Although as Rich as Croesus, Chevron Has Only Peanuts to Offer the Two-Hundred Cats Who Live at Its Refinery in El Segundo
"In today's economy, when it's actually cheaper to kill, they chose life. It made me rethink everything I used to think about oil companies."
-- Vanessa Bell of GRACE Animal Rescue
Chevron is a humongous multinational corporation that had revenues in excess of $273 billion in 2008 and yet when it comes to the two-hundred or so cats that call the grounds of its sprawling one-thousand-acre refinery in El Segundo home all that it has to offer them is chicken feed. (See photo above of the plant.)
Nevertheless, its announcement last November that it had donated a paltry $5,000 towards the sterilization, deworming, feeding, and veterinary care of the cats came as a pleasant surprise. Even cadging so much as a lousy sou out of a serial polluter, environmental despoiler, and tax cheat like Chevron comes as something of a coup.
The recipient of the petroleum giant's largess was Giving Rescued Animals a Caring Environment (GRACE) Animal Rescue of El Segundo which has consented to undertake the trapping and desexing. Just as importantly, through its partnership with Petco at the Crossroads Shopping Center in Torrance, it also will attempt to secure homes for some of the cats.
Regrettably, as of December 17th only five of the cats trapped so far had been deemed suitable for adoption. That in itself is not surprising under the circumstances but if GRACE and Chevron were willing to invest the time and resources needed to socialize the cats almost all of them eventually could adjust to domestic life on some level.
"In today's economy, when it's actually cheaper to kill, they chose life," GRACE's Vanessa Bell caroled to the Daily Breeze of Torrance on November 19th. (See "Refinery Donates $5,000 to Help Its Feral Cat Population.") "It made me rethink everything I used to think about oil companies."
Later on December 17th she gushed to The Beach Reporter of Manhattan Beach, "It's just so amazing to me how sympathetic they were toward the animals." (See "Feral Cats at Chevron Benefit from Donation.") "You wouldn't expect that from a large company."
If she is being truthful, the only thing that declarations of that sort prove is that her head is easily turned by a flash of cash no matter how infinitesimal. After all, it is doubtful that $5,000 is going to go very far when it comes to a job of this magnitude.
That is a petit fait that even she seems to be cognizant of in her saner moments. "It's very expensive with the feral cats, but it's definitely a labor of love," she added in the interview with the Daily Breeze.
Luckily, neither Chevron nor GRACE are located in Beverly Hills where the wiseacres who sit on the City Council have mandated that only specially-designed feeding stations that cost $1,800 apiece can be used in order to feed the cats that their filthy rich constituents have so cruelly and irresponsibly abandoned. (See The Beverly Hills Courier, November 19, 2009, "Will the Beverly Hills Cats Ever Be Fed?")
In addition to the paucity of funding, far more weightier questions remain unresolved. Most poignantly, although TNR has been mentioned neither GRACE nor Chevron have publicly specified exactly what is to happen to those cats that are not adopted.
It is in this light that Bell's crack about it being cheaper to kill a cat than to spare its life is especially disturbing. If he were alive today, Henry David Thoreau would quickly denounce such thinking as being both morally and intellectually repugnant. "Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it," he once wrote.
More pertinently, TNR actually is more cost effective in the long run than the trap and kill policies in situ across the vast majority of the United States and world. In particular, a recent study commissioned by Best Friends Animal Society of Kanab, Utah, calculated that it would cost taxpayers $16 billion to trap and kill America's estimated eighty-seven-million homeless cats.
On the opposing side of the ledger, these same cats could be trapped, sterilized, and released at a cost of only $9 billion. (See Earth Times, March 18, 2010, "New Research Exposes High Taxpayer Cost for Eradicating Free-Roaming Cats" and PR Web, February 16, 2010, "Best Friends Animal Society Excited by Growing Trend of Humane Approach to Free-Roaming Cats.")
Nevertheless, that financial reality has been shouted down for far too long by those who earn their daily bread by killing cats. Included in this rogues' gallery of merciless killers are, inter alia, Animal Control officers, shelters, phony-baloney rescue groups such as PETA and the Humane Society of the United States, and the manufacturers of sodium pentobarbital and gas chambers.
