Secretive Government Agency With License to Kill Already Claims 4 Million Victims This Year
After the recent viral controversy surrounding a teenager on Facebook posting trophy kill pictures, many on the right have extolled their rage at “animal activists.” Now, to be fair, those who posted “death threats” on this young woman’s page acted like scumbags and trolls and should be ashamed of themselves. Realistically, she is but one person who has had little overall impact on Africa’s animal populations. Yet, the slaughter of predators – especially animals that aren’t typically eaten by humans – is a practice not exclusive to the shores of the mother continent.
According to a June article from The Washington Post, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services “shot, poisoned, snared, or trapped” more than 4 million animals. “Though there’s a list of animals killed,” Darryl Fears wrote, “there’s little data showing the cause for each killing, the methods used and the reasons behind mistakes that lead to massive kills of animals that aren’t targeted.”
The source of the controversy is that while Wildlife Services is meant to hunt and kill non-indigenous species – such as feral hogs, giant exotic reptiles, and birds – they also kill “native animals en masse.”
Stephanie Feldstein of the Center for Biological Diversity wrote on The Huffington Post that not only does she take issue with the amount of killing, but the methods as well. She says that Wildlife Services have used “exploding poison caps,” “inhuman traps,” and even “airplanes and helicopters” to take out endangered wolves, coyotes, foxes, bears, sparrows, and even prairie dogs.
In many cases Wildlife Services does important work. Not committing bird-genocide would be nice, but not having regular plane crashes around all major airports is nicer. Yet, the staggering amounts of animals killed this year alone suggest that this – like all other government agencies – could do with some more transparency. Also troubling is that many private farmers, particularly cattle farmers, use Wildlife Services like a government-subsidized pest control agency.
Shouldn’t those on the right wary of government waste and overreach be outraged that millions of taxpayer dollars are being spent with little-to-no oversight on how these government hunters go about their business. Managing rabies, analyzing the environmental impacts of certain policy decisions, and monitoring wildlife disease are all very important functions conducted by this agency. Yet the indiscriminate killing of native predators – including federally-protected bald eagles and endangered species – is simply wrong and demands our attention.
Photo by Red Wolf via Flickr