A case of animal racism from Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan (TV3)
A sadist and natural born killer? Well, that bit’s probably right.

My daughter Naomi is an actuary and occasional stand-up comedian. Her on-stage persona is a not-very-bright young woman called Dolly Putin. Dolly was responsible for this gem: ‘I can’t understand all this fuss about endangered species.  How can they be endangered when there are more and more of them all the time?’

I was reminded of Dolly when I read a story in this morning’s Herald, headlined, ‘Morgan calls for cats to be wiped out’.

Morgan is economist Gareth Morgan who, according to the first line in the story, is launching a campaign to ‘eradicate’ domestic cats.

Despite the Herald’s sensation-seeking hyperbole, Gareth Morgan doesn’t actually want to kill cats; he wants cat owners to keep their pets permanently inside and not to replace them when they die – a sort of benevolent eugenics. No domestic cats would be killed, but the species would die out in New Zealand. 

‘Cats,’ the Herald reports Dr Morgan as saying, ‘are sadists and natural-born killers that destroy native wildlife.’

I’d like to avoid a fruitless debate about the relative merits of cats and dogs as species or pets and look at the wider issue of the categorisation of species generally as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

The common feature among all species, it seems to me, is that they want to survive. They neither want to die, nor to die out. The survival of one species, however, is often dependent on killing and eating members of another species.

We admire ‘big cats’ for their prowess in this, but condemn the same instinct in the domestic cat. I can see the logic in it – the domestic cat doesn’t need to kill birds or rats and mice to survive; its killing is gratuitous.

But this is equally true of humans. We don’t need to kill sheep and cows and pigs and assorted birds and sea creatures to survive. We do it primarily for our personal gratification. We could survive perfectly well on grains and vegetables and fruit. Millions of people do.

More interesting to me is the distinction which we make between cats killing birds (bad) and cats killing rats and mice (good).

Such distinctions directly reflect our view of the victims themselves. Birds are ‘good’ and ‘nice’, rats and mice are ‘bad’ and ‘nasty’. Neither the birds nor the rats and mice know this of course. They’re just getting on with following their instincts to breed and survive.

But if the rats and mice don’t know that they’re ‘vermin’ – perhaps the most derogatory word in our language – they certainly do know that they exist in constant peril of their lives. Their highly successful concealment and escape strategies attest to that.

Rats and mice are clever creatures. So I have mixed feelings when our cats deposit a dead rat on the rug in front of the fire. I don’t like rats either, but I feel sorry when any living creature is killed.

I also feel sorry when the corpse on the carpet is a thrush or a finch. But I don’t feel more sorry. I don’t make that distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ species in the animal world, since animals don’t have consciences and can’t  make moral judgements.

Gareth Morgan’s desire to eliminate domestic cats from New Zealand (and presumably everywhere else) involves a further refinement of the ‘cats bad’, ‘birds good’ argument. Not all birds, it transpires, are created equal. The killing of an immigrant bird may be regrettable, but the killing of a native bird is an absolute tragedy. I have trouble with this argument on two grounds.

The first I’ve already advanced: one species may be more attractive than another, but its degree of attractiveness, let alone its nationality, ought not to confer on it a greater right to survive and breed. That is akin to animal racism. I find our native fantails absolutely charming but the death of an immigrant sparrow will cause me just as much grief.

So the issue finally comes down to Dolly’s endangered species. She’s right of course, there do seem to be more of them all the time. But society’s concern for endangered species seems to have more to do with sentiment than reason.

Other than through the activities of men, most notably in the case of marine mammals, endangered species are the corollary of Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ – the non-survival of the less fit, the less well adapted.

Our national bird, the kiwi, is a popular example of an endangered species. Would it be sad if the kiwi disappeared? Well of course it would. And all the more sad because it’s neither gorgeous nor gainly and the silly thing can’t even meet the most basic qualification of birdhood, to be able to fly.

People say, ‘Just imagine what it would be like if you could never see another kiwi again.’ Well, it would be a pity but we’d get over it. For just as some species disappear, others are discovered. We will never run out of species to admire, love and have as national symbols.

Well then, Brian, why all the fuss about Gareth Morgan wanting to eliminate the entire cat population of New Zealand?

Well, it’s based on sentiment rather than reason; his facts, as Bob Kerridge points out in today’s Herald, are (uncharacteristically in my opinion) wrong; it’s counterproductive since cats kill rats which eat birds’ eggs and kill their chicks;  it’s entirely impractical since the only way to keep cats in the house is to close every door and window; and, even if it were possible, it would bring enormous sadness to more than two million New Zealand men, women and children. I’m not in favour of that. And neither are Max and Felix.