Bird advocates and wildlife biologists hate cats with a passion and care neither about the costs involved nor the immorality of their actions. They also profit handsomely from feline eradication projects, such as the one on San Nicolas Island. (See Cat Defender posts of June 27, 2008, April 28, 2009, and November 20, 2009 entitled, respectively, "United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Navy Hatch a Diabolical Plan to Gun Down Two-Hundred Cats on San Nicolas Island," "Quislings at the Humane Society Sell Out San Nicolas's Cats to the Assassins at the Diabolical United States Fish and Wildlife Service," and "Memo to the Humane Society: Tell the World Exactly How Many Cats You and Your Honeys at the USFWS Have Murdered on San Nicholas Island.")
While a number of municipalities will no doubt find Best Friends' study to be appealing, it is really superfluous because no one should be given the right to kill cats under any circumstances. They have just as much of a right to live in freedom and to procreate as do all other species.
It therefore is imperative that those cats which are not adopted are either returned to the grounds of the refinery or relocated elsewhere. Under no circumstances should they be harmed in any way.
It is unclear how the refinery came to be in the possession of so many cats in the first place. All that the Daily Breeze has to say on that vitally important point is that they were abandoned there but it neglects to say by whom. It therefore is likely that employees of the refinery are at least in part responsible for the explosion in population.
The good news is that after attacking the problem in fits and starts over the better part of the past decade the suits at Chevron now seem committed to finding a humane solution. "It's just the right thing to do," the company's Lily Craig told the Daily Breeze in the article cited supra. "We were so excited to have the help."
To their credit, employees already have set up feeding stations in safe areas of the refinery and taken steps to exclude the felines from the hazardous sections. That is a good start but the proof is in the pudding and the actions of both the refinery and GRACE need to be closely monitored to insure that they keep their word.
Despite its obvious shortcomings, the rescue plan concocted by Chevron and GRACE is a big improvement over the trap and kill policy implemented by aerospace giant Northrop Grumman at its Space Technology Unit eight kilometers away in Redondo Beach. (See Cat Defender post of July 27, 2006 entitled "Northrop Grumman Plans to Exterminate a Colony of Feral Cats That Has Lived at Its Redondo Beach Facility for Twenty Years.")
After falsely branding them as being unhealthy, spreading disease, and making a stench, Northrop called in Western Exterminators of Anaheim in July of 2006 to trap the cats. They were then turned over to an unidentified animal shelter in Los Angeles County where they most likely were killed upon arrival. (See photo above of Northrop Grumman.)
Retired employee Carol Kahler, who helped to look after the cats, was not the least bit hesitant to point out that there was a far more sinister motive behind Northrop's slanders and crimes. "Some idiot engineer comes (sic) along and said, 'I want to park my car back here but there are cats'," she disclosed at that time.
It also is interesting to note that between 2001 and 2006 Northrop employees reportedly spent $20,000 trapping, desexing, and vaccinating about thirty cats. Although costs vary considerably for one locale to another, that figure, if accurate, nonetheless provides some idea of about how far $5,000 is going to go in doing likewise for the two-hundred cats at Chevron.
To be fair about it, giant oil and aerospace concerns are far from being the only businesses that are antagonistic toward cats. At the very top of this ever-growing list are the mass media led by the inveterate cat-haters at the thoroughly despicable and dishonest New York Times. (See Cat Defender posts of December 8, 2007 and June 15, 2009 entitled, respectively, "All the Lies That Fit: Scheming New York Times Hires a Bird Lover to Render His 'Unbiased' Support for James M. Stevenson" and "American Bird Conservancy, The New York Times, and the Humane Society Unite to Form an Achse des Boesen Against Cats.")
Like their behemoth of the south, The Caledonian Record in tiny St. Johnsbury, Vermont, in early 2006 cruelly killed off its resident feline, Tripod, once he had become old and sickly. (See Cat Defender post of February 9, 2006 entitled "Newspaper Cat Named Tripod Is Killed Off by Journalists He Befriended in Vermont.")
For an inspiring account of one man who resisted the expedient of taking the easy way out when his cat, Toby Jug, became ill, Denis O'Connor's recently published book, Paw Tracks in the Moonlight, is a must read. A lengthy excerpt was published in the Daily Mail on October 27th of last year. (See "Smitten by Kitten: When I Rescued a Dying Animal, It Was the Start of a Truly Magical Friendship.")
Not about to be forgotten was the decision made by Fox-35 in Richmond in 2008 to have its homeless cats gassed and their habitat destroyed. The carnage would have been far greater if it had not been for the spirited intervention of the Richmond SPCA and other groups. (See Cat Defender posts of July 7, 2008 and August 21, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Fox Affiliate in Richmond Murders at Least Three Cats and Then Sends in the Bulldozers to Destroy Their Homes" and "Justice Denied: Exterminator Who Gassed Three Cats at the Behest of Fox-35 in Richmond Gets Off with a Minuscule Fine.")
