Why We Need Humane Alternatives
(Not Alternative Kinds of Cruelty)
A report by the Coalition of Australians Against 1080 Poison
It’s becoming increasingly clear that 1080’s days are numbered in Australia. From outrage over the loss of companion animals to the deaths of livestock guardian animals and continuing controversy over aerial baiting operations, Australians are beginning to realise the truth about 1080 poison.
But what are the alternatives?
Here we review some of the most commonly cited examples. Unfortunately, alternative chemicals are just as cruel as the toxin they’re investigated as a replacement to.
Following reports will suggest some truly humane options. The good news is that they exist and are available – we simply need to kick our chemical addiction.
Silver bullets simply don't exist
Over a series of days, 11 cats were trapped and deliberately fed a chemical often claimed to be the silver bullet alternative to 1080. This happened in 2012 – two years after 10 stray pound dogs were killed in New Zealand during an alternative-to-1080 experiment.
It was a routine Australian experiment. It was excused by ethics committees because it was sold as seeking answers and alternatives to 1080.
But if we ignore the fact that the growing push for the development of humane alternatives suggests 1080 is the very worst of a very bad bunch of very dangerous poisons, any criticism of experiments overseas ought to tempered by the admission that it’s happening right here in our own backyard as well. At the seemingly upstanding Arthur Rylah Institute in Victoria, to be specific. It was fully supported, entirely aided and completely abetted by our Government and the contemporary equivalent of the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy.
The toll it took on the animals is outlined in the table below.
Here's 3 reasons why
Despite there existing a catalogue of cases to choose from, we’ll rely on the 2012 Arthur Rylah experiments. Here, 11 animals were trapped and kept in cages before being offered a final fatal meal. If they didn’t take the bait right away, it was dropped into their cage until they did.
The chemical they chose is commonly referred to as “PAPP” (Para-Amino-Propiophenone). It’s marketed as Curiosity (as in, you guessed it, “Curiosity killed the cat”). Though it was originally used and approved to kill canids and foxes under equally as tongue-in-cheek terms as Foxecute, PAPP has since been earmarked as an emerging and popular weapon in Australia’s mostly-chemical-war on cats.
As you’ll soon see, it has few redeeming qualities.
1. PAPP still kills collateral animals, including natives
While promoters of chemical control are often quick to argue that 1080 poison is not as deadly to “some” natives who have developed “some” resistance to it “some” of the time (kudos, Saving Pets), PAPP has a track record that makes these claims questionable.
Verdict: negligible improvement.
2. It still poses a fatal threat to humans
Like 1080, PAPP can kill people too.
The average adult would be in a bad way after ingesting 8 baits. If that sounds improbable or unlikely, let’s turn it into a real-world scenario.
Given the dose required to kill is calculated on a milligram per kilogram of body weight basis, a child would need far less than this to knock them down dead.
Children are also far more likely to explore the world with their mouths.
Verdict: no improvement.
3. The antidote is out of most people's reach
PAPP poses a similar threat to working canines, domestic dogs and collared cats as 1080 poison presently does. Yet, one of the most cited excuses for dropping 1080 from the killer-chemical-toolbox is PAPPs celebrated antidote. The trademarked antidote is called Blue Healer (in case you’re not getting it yet, there’s a high reliance on puns in the field of killing unwanted wild animals with chemicals).
Blue Healer “can reverse the effects of PAPP poisoning”.
In the next breath, they admit that “the antidote does have limitations”. Primarily because it can only be purchased and applied by trained veterinarians who have it in their immediate possession.
If that sounds acceptable, get this: “administration needs to occur within 60 minutes”. It could be needed even earlier, depending on the amount of poison and the size of the animal who ingested it.
“Administration needs to occur within 60 minutes”.
One concerned vet has said that PAPP’s antidote was “oversold”. For many Aussies, especially those in rural regions, a vet is often too far away for this to be considered any kind of antidote at all.
And to make matters worse, there is a highly variable lag between the time an animal ingests PAPP and when symptoms start to set in. It can be anywhere between 43 minutes and 15 hours.
But that’s not all, folks. The first symptoms associated with PAPP poisoning are hardly ones most people would pick up: lethargy and sleepiness. That means that pet owners can miss the mere 60 minutes (or less) that they have to administer the antidote, which can only be applied by a vet anyway.
Verdict: no improvement.
Why we need to kick our chemical addiction NOW
As if all this wasn’t enough, the supposed improvements PAPP promoters rely on have led some people in positions of authority to make outlandish and downright dangerous suggestions.
Not to be outdone by a track-record of some seriously reckless claims (cup of 1080-tea, anyone?), our ex-Threatened Species Commissioner even claimed during Senate estimates that it could be thrown “off the backs of Toyota LandCruisers”.
When this is combined with the orchestrated and ongoing vilification of cats and the realisation that its creators get kickbacks from any sales of the baits they make, it makes for some very concerning reading.
It needn’t matter that the data cat-killers rely on is shaky at best. As is the case with many new developments, we simply need to “follow the money”.
A “royalty” from all PAPP sales will be returned to the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre and the peak body promoting the Australian wool industry.
“To assist in further research into pest animal management”.
Why kinder kinds of cruelty aren't the answer
If you came across a file containing footage of caged cats being fed poison-laced baits, what would you do? Would you report the film and the people responsible to the authorities? Would you call the cops? Chances are, you would.
Researchers and their Government funders may say that deaths like these were necessary and important first-steps in ending the cruelty other chemicals are responsible for putting millions of other animals through every year.
They may argue that the ends justify the means.
We believe it’s time our minds, money and energy was spent seeking truly humane and sustainable alternatives.