Scottish government documents were recently obtained revealing secret plans to trap and kill feral and domestic cats by shooting them with a shotgun. Wildcat Haven, an organization aiming to save the endangered Scottish Wildcat, acquired the documents from government agency Scottish Natural Haven (SNH) that reveal their plan to kill the cats. To make matters worse, SNH is carrying out this measure in the name of conservation, claiming to protect the endangered Scottish wildcat population.

Surviving thousands of years of human persecution, the Scottish wildcat is now in grave danger of becoming entirely extinct. The Scottish wildcat is an isolated island population of the European wildcat found solely in Scotland. They are similar in appearance to a domestic cat and currently the most endangered mammal in Britain. There may be as few as 35 remaining.

One of the primary threats to the survival of this endangered species is cross mating or hybridization with feral and domestic cats. The Scottish Wildcat Action Plan, released by SNH, aims to prevent the annihilation of the species. Part of the plan includes a benign ‘Trap-Neuter-Release’ program, a measure to prevent cross breeding by sterilizing feral and domestic cats.

However, the trapping license issued by the SNH to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland details a different and more drastic measure. According to the document, all feral and domestic cats that are caught are to be shot and killed. This dictated measure is ironically titled “Humane Dispatch Protocols.”

The language in the document explicitly states how the cats are to be shot and killed:

“Dispatch with a 12 bore shotgun using number three shot (lead shot not to be used over foreshore or wetlands), positioned 5m from the trap, aiming at the head and the front of the shoulder, is recommended.”

Information regarding trapping and shooting the cats was withheld from the public until the documents were obtained by Wildcat Haven. Moreover, the SNH is requesting tax dollar support from the Scottish public to fund the action. People are also being asked to report sightings of feral, domestic, and wildcat-domestic hybrids.

Shooting and killing the cats through the ‘Humane Dispatch Protocol’ is both cruel and unnecessary. Spaying and neutering of domestic and feral cats have proven as an effective means for controlling the problem of cross mating. There is also a substantial risk of a Scottish Wildcat being shot through misidentification. Wildcat Haven has requested an immediate suspension of the plan.

Claire Bass, director of Humane Society International, an organization supporting the Wildcat Haven project, commented, “I am sure the public will be rightly shocked by this sad revelation. Wildcat Haven has proven that feral cats can be sterilized, not shot, to protect Scottish wildcats in their natural habitat.”