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CARNIVORE CARNAGE: The meat industry’s war on wildlife

Wildlife Services represents another example of the USDA’s indifference to animal welfare. A little-known fact of the human-wildlife conflict is that most of it stems from animal agriculture. The USDA's Wildlife Services has become 'the hired-gun' of the livestock industry. It financially compensates ranchers to kill wolves and other predator species. Last year, 68,000 coyotes were killed by a variety of means, including ingestion of Compound 1080, a poison that causes acute pain in the form of heart blockage, respiratory failure, hallucinations, and convulsions. Thousands more animals are also killed as 'collateral damage'.

KENNY TORRELLA: A red fox killed with a cyanide bomb. A gray wolf gunned down from an airplane. A jackrabbit caught in a neck snare. These are just a few of the 1.45 million animals poisoned, shot, and trapped last year by the euphemistically named Wildlife Services, a little-known but particularly brutal program of the US Department of Agriculture.

The program kills wildlife for many reasons, including poisoning birds to prevent them from striking airplanes and destroying beavers that sneak onto golf courses. But one of the primary purposes of the mostly taxpayer-funded $286 million program is to serve as the meat and dairy industries’ on-call pest control service.

“We were the hired gun of the livestock industry,” said Carter Niemeyer, who worked in Wildlife Services and related programs from 1975 to 2006. Niemeyer specialized in killing and trapping predators like coyotes and wolves that were suspected of killing farmed cattle and sheep.

Wildlife Services has also killed hundreds of endangered gray wolves, threatened grizzly bears, and highly endangered Mexican gray wolves, often at the behest of the livestock industry and enabled by exemptions from the Endangered Species Act.

The top three species Wildlife Services killed in 2023 were European starlings, feral pigs, and coyotes, according to data released last month. How these animals were targeted — from shooting coyotes to poisoning birds — has prompted Congress to fund nonlethal initiatives within the program and conservation groups to call for sweeping changes to how Wildlife Services operates. The USDA didn’t respond to several questions sent via email…

Wildlife Services represents yet another example of the USDA’s seeming indifference to animal welfare, but it also highlights a little-known fact of human-wildlife conflict: Most of it stems from agriculture.

Almost half of the contiguous United States is now used for meat, dairy, and egg production — most of it cattle-grazing — which has crowded out wildlife and reduced biodiversity. And whenever wild animals end up on farmland that was once their habitat, they run the risk of being poisoned, shot, or trapped by Wildlife Services.

That’s true for animals that find their way onto fruit, vegetable, and nut orchards for a snack, too. But Wildlife Services’ primary goal is to protect the interests of livestock producers, USDA public affairs specialist Tanya Espinosa told me in an email — yet another subsidy for an already highly subsidized industry…

The USDA financially compensates ranchers for livestock killed by wolves and some other species, which can create an incentive to attribute farm animal deaths to predators. Robert Gosnell, a former director of New Mexico’s USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service who administered the state’s Wildlife Services program, told the Intercept in 2022 that the agency’s field inspectors had been ordered to report livestock deaths as “wolf kills” for ranchers.

Last year, 68,000 coyotes were taken down by a variety of means, including ingestion of Compound 1080, a poison that causes acute pain in the form of heart blockage, respiratory failure, hallucinations, and convulsions.

Thousands more animals are killed as collateral damage. Last year, over 2,000 were killed unintentionally, a consequence of setting out untold numbers of traps and baited cyanide bombs. These devices have also injured a small number of humans and, between 2000 and 2012, killed more than 1,100 dogs. SOURCE…


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