. Also, temperatures on Bare Sand Island have become so high, some years all of the hatchlings of flatback turtles were incubated as females, and no males were born.

Along with widespread bleaching, Australian tropical reefs are suffering from hypoxia; low oxygen levels in the water, that create large 'dead zones' due to phytoplankton blooms caused by pollution from farms, lawns and sewage. This warming has also been shown to explode the populations of jellyfish, leading to nearly 4,000 people being stung in one weekend by blue bottle jellies that drifted ashore in Queensland and a record number of stings by the deadly Irukandji jellyfish.

A mass shellfish die-off saw thousands of small green mussel shells and other species including starfish strewn across more than 1 kilometre of beach on Western Australia's south coast. Marine heatwaves off the WA coast have also led to large die-outs and dramatic changes in the regionally important abalone fisheries.

An unprecedented marine heatwave caused fish kills in the ocean in multiple locations in Western Australia. Deaths of tiny crabs in Karratha mudflats, wild oysters at the mouth of the Fortescue River on the Pilbara Coast, and krill at Town Beach in Exmouth in the state's north-west. In the South West of the state about 800 dead abalone and other shellfish species including crabs and various molluscs, were found along a beach north of Yallingup.

More than 95 per cent of the giant kelp – a living high-rise of 30ft stalks that served as a habitat for some of the rarest marine creatures in the world – died in Tasmania. In the 1950's giant kelp stretched over 9 million sq metres in a thick band along Tasmania’s coast; now it clings to a tiny patch near Southport, the island’s southern tip.

More than a dozen dead dolphins were found washed up on King Island beach. Locals counted 15 dead dolphins and a dead seal on a beach in Tasmania. The famous "Monkey Mia" dolphin pod in WA has dropped to just 2 individuals, while five of Swan Canning Riverpark’s resident dolphin community died after being spotted by locals with suffering from sores and breathing difficulties.

Internationally, a huge marine heatwave has killed nearly a million seabirds in the biggest known die-off of its kind. Mutton Birds have failed to make the annual migration from Alaska to their regular southern Australian roosting sites, with ecologists fearing the worst. Birdwatchers have told the media that we could be "looking at an extinction event". While hundreds of dead seabirds are washing up on some of Sydney’s most iconic beaches, sparking concern among experts who say this number of deaths is unprecedented, with Australian Seabird Rescue confirming breeding colony numbers are at an all time low.

And it's not just Australia's oceans, but rivers and wetlands too. Up to a million fish died along a 40-kilometre stretch of the Darling River in far west New South Wales after an algal bloom, with the mass killing following multiple similar incidents in rivers across the state.

Several thousand birds were found dead in Western Australia's 'most important' inland wetland, with the cause of death remaining a mystery.

Hundreds of thousands of native fish are estimated to have died in northern New South Wales after rains washed ash and sludge from bushfires into the Macleay River. Parts of the Macleay River have been turned into what locals described as “runny cake mix” that stank of rotting vegetation and dead fish. Ecologists say the impact of the fish kill have hit long-lived species like Australian bass, hard.

And land animals; Millions of red and grey kangaroos on the Western Plains died having suffered “massive ­haem­­­orr­haging”, total or partial blindness and internal bleeding around the joints as a result of a mysterious illness, resulting in “significant declines” in their populations. Other animals face serious health issues, with the number of Tasmanian devils dropping 90 per cent due to facial tumour disease, and koalas increasingly suffering a strain of chlamydia. with experts deeming them "functionally extinct".

An extreme heatwave in far north Queensland is estimated to have killed more than 23,000 spectacled flying foxes, equating to almost one third of the species in Australia.

In other events, baby bats were left for dead by their mothers in their thousands in an 'abandonment event' on the New South Wales coast, as drought and bushfire remove crucial vegetation for the keystone species. Rescuers describe the animals 'cooking alive' as flying foxes cannot maintain regular body function over 42 degrees, estimating there have been at least 1,700 bat deaths in the area. While in South Australia, over 8,000 bat pups, or "an entire generation" died in a heatwave.

Hundreds of galahs were "literally falling out of the sky" in South Australia, with more than 100 birds found in the Lower Lakes region and a further 200 galahs found dead in the town of Burra in the state's mid-north. Investigations were unable to find a cause of death. And almost 60 birds fell from the sky ‘screaming and bleeding from their eyes’ in front of horrified onlookers in South Australia, in a scene “like something out of a horror movie”. The majority of the birds were a native species – the long-billed corella – which is protected.

