April 13, 2005
There are probably no crazier groups of people in America than the gun fanatics and cat lovers. The gun fanatics idolize their weapons and worship them in a way that comes close to religious idolatry. The weapons serve no use except to kill things, which, unless you are hunting for food, is not admirable. The cat people romanticize their pets, going great lengths to describe how smart cats are and how wonderful are their personalities. In fact, cats are as dumb as doorknobs and only seem to have a personality to people who don’t. It was only a matter of time before the two groups would apparently clash and now they have. It’s not clear who will win. In Wisconsin, one of the saner of the states, the Conservation Congress, an advisory group to the Department of Natural Resources, took votes around the state and the results--if they follow through--would remove the protected status of feral cats. That means if a little pussy ran across your front yard and did not have a collar, you could pop the little darling with your Magnum. The vote in every county was in favor of shooting the cats. The Congress now has to make a recommendation to the DNR and it is the DNR that decides what to do about the cats. Now it is perfectly true that in some places in the world (Australia comes to mind) feral cats are a serious threat to the environment and killing them would be a blessing to all the birds and other creatures that are part of the feline food chain. The cats aren’t natural to the wild but were pets that some cat lovers couldn't or wouldn't take responsibility for. In Wisconsin, they kill millions of song birds. Several people appalled at the idea have discovered it is not quite as weird as it sounds. Both Minnesota and South Dakota already permit killing feral cats, and we all know how sensible Minnesotans are. I married one. Rules haven’t been talked about yet. For instance, what about collateral damage when you try to shoot a bothersome feline in your yard? Like if you hit the 8-year-old girl across the street? The good news is that any rule would eventually require an act of the legislature, which apparently includes some cat people.
But hunters, take note; all is not over. You can may be able sit at home at your computer and still kill something. A Texas company (where else!) is considering letting people use a computer mouse to operate a remote-controlled rifle to hunt deer, antelope and pigs in a hunting preserve. (I am not making this up). It’s called Live-Shot. For a small fee, $150, you take control of a rifle and camera and aim at the animals wandering around in the park. Click and shoot. (One presumes you have broadband. The only thing you could hit with a modem and AOL would have to be sound asleep). The Texans already have the rig, a $10,000 device that contains a camera and a .22 rifle. The originator of this idea, John Underwood, says one use would be to permit handicapped people, who would have trouble getting out in the wild, kill something. [NPR Audio]My suggestion is that he sets this up in, say, Madison, Wisconsin so we can have pictures of handicapped people shooting cats from their living room.
UPDATE: But all is not lost. According to the Los Angeles Times, lawmakers--and of all people, organizations representing hunters and conservationists--are up in arms [sorry] about the idea of remote-control animal popping. Even in Texas! The vice president of the Texas Wildlife Assn, which represents hunters and conservationists, called it "off the end of the ethical chart." California legislators are now considering a bill making it illegal. The Senate has passed it. One scholar, however, points out that in a country in which the computer game "Grand Theft Auto" is wildly popular, Underwood is not necessarily out of the mainstream.
[With thanks to Carol, a sensible Minnesotan, and Circles, the family cat, who has a collar.]