Australia has announced its plan to protect several threatened species by destroying millions of feral cats. However, the plan has its detractors, drawing criticism from some animal rights activists and celebrities including Brigitte Bardot and English pop star Morrissey.

Gregory Andrews, Australia’s threatened species commissioner, has responded to critics of the plan stating that feral cats continue to prey on more than 100 threatened species. He further noted that they have already been a “major contributor” to the extinction of almost 30 species of mammals in Australia over the past 200 years.

He specifically listed some of the species destroyed in part by the feral cats: the desert bandicoot, lesser bilby, big-eared hopping-mouse, and crescent nailtail wallaby. He described these species as “delightful creatures, rich in importance in Australian Indigenous culture, and formerly playing important roles in the ecology of our country. We don’t want to lose any more species like these.”

In fact, the Australian Department of the Environment says that feral cats are the leading threat to the country’s mammals – more so than habitat loss and foxes.

The plan would use traps and poison to kill the cats.

The invasive species, numbering an estimated 20 million in Australia alone, were brought to the country by European settlers.

Ms. Bardot, an animal rights activist, called the plan “a scandal, a shame. This animal genocide is inhuman and ridiculous.” She argued that Australia should neuter rather than kill the feral cats.

Morrissey went even further calling the Australian government “a committee of sheep-farmers who have zero concerns about animal welfare or animal respect.” He referred to the planned killing as the destruction of “2 million smaller versions of Cecil the Lion.”

Despite the outrage of a few, Andrews noted that the Australian government has the support of numerous organizations. He said the plan was supported by “the overwhelming majority of key environmental nongovernment organizations” of which includes the World Wildlife Fund and the Nature Conservancy.

Andrews pointed out that, “The greatest impact of feral cats occurs across Australia’s vast deserts, rugged mountains, forests and savannas: remote and often inaccessible landscapes that are home to our native wildlife.”

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