Finally, as for cats being sadists and natural-born killers. Well, that bit’s probably right.

Media trainer and commentator Dr Brian Edwards blogs at Brian Edwards Media

This article is tagged with the following keywords. Find out more about My Tags

Post Comment

113 Comments & Questions

Commenter icon key: Subscriber Verified

Gareth, buy a hat. The summer sun must be affecting your brain. On a more serious note, this cat nonsense will compromise your credibility on other subjects.

Reply
Share

I think the money as well as the sun is affecting Gareth. There's been a noteable ramp-up in his profile (self-funded vs outcome based) since cashing in on Sam's successes with Trade Me. Unfortunately, Gareth's become an expert (not!) on everything he decides to become involved with, including football. It's time somebody like Holmes gave him a public working-over!

Reply
Share

The basis for New Zealanders owning more cats per capita is an online survey of 1570 people, 1062 of which owned pets. From this online survey, they have extrapolated that there are 1,419,000 cats in NZ. I can't see any indication of a margin of error in the survey, nor how they accounted for the 1/6th of the population who don't use the internet (or whatever the percentage might be), nor what the response rate was. You would think that pet owners would be much more likley to respond than non pet owners

Reply
Share

It always amazes me to see "gardeners" complaining about free manure. Would you prefer rat droppings?

Reply
Share

A trite answer, Alan, but wrong. We don't have cats to keep rat numbers down. We have the technology, Alan. It's called rat traps.

Reply
Share

Nothing trite about it. What have you got against free garden manure? And I suggest cats kill far, far more mice and rats than traps do.

Get a life.

Reply
Share

But on the up side, if every cat owner kept the damned things inside, they wouldn't be wandering all over my place digging up my plants and cr*pping in my garden. Grabbing a handful of catsh*t while gardening isn't a hell of a lot of fun. Dogs have restraints on wandering, why not cats? And, why aren't cats required to be registered?

Good on ya, Gareth, eliminate cats.

Reply
Share

Who the hell do you think you are? Have you ever felt lonely to the point where you feel like you're the only person on earth and there is no one out there who gives a damn? I have been a cat lover since I care to remember they don't ask for anything, don't answer back and just because they aren't supposedly as clever as a dogs suppose to be means nothing. They have feelings, they feel pain. I love my cat with all my heart and I'm not ashamed to say so, and I'm sure every other person who owns a fur ball will say the same thing. To hell with you. They know who loves them and if it's a riot you want, that's what you'll get!

Reply
Share

That's fine, Debbie. And maybe you are one of the (many) responsible owners who keep their cats inside, have it desexed, and would have no problem registering and microchipping it like dogs are required to. But as a cat owner myself for many years, with a few years' gap, I've seen first hand that cats don't cr*p in their own yard. When I don't have cats, the neighbours' cats cr*p in my garden and when I do it's totally clear (pity my neighbours). Dick's right, actually. What right do I have to put cat poo in his garden? To say my cats do it unbeknown to me is disingenuous; they do and I know, I just don't see it.

Reply
Share

Get a dog. Cats suck.

Reply
Share

Darn right, Debbie.

Reply
Share

You're as sick and twisted as Gareth Morgan. Had a sad childhood, did you? Plants are more important than animals are they? And...surprise, surprise...cats kill birds. Wow! And guess what, Dick? Birds kill worms! Shall we kill the birds, then? Stop interfering with nature, all you idiots, as nature has a way of getting back at us. It's the law of nature. Why don't you try and love an aninal for once in your life. It might surprise you - you might even like yourself!

Reply
Share

It would be poetic justice if you could exchange your cat problem for wild weka and pukeko in your garden. Then you might a) know what you are talking about and b) have a real problem.

Reply
Share

It might be time better spent if he sorted out the pussies in the Phoenix first...

Reply
Share

Great idea. Much rather have native birds than cats.

Reply
Share

Those aren't the options. Feral cats are the problem, not domestic cats. When did you last see a domestic cat kill a tui or a fantail?

Reply
Share

Did you see @rawdonchristies picture of his cat on Breakfast this morning?

If you didn't, I will ruin the surprise. He went home yesterday and his cat had caught a native bird.

