Saturday, February 28, 2009

conversations on cat welfare II

Several significant connections were made at the cat welfare meeting between active individuals immersed in cat management in one way or another – TNRM, rescue, fostering, feeding.

Beyond cat management practices, potential advocacy and education/awareness platforms were shared and discussed. These ideas are being ironed out before they can be usefully shared. There is one they can start working on that will benefit from inputs from the wider cat community – you.

They plan to produce and disseminate a smart little booklet for general public consumption. More specifically, for people who don’t like cats. The booklet will educate, entertain and more importantly, provide practical, humane solutions for avoiding cat encounters on the streets and on their lawns.

This, it is hoped, will work towards reducing human-cat conflicts. Working on it might even open cat advocators’ eyes to the predicaments of those who find us less than adorable, even sinister and menacing. Frustrating as their phobias and prejudices are, bashing them really hasn’t gotten us any further along in our goals of getting cats into HDB flats and for the government to stop culling. Satisfying, yes but here’s the much needed Plan B.

Through the next few weeks, drafts of the book will be put up on this blog for comments. The woman’s initial thinking is that it will be in a no-nonsense B/W format downloadable online, also easily printed on any printer by anyone and freely given out to family, colleagues and neighbours.

Owing to her animal welfare and eco interests, the woman has had the good fortune of meeting many socially conscious, passionate people like the cat activists and volunteers who attended “Conversations”. Justifiably, she has been encouraged to think that perhaps people in Singapore of her age and younger are differentiating themselves from those before them by becoming more engaged and more involved in the social and in the political.

If you think the same, you would be wrong. Findings from a recent study on local Y-Gen’s attitudes will knock you off your feet. Y-Geners (born 1977 to 1997) are found to be a very pragmatic lot – they want remuneration for their work. No surprises there. Yet while ability to make decisions and implement changes is cited as the main reason for choosing not to work for the government, a whopping 77% indicated that they should not have a voice/say in any government policies.

So let there be no lingering delusions of grandeur for us rabble-rousers. We have no audience. If the message is too robust for local sensitivities, we will be like a posthumously decorated JBJ making his final stand outside Raffles City, ignored.

That's why the book idea is worth a fair shot. Cat advocators need to speak the regular language of the general population and of the government. As important as words like ‘compassion’, ‘karma’ and ‘rights’ are, they really only work in novels, on TV series and in America. They don’t work in campaigns, on letters and in forums simply because they are too elusive, too vague to bridge the psychological gaps between the 23% and the larger 77%. we need grounded words like 'responsibility', 'co-operation' and 'mutual benefit'. It’s worth thinking about.

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