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May 07, 2012

Stop the Killing of Wildlife with Americans’ Tax Dollars

At The HSUS, we believe that there must be standards of behavior enshrined in the law, since there are people who would otherwise choose to take advantage of animals and exploit them for profit and other motives. Animal fighting, horse soring, and killing of endangered species are just a few examples of why the law must speak and prevent people from engaging in cruel acts. Obviously, the government must enforce the law―through the work of regulatory agencies, law enforcement, prosecutors, and the courts. We cannot have a successful animal protection movement without a strong and meaningful government presence.

Coyote in the grass
Lindsey Sterling Krank/The HSUS
Take action to help stop wildlife poisoning.

But government can also be put to use to facilitate the killing of animals. In Canada, it is the provincial government of Newfoundland and the federal government in Ottawa that are keeping the seal hunt alive. No one wants to buy seal pelts in the marketplace, but the government is doling out millions of dollars to buy pelts, put them in storage, and prop up the industry.

In the U.S., examples of detrimental government action or subsidy include using chimpanzees in laboratory experiments, military testing on animals, payouts to factory farmers, and so much more. 

Yesterday, The Sacramento Bee provided the final news report in its three-part investigative series on USDA’s Wildlife Services program―one of the most destructive and indefensible government programs that causes untold suffering to animals.

As reporter Tom Knudson wrote in yesterday’s piece, “Since 2006, employees have trapped, shot and poisoned more than a half million coyotes and other predators, along with 300-plus other species, from non-native starlings and pigeons to red-tailed hawks, prairie dogs, beaver and other native birds and mammals. In the process, they have also accidentally killed more than 50,000 non-target animals, from domestic dogs to golden eagles to black bears.”

In short, our federal government is running a wildlife-killing program to benefit private ranchers, trophy hunters, and other special interests. This mischief continues because it gets political support in Congress from ranchers, the hunting lobby, and state agriculture and fish and game departments. Efforts to block it have failed for years, because of the alliance of defenders who benefit from this de facto subsidy.

We at The HSUS have said there’s a useful government function to be had here, mainly in developing non-lethal methods of wildlife management and helping private citizens and businesses apply them. The HSUS has a whole program designed to put best practices to work to humanely resolve conflicts with wildlife. But the way Wildlife Services is run is archaic, cruel, and wasteful. As Knudson points out, it doesn’t even work―it’s just a psychological salve for ranchers and other resource users who dislike wildlife and don’t want to have to contend with wild creatures.

In the same edition of the paper, the editorial board of the Sacramento Bee urged Congress to end lethal predator control. It’s high time that happened. At the very least, the government’s use of poisons, leghold traps, and aerial gunning is an outrage, and the public shouldn’t stand for it. Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif., asks, why continue a program that is "not very effective, has a number of unintended consequences and costs millions of dollars"?

If you haven’t already, please contact Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and urge him to stop the use of two especially cruel poisons by Wildlife Services.

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