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Conservation and Society
An interdisciplinary journal exploring linkages between society, environment and development
Conservation and Society
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RESEARCH ARTICLE
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 20  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 211-221

The Small British Cat Debate: Conservation Non-Issues and The (Im)mobility of Wildlife Controversies


Current affiliation: Schools of Biological and Social Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, NZ; Research conducted at: School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
Alexandra Palmer
Schools of Biological and Social Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, NZ; School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/cs.cs_92_21

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This article examines why cat predation is not on the agenda for most UK-focused conservation NGOs. Drawing on interviews and an analysis of scientific literatures and social media, I show that there are genuine epistemic uncertainties about whether cat predation presents a widespread conservation problem in the UK. This means that characterising NGOs' position as science denialism is unjustified. However, I argue that NGOs may wish to avoid looking into the issue too closely, due to a belief that the matter is irresolvable: a view founded on assumptions about what the British public thinks, and what politicians think the public thinks. Finally, I show that while there is little fighting about cats between conservationists and cat advocates, cats are readily 'grafted' onto existing disagreements about gamekeeping and predator control. I conclude that the small British cat debate is unlikely to get any bigger in future, and that the case illustrates the importance of bringing together social science literatures on NGO politics, science and technology, and human-animal relationships when seeking to understand 'issue creation' by conservation NGOs. Furthermore, it highlights the need to attend to local cultures, practices, and ecologies rather than assuming that issues will translate across contexts.


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