Reply
Share

Feral cats are a problem, but not the main problem. I have had cats for years and have seen them kill birds. I've tried to dissaude them and think I've succeeded, but the reality is they're just not bringing them home so much (and they only brought some home, anyway). I like your article, Brian (it brings some sense to the debate, much like Gareth himself has; unlike so many others). But to say domestic cats are not part of the problem is plain wrong.

Reply
Share

What's wrong with a bit of feral pussy hanging about the place?

I just don't understand where all this felinephobia is coming from. The number of rats and mice would be at plague proportions without cats.

Reply
Share

Anyone who hurts a feral cat or traps them is a scumbag, too.

Reply
Share

See what happens when the Phoenix are the resident cellar-dwellers.
Someone, send Gareth a budgie and tell him to STFU.

Reply
Share

We fully support Gareth Morgan in his campaign to get rid of cats. We are sick of them fouling are garden and scatching plants out of the ground. Also, I would like to get the irresponsible people who release there cats into the scrub country near towns when they want to get rid of them.

Reply
Share

Ohoo, goodness me, how tragic for your poor garden. You put some plants ahead of an animal life. You are twisted, you morons.

Reply
Share

Yes, I place my plants (paid for by me) before someone else's vermin - vermin whose owners happily allow to cr*p in someone else's place. Have your mangy bloody cats by all means - just don't foist them on me.

And, incidentally, because I don't want to harvest your cat's turd, don't label me a moron. Or give me your address, so I can pop said turd back in your letterbox.

Reply
Share

But you are a moron for being so cruel. Your plants are more important than a cat? LOL - what planet are you from?

Reply
Share

But I'm not advocating cruelty, simply asking you to keep your poxy cats out of my place.

Interesting that no one has reponded to my earlier questions:
1. Why are there not constraints on cats being allowed to wander?
2. Why aren't cats required to be registered?

Good enough for dogs...

Reply
Share

1. Have you ever tried to herd cats?
2. Why would you want to set up yet another government bureaucracy? If we really feel the need for additional registration, I'd go for cyclists first. They cause far more trouble to me than cats (a non-cat owner).

As a general observation, it's always seemed to me that it requires a fairly interesting kind of individual to get so worked up about the presence of minute amounts of cat manure in one's garden.
I remain grateful to the owners of the stream of cats that wander across my property for (i) keeping the rodent population under control and (ii) providing an endless source of entertainment for my dog.

Reply
Share

From the City of Melbourne website, "Responsible pet ownership " page (http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/ForResidents/Pets/Pages/Responsiblepetow...):

Did you know...
Your neighbours are entitled to enjoy their garden without your cat or dog roaming onto their property killing birds, digging or leaving excrement in their garden. If your neighbour asks you to stop your cat or dog from coming onto their property, you must do so. If your animal strays onto their land without permission more than once, it can be seized and you may be fined or prosecuted.

There are cat enclosures available that allow cats outside but keep them confined, which is safer for your cat, too. Ensure your fences are in good repair and your dog cannot be let out accidentally.

If you pet is found wandering off your premises without its council identification tag it can be seized.

Reply
Share

Well, this is to you Dick and every other Dick out there! You can't restrain a cat because a cat is a cat and not a dog. A bird is a bird and not a fish. Get it? Do I need to simplify it for you? They''re different species. And so what if they defacate on your garden? Be jouful. Think of the free fertiliser you're getting! And cats are the cleanest animals on the planet. No other animal buries its excrement like a cat does. And as far as killing birds go..most animals including ourselves kill to eat. So unless you're a vegetarian, you're a hypocrite. Don't kill your own food? Then you're a lazy hypocrite! And birds defacate on your car. Shall we pass a law forbiding birds to fly over your house then? Get a life Dick!

Reply
Share

Try to get a hobby so you won't be so darn angry with your life.
I'm just glad there is punishment at death for the cruel.

Reply
Share

I'm right with you Eliza. Dick is an idiot. I would like to add something to Gareth's slogan: "Cats to go .. .and spray on Gareth's face." Let's all aim for a Gareth-free New Zealand. What a wonderful world that would be! AAAHHHH....

Reply
Share

Ha, ha. Well, I know its naughty but his name says it all!
I and my family (kids + including sis) are born-again Christians and
we constantly get answered prayers and speak in real tongues
language. So we will pray Gareth Morgan won't have a leg to stand on with this and we will see it answered, praise God. He's just a cruel little crud.

Reply
Share

You're a Christian? Fantastic! So am I. I have finally found a comrade in arms. lol Yes, they mess with God's creation at their own peril. At the end of the age we are all going to be judged on how we treated His creation. Yes, the world is going to be destroyed in the end but He is going to destroy, it not us. We are instructed to be caretakers, not abusers of it, until then.