It is no small wonder that the working press is so antagonistic toward cats when journalism students at the Danish School of Journalism in Aarhus, Jutland, in 2008 cooked and ate one that previously had been shot by a hunter. (See Cat Defender post of August 25, 2008 entitled "Danish Journalism Students Procure the Corpse of a Murdered Cat and Then Skin, Cook, and Eat It in Order to Promote Their Careers.")
In a rare display of enlightenment, Congress in 1999 passed a law banning so-called crush videos. The best known representatives of this sordid genre feature naked women in stiletto heels stomping to death defenseless kittens and puppies.
In June of 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia struck down the law as being in contravention of the First Amendment. The United States Solicitor General has appealed that decision and the case, United States versus Stevens, is currently before the United States Supreme Court with a ruling expected this term.
Not surprisingly, no fewer than thirteen news organizations have filed amicus curiae briefs in favor of crush videos. At the head of the class are, as expected, The New York Times and National Public Radio.
Many farmers likewise do not have any use for cats. For example, Virginia sodbuster Donald Curtis Hunt drowned at least five kittens in 2007 and got away scot-free with his crimes. (See Cat Defender posts of October 23, 2007 and May 14, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Virginia Does It Again! Farmer Who Drowned at Least Five Cats Gets Off with a Slap-on-the-Wrists" and "Virginia Is for Cat Killers, Not Lovers, Now That Its Legal Establishment Has Sanctioned Donald Curtis Hunt's Drowning of Five Kittens.")
Shekel-chasing combine operators also take a heavy toll on cats. For example, a wheat harvester in Alaiedon Township, Michigan, last summer severed the front paws of a kitten named Howard and left him unattended in a ditch to die. (See Cat Defender posts of August 20, 2009 and November 24, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Combine Operator Severs Howard's Front Paws and Leaves Him in a Ditch to Die but He Is Saved at the Last Minute by a Pair of Compassionate Lads" and "Howard the Combine Kitty Is Adopted by the Lads Who Saved Him from a Sure and Certain Death in a Ditch Alongside a Michigan Wheat Field.")
Shipping companies, especially those in China, seldom if ever check their cargoes for stowaway cats and as a result untold numbers of them starve to death on long sea voyages. Against all odds, a minute few miraculously survive. (See Cat Defender posts of May 17, 2007, April 25, 2008, and August 11, 2008 entitled, respectively, "North Carolina Shelter Plotting to Kill Cat That Survived Being Trapped for Thirty-Five Days in Cargo Hold of Ship from China," "After Surviving a Lengthy and Hellish Confinement at Sea, Malli Dies Unexpectedly in Foster Care," and "Trapped Inside a Crate, Ginger Licks Up Condensation in Order to Survive a Nightmarish Sea Voyage from China to Nottinghamshire.")
Airlines likewise kill numerous cats each year by cruelly transporting them in their cargo holds where they often succumb to hypothermia. (See Cat Defender post of April 7, 2009 entitled "Pregnant Minskin Arrives in Oregon Frozen as Solid as a Block of Ice Following a Fatal Cross-Country Flight in the Cargo Hold of an Airliner.")
There are, of course, airlines and shipping companies that care dearly about cats. Back in 2005, for example, Continental Airlines dispatched two of its employees to Nancy in northeast France in order to fly a wayward cat named Emily home to Appleton, Wisconsin. Best of all, she flew gratis in a $6,000 business-class seat. (See photo above of her on the left.)
Continental's act of kindness was made possible by the generosity of Raflatac, a laminating and labeling company in Nancy, who paid Emily's $210 quarantine fee after she arrived trapped in a consignment from Appleton. (See Cat Defender post of December 9, 2005 entitled "Adventurous Wisconsin Cat Named Emily Makes Unscheduled Trip to France in Hold of Cargo Ship.")
By contrast, developers seldom have demonstrated any concern for the well-being of cats. For example, last June Eagle Bay gave the boot to three-hundred, low-income Hispanics living at the Glade Haven RV and Trailer Park in Bonita Springs, Florida. The displaced tenants then turned around and returned the favor by abandoning fifteen cats. (See Cat Defender post of July 9, 2009 entitled "Politicians and a Condominium Developer Share the Blame for the Abandonment of at Least Fifteen Domestic Cats in Bonita Springs.")
