Book Review: Among the Pigeons: Why Our Cats Belong Indoors by John L. Read. Mile End, South Australia:Wakefield Press, 2019. Pre-Press.” Expected publication 2019.
As the habitat for many creatures has been fragmented by human activity, the introduction of protected, fed, and indiscriminate predator, the house cat, has greatly multiplied the threat to the survival of many native species. John L. Read is a trained ecologist who hails from Australia, a continent that has struggled mightily with the negative environmental impacts of non-native animals like the house cat.
I learned of Read through a social media page of people dedicated to fighting the scourge of free-range cats. Read was kind enough to send me a pre-publication version of his book, Among the Pigeons. My comments will be on this pre-publication version.
Among the Pigeons belongs to that genre of books that can be entitled as narrative science. It’s a scientific book in that Read has done yeoman’s work sifting the published literature. He deftly and smartly weaves that information throughout the books, 300 plus pages. But the book is narrative in that Read tells stories, lots of stories from his personal visits around the world with people involved with cats. He discusses meetings with people from Australia, Japan, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Africa, Spain and Pacific Islanders. Throughout, Read avoids creating straw men or demonizing people who have different views about cats than himself. But nor does he let them off the hook for the consequences and impacts of their actions and choices, and sometimes lack of action. In this way, the book also delves into the social-cultural aspects of the cat debate. He rightly understands that facts don’t change people who don’t have the moral fiber to integrate those facts into changing their behavior.
If the book sounds complex, it’s because the subject he is dealing with is. Frankly, I found myself quite depressed at times. Read tries to soften the blow but the news is not good, though there are glimpses of hope. I particularly appreciated learning about the research being done in finding new methods to control free-range cats in the field. As a professional in the wildlife control industry, I do think he was a bit too negative on the efficacy of traditional controls. I understand that agents have had difficulty catching the last few cats in various locations, thereby casting doubt on the benefits of traditional methods (e.g. hunting, trapping). I just wonder if part of the problem is the rules governing control methods were too restrictive. I have said, hunting is easy, legal hunting is hard. Readers should not take my slight criticism here as a reason to avoid this profound book.
If you want to learn more about the impacts of cats, how people are working to manage the problem (or not) and insight into the psycho-social complexity of the problem, then this book is for you. You can learn more at Johnlread.comStephen M. Vantassel, CWCP, ACE, is the owner of Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC. He helps people restore their balance with nature through publishing, training, consulting, and the internet. He has published numerous articles in trade and academic publications along with several books (http://kingsdivinity.academia.edu/StephenMVantassel). He is a sought after speaker and trainer. Copyright All postings are the property of Stephen M. Vantassel and Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC. Text (not images) may be reprinted in non-profit publications provided that the author and website URL is included. If images wish to be used, explicit and written permission must be obtained from Wildlife Control Consultant, LLC.