Reply
Share

Hi Shanna, I revisited the thread and it's neat to hear you're
a Christian. U can send me a mail if you want on Nnmspc@yahoo.com.
Cheers.

Reply
Share

You are just angry at the world and you know it. Well, there's payback when your life ends, and anyone's life can end in an instant. These are creatures from God we are talking about.

Reply
Share

Who cares about your plants. Just do what I do and place a stone or
small plastic plant pot in front of the plants. Stop worshipping
a garden. It's a sin you have made it an idol as "Wes" and others have.
They also use "birds" and "gardens" as an excuse as they are
full of hate for cats and, I'm guessing, all animals.

Reply
Share

Sounds as if Gareth is bored and wants some attention.

Reply
Share

The only thing killing our birds is 1080.

Reply
Share

This comment needs is factually wrong, as Forest & Bird, DoC and Federated Farmers will testify to.

Reply
Share

Gareth are you one of those sociopaths who probably hurt cats when growing up. No idea about feelings, thinks you know everything better than anyone else?
What would be a better statement. I wish people who have cats take total
responsibility of them. I have always owned cats and they live inside and if out only in my backyard.
My cat runs inside when birds chase it. Same as taking responsibility of your children.

Reply
Share

Very sane response! :)

Reply
Share

As I recall Gareth was very clear that he perfectly understood the need for companionship, etc. Let's have the debate on logical grounds, not mischaracterise and attack people advocating those views.

Reply
Share

Really it would make more sense to kill off a few 100 million human beings... lets face it we are most pestilent and destructive animals on the face of the earth . The cat or any other animal for that matter is only following its instincts ...natural born killers...for heaven's Gareth get a grip.

Reply
Share

Here's hoping Gareth is one of the few 100 million :D

Reply
Share

All those who say they care for birds are such liars. They hate
all animals and just want an excuse to hurt cats... Seen it a 1000 times.
The guy Morgan is a total geek, and knows he is, and wants to be seen
as a "tough guy". You reap what you sow, Morgan.

Reply
Share

As far as devastation to wildlife is concerned, humans have done far more harm than the feline population could ever dream of. Unless he has something sensible to say, Mr Morgan should keep his arrogant, ill considered thoughts to himself.

Reply
Share

Bring back fur coats, Isay......

SPCA could sell fur coats to fund themselves off the cats they put down each year.

Reply
Share

Would love for Gareth to throw some money to the fight to eradicate the feral cats, not the NZ ordinary pussy. I have six cats, all have been neutered and speyed, are fed well, and I have never seen any catch a native bird, the occasional duck (was rescued and survived) lots of rats and mice and the odd steak (neighbours dinner). We have to change people, not cats, not their fault, silly people getting kittens and not looking after them properly, need to have some education about rearing cats and dogs and KIDS.

Reply
Share

Gareth Morgan has no chance of getting rid of cats but he has a great chance of inciting other cat haters to cruelty. It would be far better for him to help the SPCA with their education program for children in schools to learn to respect all animals. the true sadists are not the cats but humans

Reply
Share

Well said, Charlotte. Drop me a line, too, if you want at Nnmspc@yahoo.com

Reply
Share

Post New comment or question

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

NZ Market Snapshot

Forex

Sym Price Change
USD 0.7850 -0.0001 -0.01%
AUD 0.8957 -0.0002 -0.02%
EUR 0.6214 -0.0002 -0.03%
GBP 0.4894 0.0000 0.00%
HKD 6.0919 0.0019 0.03%
JPY 84.1530 0.0310 0.04%

Commods

Commodity Price Change Time
Gold Index 1241.1 -7.450 2014-10-22T00:
Oil Brent 84.7 -1.510 2014-10-22T00:
Oil Nymex 80.5 -1.970 2014-10-22T00:
Silver Index 17.2 -0.310 2014-10-22T00:

Indices

Symbol Open High Last %
NZX 50 5279.7 5298.2 5279.7 0.32%
NASDAQ 4429.2 4435.9 4419.5 -0.83%
DAX 8934.5 8957.2 8887.0 0.60%
DJI 16615.3 16653.9 16614.8 -0.92%
FTSE 6372.3 6401.5 6372.3 0.43%
HKSE 23296.0 23397.2 23404.0 -0.40%
NI225 15093.8 15137.4 15195.8 -0.52%