An uncaring and irresponsible housing estate in Pitsea, Essex, likewise has not only neglected its homeless cat population but allowed at least one tenant to take the law into his own hands by assaulting them. (See Cat Defender post of October 23, 2009 entitled "Essex Welfare Bum Who Sicced His Dog on Cats and Beat Them with His Cane Is Now Pretending to Be the Victim of an Assault.")
Over the years the hospitality industry has garnered both high and low marks for its treatment of cats. On the positive side of the equation is Lake Quinault Lodge on the coast of Washington State that has taken in a black stray named Roosevelt. (See photo above.)
Not only has Roosevelt proven to be a big favorite with guests but he also is helping to raise money for other homeless cats and dogs. (See Cat Defender post of January 7, 2008 entitled "Roosevelt, Who Has Brightened the Lives of So Many Vacationers, Now Sets His Sights on Saving Other Homeless Cats and Dogs.")
The herculean efforts of Suzanne Sullivan of the Clipper Ship Inn in Salem, Massachusetts, to provide shelter for homeless cats are equally commendable, especially in light of the resistance that she has encountered from the local health department. (See Cat Defender post of May 21, 2007 entitled "Salem, Massachusetts Is Going After Cats Again Much Like It Did During 1692 Witch Trials.")
The story is altogether different at Anderson House in Wabasha, Minnesota, where cats are recruited to spend their nights with paying guests and then tossed out in the street once they either become too old or fail to live up to the expectations of management. (See Cat Defender post of May 15, 2008 entitled "Predatory Capitalism Rears Its Ugly Head as Minnesota Bed and Breakfast Sacks Overnight Cats, Morris and Fred.")
Many restaurateurs and publicans also keep cats but generally it is not out of any love for the species; rather, they are housed in order to keep the rodent population in check. It therefore is not surprising that these entrepreneurs often run into trouble with health officials.
Establishments such as the Blunsdon Arms in Swindon, Wiltshire, and Comma Coffee in Carson City, Nevada, have caved in to political pressure and given their resident felines the boot. (See Cat Defender posts of October 23, 2008 and February 17, 2009 entitled, respectively, "Pecksniffian Management at Swindon Pub Plies Ember with Food and Then Gives Her the Bum's Rush" and "Health Department Banishes Smallcat from Popular Carson City Restaurant but Her Feisty Owner Is Putting Up Quite a Fight.")
Others, such as Myers of Keswick in lower Manhattan, hang on to their prized mousers regardless of the risks involved. (See Cat Defender post of April 20, 2006 entitled "Molly Is Finally Rescued After Spending Two Weeks Trapped Inside the Walls of an English Deli in Greenwich Village.")
In Tokyo, some teahouses have out the welcome mat for cats but this is strictly a business decision not unlike the one at Anderson House and it is not known what happens to the cats once they are deemed to no longer be of any monetary value to their employers. (See Cat Defender post of June 5, 2008 entitled "Teahouse Cats Are Given Shelter and Work but Precious Little Job Security and No Legal Protections.")
Restaurants such as Gaspar's Grotto in Tampa, The Swan in Ironbridge, Shropshire, and The Bugle Horn Inn in Bassingham, Lincolnshire, have taken in waifs from off the street and given them a home. (See Cat Defender posts of December 13, 2007, December 12, 2007, and February 25, 2010 entitled, respectively, "Tanker Ray Survives Being Abandoned as a Kitten in Order to Become the World Famous Mascot of a Tampa Bar," "Bored with Conditions at Home, Carlsberg Stows Away on a Beer Lorry for the Adventure of a Lifetime," and "Bess Twice Defies the Hangman Before Finally Landing on All Four Paws at a Pub in Lincolnshire.")
Finally, there is kindhearted Lisa Bertroch of the now defunct Chicken Kitchen who took it upon herself to rescue the dozens of cats left behind after the Pollardville Ghost Town in Stockton, California, closed its door for good in 2007. (See photo above of her.)
She and her helpers trapped at least sixty-six homeless cats and relocated them to the Fat Kitty City pet sanctuary run by the Agee Memorial Wildlife Fund in El Dorado Hills. (See Cat Defender post of June 21, 2007 entitled "Caring Restaurant Worker Rescues Ghost Town's Cats from the Wrecking Ball and Finds Them a New Home" and the El Dorado Hills Telegram, December 9, 2009, "Abused Felines Find a Friendly Respite.")
Photos: Chevron (El Segundo refinery), Northrop Grumman (Redondo Beach facility), Christophe Ena of the Associated Press (Emily), David Sandler of The Daily World of Aberdeen (Roosevelt), and Craig Sanders of The Stockton Record (Bertroch).