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The Australian government is killing millions of cats — here's why

It's been called 'animal genocide'

Auscape/UIG via Getty Images

Australia has had it with invasive feral cats killing the country's native species. So, the government is in the thick of a full-scale plan to get rid of the pests, enlisting the help of farmers and hunters to help eradicate millions of unwelcome felines despite accusations that they're carrying out "genocide" against the creatures.

What are the details?

In 2015, Australia declared open season on feral cats after discovering they were responsible for the extinction of at least 27 indigenous species, USA Today reported. The goal was to send 2 million of an estimated 20 million wild cats to the grave over the course of five years.

Officials received some pushback when the plan was announced, with cat lovers at home and abroad protesting the decision. Actress Brigitte Bardot wrote a letter to the environmental minister, declaring the culling as inhumane "animal genocide."

But cats aren't native to Australia, and their presence in the ecosystem has led to the decimation of several mammal species that are — or were — unequipped to survive against the predators. According to Queensland veterinarian Katria Lovell, the public recognizes the destruction wild cats have caused.

"Australians have a huge appreciation for our natural fauna," Lovell told The New York Times. "Most people have empathy with the fact that there is all this wildlife being killed and it is taking its toll on the environment, so I think there is a general feeling that something has to be done.

On Thursday, the Times reported on the progress of the mission, detailing the methods used for trapping, hunting, and poisoning the foreign invaders. The paper noted that not only has the country embraced the idea that feral cats are "killers," even PETA Australia "in principle recognized that feral cats hunted wildlife to a point at which species can no longer survive."

While scientists lead the charge from the government side, private citizens are handling most of the problem: farmers and shooters offed 83 percent of the feral cats killed in the first year of the eradication effort, according to federal data.

Anything else?

The Daily Caller reported that feral cats aren't just a problem in Australia, citing a study that claims the predators have been linked to the extinction of more than 60 unique species worldwide over the past 500 years.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that PETA has turned a blind eye to Australia's feral cat culling. The organization disputes that claim, and has a published stance calling for either mass sterilization of the cats, or trapping "if necessary" to have them humanely euthanized.

One last thing…
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