While bird advocacy groups are often quick to point the finger at cats for the decline in bird populations, it is becoming increasingly evident that humans are playing a significant role in the death of birds. Oil spills, drowning by fishing nets, and electrocution by power lines all account for accidental deaths of migratory birds, which for the previous decades, was a punishable offense. Under Republican and Democratic presidents alike, killing migratory birds, even accidentally, was a crime, with fines ranging from $250 to $100 million. This served as a deterrent that protected birds and allowed the government to hold companies accountable for environmental disasters.
But in part due to President Trump’s interior secretary nominee, David Bernhardt, the protection provided to these birds is being severely undermined. Bernhardt pushed a December 2017 legal opinion that declared the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) only applies when companies kill birds on purpose. This new policy has resulted in a significantly more ‘hand’s off’ approach when it comes to human action resulting in the harming or killing of migratory birds or their eggs. For example, when a tugboat spilled oil into Great Harbor in Massachusetts, which resulted in the death of dozens of birds. “As this spill involves the incidental take of birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, there is currently no enforcement action planned,” according to an email from a Fish and Wildlife agent.
This new interpretation of the century-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act places birds at an increased risk, but also could potentially further harm cats’ reputation as well. As cats have long taken the brunt of the blame for bird deaths, an increase in numbers of deaths could also be falsely attributed to cats. Therefore, it is in the best interest for both birds and cats that the MBTA is restored and strengthened to what it once was.
Alley Cat Rescue is leading in the way in promoting humane and compassionate care for ALL cats.