Australia is planning to kill almost two million feral cats in the next five years, according to a plan announced by the Federal Government this week, claiming the animals threaten the country's native birds and mammals.
Australia's Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrews called feral cats the "single biggest threat" to the country's mammals.
"Of the 29 mammals that we've lost to extinction, feral cats are implicated in 28 out of those 29 extinctions. It has been a problem that's been neglected. So feral cats have spread across our country over the last 200 years," he said during a radio interview.
Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced the five-year plan to save the country's native bird and mammal populations last Thursday, and immediately drew harsh criticism from animal rights activists.
According to Vice News, Hunt stated that “By 2020, I want to see 2 million feral cats culled, five new islands and 10 new mainland areas as safe havens, free of feral cats, and control measures applied across 10 million hectares.”
The initiative plan to cull two million feral cats out of an estimated 20 million in the country, which officials claim hunt countless of native animals daily.
"They are tsunamis of violence and death for Australia's native species," Hunt told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, saying the eradication process will be "humane."
But animal rights activists, including French actress Brigitte Bardot, have slammed the plan including French actress Brigitte Bardot, who saying that it is both cruel and useless.
"This animal genocide is inhumane and ridiculous. In addition to being cruel, killing these cats is absolutely useless since the rest of them will keep breeding," Bardot said in an open letter to Hunt, AFP reported. She called for a sterilisation campaign instead of killing the animals.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) also said killing animals will not solve the problem.
"Not only is shooting and poisoning cats cruel, culls have been shown to be unsuccessful in the long term," a spokeswoman for PETA Australia told AFP.
"The use of poison in suburban areas also puts domestic cats, dogs, and carnivorous wildlife at risk."
More than 10 percent of Australia's native species disappeared since Europeans settled on the island two centuries ago. Cats were brought to the island by settlers and many of them were later abandoned or ran away from their homes.
The federal government plans to kill feral cats by baiting, shooting or poisoning and create feral-free areas for birds and mammals.
The Australian government already announced that it had killed of nearly 700 koalas due to overpopulation and the culling of feral camels and wild horses, claiming they destroy land.