Gareth Morgan has shown his claws in a public catfight with an SPCA board member.
The philanthropist and economist held a public meeting in the Wellington suburb of Karori last night, where he put his case for creating the first "confined cat" suburb, to protect native birds in the Zealandia sanctuary.
As part of his presentation, he produced a "Wanted" poster naming Wellington SPCA board members, accusing them of being ill-equipped to deal with the cat catastrophe.
But one of the wanted men was in the audience, and took issue with Dr Morgan.
Emanuel Kalafatelis said he had been prepared to listen until things got personal. He pleaded: "For God's sake, let's not jump into this. Let's at least get all the facts. Let's get New Zealand-based facts. Not global facts."
Dr Morgan responded: "I'm not going to support any organisation which in effect is attacking New Zealand's wildlife . . . these people have no ethical compass.
"They have lost it. I am pleading with you not to give them another cent until they change it."
He then tried to stop anyone else from speaking, at which point Makara Cattery owner Linda Stephens stormed out, telling Dr Morgan to "get a life".
It was a chaotic end to a meeting that began with about 100 people gathering in the Allen Ward Hall to hear the latest chapter of Dr Morgan's crusade against killer cats.
He began by schooling attendees on the range of environmental projects he was working on, before playing some native-bird sounds. "They sound a bit better than ‘meow' to me."
He stressed he was not campaigning for the eradication of all cats, but simply restrictions on where they could roam.
"This is not an assault on indoor cats. I don't care how many confined cats you have - what I care about is where they wander."
Ms Stephens, who roared up to the meeting in her Makara Cattery-emblazoned car, said possums were a far worse problem than cats, and Dr Morgan should focus on bigger issues.
"I don't get this guy, doesn't he have anything better to do? Why doesn't he go save the whales? We all like birds but these cats - I've been in the business nine years and they're like little people in fur coats . . . they feel like people, they die like people. This guy is crazy."
Heidy Kikillus, who brought her cat Pancho Villa to the meeting, said she was prepared to be reasonable and could understand the message Dr Morgan was trying to push. "I like cats absolutely. As an ecologist I like wildlife too, but I think there's a way to compromise."
But that spirit did not last long once the meeting began.
It ended with Dr Morgan calling on those still there to vote on three resolutions: that the SPCA should stop its support for wandering cats; that Wellington City Council should reintroduce pounds for wandering cats and dispose of strays; and that Karori should strive to become Wellington's first cat-free suburb by requiring neutering, and prohibiting the introduction of new cats to the area.
All the resolutions passed on a show of hands.
- The Dominion Post
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