Feline Conservation Federation

Beyond Baskin

The fact that Carole Baskin has made her irrationality apparent should not comfort us that much. Whole nations often follow irrational people to oblivion. Irrationality is contagious and the Internet is an ideal medium for it. We need to concentrate not so much on the character defects of the leaders, as on the fact they have become leaders. What kind of people are so blind as to follow them? Is it even possible to reason with such people?

Hopefully, Baskin’s followers are already thinking, “I’m too good for this, I’m too smart for this." Let FCF trust Carole Baskin to destroy her own reputation and attend to the issue she has greatly oversimplified with her slogan, “No cat should ever have to live in a cage.” I want to address that falderal, along with the equally ludicrous quote,  “Private sector cats are irrelevant to conservation.”

The FCF added conservation to our name and our mission in 1979. Members of this organization have been actively involved with conservation ever since that time. The painful lesson we have learned is that preservation of natural ecosystems is a constant effort that is almost impossible to sustain against the relentless economic forces at work on indigenous people. The only way to defend habitat is to buy the land, fence it in, and guard it 24 hours a day.

Putting them in cages punishes criminals, and innocent animals should not be treated like criminals. But there are other types of enclosures. Fences surround Club Meds for the same reason our cats are enclosed – to protect those fortunate enough to be inside from the dangers outside. Of course people are free to leave Club Med but they leave reluctantly. Spending your life at Club Med is not a form of deprivation. FCF members strive to build Club Meds for cats, not prisons. The FCF Husbandry Course encourages these efforts. The FCF Accreditation committee rewards and extols them.

Cats are territorial animals. Our cats absolutely hate being removed from their territory. They do not feel like prisoners longing to escape. They are Lords of their domain, prepared to defend their territory against all intruders. Most honor our service to them by welcoming us affectionately. Territoriality confines all cats in the wild by surrounding the cats inside, as many prisons have, not with fences, but with zones of death. Enter another cat’s territory and that cat will kill you. Enter into human territory and you equally risk your life.

Our culture conducts a relentless war on nature that has killed 90% of wild creatures. Many we ate, but most we starved to death by destroying their habitat. As we degrade and encroach on the remaining habitat, the territorial warfare both interspecies and with humans is horrendous.

Global warming is the consequence of one of thousands of dangerous substances polluting our environment. Energy is just one of thousands of resources we have squandered. A consumer economy heading towards ten billion people is unsustainable. Its imminent collapse will force billions of people to resort to hunting and scavenging for subsistence and the remaining wildlife will vanish like black magic. Even by the most anthropomorphic standards, the loving confinement we provide is preferable to the Hell society has created for wild animals.

Until recently Carole Baskin has never voiced any concern for wild animals in the wild because she could not sanctimoniously claim to be doing a thing for them. But then she began claiming to be saving the snow leopard by selling trinkets in her gift shop. Carole’s Big Cat Rescue exhibits the only snow leopard in the entire state of Florida. No other AZA facility, ethical zoo, or nature center subjects this endangered and highly specialized feline adapted to extreme cold, high altitude, and pristine air, to the oppressive heat and constant humidity of Florida’s subtropic sea level existence. For Carole, the snow leopard makes her facility special, and she exploits its rarity to entice the public to pay her to see her cats.

And then Carole attempted to rehabilitate several bobcats and saw first hand that habitat fragmentation has made life in the wilds of Florida far worse than the benevolent captivity that gave her the necessary skills to do rehab work. If Carole finds this new image as empowering as her anti-love rants, she may, like the andromeda strain, morph into something harmless, or, even useful.  She may even catch up to where FCF has been for decades and start making sense.

Carole quotes Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) propaganda that declares private sector cats to be irrelevant to conservation. This emanates from Ron Tilson. He is liar. Because Tilson is a scientist, his lies are more harmful than Baskin's. People associate science with trust and assume that scientists would not lie.

Ron Tilson said on national television that captive tigers are killing two people every month. The truth is, all the big cats in America have killed an average of one person per year, and no one was killed by a pet, and the only escaped tiger that killed a member of the public was a tiger moved to the San Francisco Zoo under the direction of the SSP manager - none other than Ron Tilson himself.

But the entire AZA is living a lie. Their Species Survival Plan is misnamed. It is a MSP – a Menagerie Survival Plan designed to keep AZA member cages full. It only becomes involved in conservation when a zoo pays a host country to circumvent the intention of CITES, and allow these zoos to import a cat born in the wild to enrich the gene pools, which will continue to need wild animals because these are not self-sustaining. For elitist and monopolistic reasons, this zoo association does not reach out to the private sector and their wealth of husbandry knowledge.

But the biggest lie of all is that private ownership has anything less to do with conservation than AZA managed animals. Privately owned felines can be the most benevolent form of animal husbandry. No husbanded species with a market value is in danger of extinction.

Consider the dog, a wolf in pet’s clothing. The amazing morphologic variety of the dog is a testament to the duration and success of its human symbiosis. It is evolution in overdrive. Dogs have been bred to pull sleds, to hunt, to guard the home, even to protect livestock from wolves. The Romans and Spanish even created dogs of war. Some may decry certain of the extreme forms dogs have taken but the fact is humans are transforming the world, and they have transformed the dog to fit into the world, as it will be.

The wild wolf is endangered; the “pet wolf” is a conservation success story that did not require one single person, to even attempt to be relevant to conservation. Exotic feline owners appreciate the cats for what they are, and are not trying to transform them into anything else. Private ownership is husbandry is conservation.