The continent of Australia is being inundated with feral cats and if government officials have their way, a plan to kill 2 million of them by 2020 will be successful.
But not everyone is happy about the decision, The Washington Post reports.
“The cats are, in fact, 2 million smaller versions of Cecil the lion,” singer Morrissey wrote in an open letter to the Australian government. Cecil was hunted and killed by a American dentist in Africa; the act has caused worldwide outrage.
The British entertainer, along with other animal rights activists such as French actress Bridgette Bardot, are calling the cull “idiocy,” “inhumane and ridiculous” and a form of “animal genocide.”
However, as the Post reports, the cats — introduced to the country by European settlers around 1800 — have become a threat to native wildlife and are being blamed for the extinction of several unique Australian species.
In reply to Bardot’s letter, Australia’s Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews tried to explain and defend his government’s position on culling the feral cats.
“We are home to more than 500,000 species, most of which are found nowhere else in the world. Our animals and plants define us as a nation, so when we lose them, we lost a part of who we are as a country,” Andrews wrote, as reported by the Post.
He added that the country has the highest extinction rate in the globe.
“We have lost 29 unique Australian mammal species over the last 200 years,” Andrews continued. “This represents 35 percent of the world’s modern mammal extinctions and is the highest rate of mammal extinctions in the world.”
The commissioner also explained that the estimated 20 million or so feral cats who call Australia home each kills roughly an average of five animals — small mammals, birds, bugs, lizards, etc. — every night. For this reason, he told the paper, the cull will focus on cats living in remote desert areas, where wildlife is most threatened, and is part of a greater effort to eliminate the problem.