In July 2015, the Australian government announced the five-year plan of killing approximately two million feral cats by 2020. The move was part of a plan to save endangered native wildlife including 30 plants, 20 mammals and 20 bird species from extinction.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who made the announcement at Melbourne Zoo, explained that feral cats are responsible for the bulk decline of native mammal and bird species. Feral cat has been listed as a harmful pest and would be killed by shooting, poisoning and baiting. The strategy also includes the installation of 10 feral cat-free zones costing around $750,000 to create safe habitat areas for the endangered species.
A spokeswoman for Hunt explained that the estimated 20 million feral cats in Australia pose an enormous threat to native species, with an estimated five native animals killed by one feral cat daily. The priority list of mammal species requiring protection includes Kangaroo Island dunnart, numbat, eastern barred bandicoot, mountain pygmy-possum, golden bandicoot, eastern bettong, brush-tailed rabbit-rat, mala, western quoll and greater bilby.
Former French film star Brigitte Bardot and British musician Morrissey are two of the high profile protesters against Australia's plan to kill over two million feral cats to protect threatened species.
Morrissey and Bardot are veteran animal rights activists. In July, Bardot wrote an open letter to Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, wherein she described the move 'inhumane and ridiculous'. Bardot mentioned that killing two million feral cats is useless as the rest of the species will continue breeding. In Morrissey's open letter, he called the Australian government "a committee of sheep farmers who have zero concerns about animal welfare or animal respect."
Despite the public's major outcry, Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews said the move is vital to save endangered native wildlife. In his open letter to Bardot, he defended the government's decision stating the Australian wildlife has survived one of the world's highest extinction rates. In the last 200 years, Australia lost 29 unique mammal species with feral cats as major contributors in the steep decline. Andrews also made it clear that he is referring to feral cats, not domestic cats.
Australia's move is a tough pill to swallow for animal lovers worldwide. However, with the huge loss of wildlife, the culling of two million feral cats has been deemed environmentally fit and even necessary for the survival of endangered species.