But it's not just poisoning, but heat and bushfire smoke killing animals, with photos emerging of native cockatoos and frogmouths, collapsing in the heat. While more than 100 dead and injured ringtail possums "fell out of trees" along a beach in Victoria, in what ecologists say is becoming an annual occurrence due to extreme heat stress.

And as if Australia's animals didn't have enough to contend with, what with their habitat and food source collapsing due to climate change, while they are simultaneously being poisoned, hunted, bludgeoned, eradicated, deemed a pest, blocked by fences, having their homes turned into housing estates, being hit by cars, overfished and being in competition with farm animals and human crops... now most currently one billion animals are now feared dead in Australia’s wildfires

As many as a billion animals may have been killed in Australia’s wildfires since September, a scientist said, doubling his earlier estimate as the unprecedented scale of the crisis in the world’s driest inhabited continent continued to emerge.

At the end of October last year, koalas in their hundreds were believed to have perished in a bushfire that ripped through a large area of critical koala habitat, south of Port Macquarie in New South Wales. A further 20,000 koalas were wiped out in Kangaroo Island blaze in January, or half of the island's resident koala population. Thousands of charred bodies of native animals including wallabies and koalas were found in Flinders Chase National Park in South Australia.

The bushfires have decimated populations of Australia's most fragile and endangered creatures with the WWF putting the number of animal deaths as high as 1.25 billion.

"This heart-breaking loss includes thousands of precious koalas on the mid-north coast of NSW, along with other iconic species such as kangaroos, wallabies, gliders, potoroos, cockatoos and honeyeaters,"

"Many forests will take decades to recover and some species may have tipped over the brink of extinction. Until the fires subside, the full extent of damage will remain unknown," he said.

"Australia is a land of bushfires, but this season's unprecedented mega-fires are not normal. Climate change does not cause bushfires, but it does make them much worse." ~ WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O'Gorman

Of course the government doesn't want you to talk about ANY of that

They need a scape goat. Or in this case a scape... cat.

The NSW Government is about to conduct the largest ever cull of feral animals in response to this year's devastating bushfires.

Scientists estimate that the blazes have killed more than a billion animals across the country.

There is concern the wildlife that has survived is now more vulnerable than ever due to feral predators.

Last week the federal government committed $50 million dollars to rescue and protect wildlife effected by the fires and says that is just an initial investment.

"The main priority now will be eradicating feral pests who are preying on our native animals. We'll roll out the biggest feral pest eradication program in our state's history." ~ Matt Kean MP, NSW Minister for Energy and Environment

Feral cats will be a key target, with the government saying they pose twice the threat of wild foxes and have contributed to the extinction of two dozen native Australian animals.
<--- ***A detail which I have challenged as really not even close to true here.

Labor, the Greens and the RSPCA broadly support the move.

ABC NEWS 19th January 2020

$50 million dollars available to purchase - you guessed it - the government's cat poisons! And nary a commentary on climate change in sight; a WIN! for the government, but not so much any of the animals.

With so much money on offer, it's no surprise to see...

A Liberal Minister (don't talk about the climate, thanks for the dosh)

The new Threatened Species Commissioner (the role hired specifically to ensure we all keep talking about cats, and not the climate)

And yup, the Invasive Species Council (a charity who literally makes their money taking grants and giving advice to government on how to kill things).

I guess The Australian Wildlife Conservancy have fallen out of favour since they pissed on the previous TSC's cat-killing parade. This new partner - The Invasive Species Council - is a small charity that make about $500,000k a year, 60% of which comes from government grants. No doubt they'd love a cash injection of some of that sweet, sweet $50 million of national government money.

So in other words, this entire campaign in being drive a bunch of people and organisations who have a vested interest in - or have been specifically hire to - keep you talking about cats and not more significant things like the climate. In 2020 when the bushfires seemed to be a tipping point of community sentiment about environment and climate action, these guys are in paid jobs delivering tens of millions of dollars all in the name of keeping the attention on cats and away from government policy.

Same as it ever was.

Update: The Animal Justice Party have released a statement

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