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How Animal Farming Hurts Free-Living Animals

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The Impact of Animal Agriculture on Wildlife

Imagine your confusion and horror if, while walking on federal public lands, your dog stumbles across a device that looks like a sprinkler. Orange powder sprays all over your dog. That powder is sodium cyanide and it creates lethal hydrogen cyanide gas upon contact with moisture, resulting in a rapid and painful death.

This scenario has played out hundreds of  times with companion dogs in the last 10 years, the most recent victim being the dog of a 14 year old boy in Idaho[1]. The “sprinkler”? An M-44 cyanide trap laid by the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services in an effort to control the population of wildlife species, all using taxpayer dollars.

M-44s are placed on public lands, often without public notice, with the goal of killing coyotes and other wild canids often to protect animals exploited for animal agriculture from predation[2]. The “bite and pull” method by which they are deployed is indiscriminate, and often the “incidental” victim of an M-44 is a non-predatory species, a companion animal, typically dogs, or a human[3]. Additional example of Wildlife Services’ cruel practices include aerial depredation, or harassing and shooting wild animals from helicopters, and wire traps that maim any animal they catch, leading to an agonizing and slow death[4].

The rationale for USDA Wildlife Services’ work is that the threat to animal agriculture exceeds the costs and risks of “predator control”.  There is little empirical evidence to support this claim. In addition to a Livestock Indemnity Program that compensates producers for animals killed by wildlife[5], there are many inexpensive, proactive, and non-lethal methods of protecting herds and flocks from predators[6]. Ironically, predator species encroach upon ranches and farms because they have been driven out of their habitats and their ecological niches destroyed by pollution and deforestation caused by animal agriculture.

Wildlife Services’ methods kill more animals, many of whom are threatened or endangered, points to their ineffectiveness[3]. Add to these cruel methods of population control the fact that more and more scientific reports conclude that Wildlife Services causes environmental harm through lost biodiversity and disrupted ecological systems[7]. In the words of Kelly Nokes, an advocate with WildEarth Guardians, “The federal government has a paramount duty to protect people and wildlife from deadly poisons that unnecessarily endanger the public, wildlife and companion animals”[8]. There is no justification for or benefit from  the USDA Wildlife Services’ taxpayer funded, ineffective, non-transparent, and unaccountable war on wildlife.

While USDA Wildlife Services has historically been influenced by the power of corporate animal agriculture and hunting lobbies in what programs they choose to operate and how[9], the fact remains that they rely on taxpayer dollars to operate those programs. As a taxpayer and American citizen, you have the power to declare Wildlife Services’ practices unjust and to demand change.

It will take a change in federal law, a federal legal injunction, or a determination by the USDA to temporarily or permanently stop the use of M-44 cyanide traps. There is currently an indefinite ban in Idaho, a temporary injunction in Colorado, and a temporary ban in six Oregon counties. Additionally, several activist organizations are suing to implement a nationwide legal ban via the federal court system while other organizations are introducing federal legislation[10, 11]. But there is still a need for civic action.

The first step is to contact your federal representatives and demand that Wildlife Services find non-lethal and environmentally sound methods of population control. The work of Wildlife Services has continued unabated because it is successfully hidden from wide scale public view, but putting pressure on representatives will help make this a legislative priority. You can find your House Representative here: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative and your Senators here: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

Going vegan and encouraging others to do the same will reduce the demand for animal products. As the market shrinks, fewer ranchers and farmers will request that Wildlife Services kill predators to protect herds and flocks. A switch to plant-based agriculture will also hopefully lessen the environmental impacts that pressure wildlife into conflict with humans. That being said, “pest” management on plant-based farms can be harmful and lethal to wildlife as well, so it is important to contact farms and ask them about their handling of wild animals, like rats, mice, and birds. Financially supporting farms and companies focused on feeding the world in truly sustainable and ethical fashions will be critical in protecting our health, animals, the environment, and the future.

[1] Bump, Philip. “A Dog in Idaho Was Killed by a Cyanide Trap Laid by the U.S. Government.” TheWashington Post, 21 March 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/03/21/a-dog-in-idaho-was-killed-by- -cyanide-trap-laid-by-the-u-s-government/?utm_term=.4783bdb000ba.
[2] United States, Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services. “M-44 Device for Predator Control.” June 2017. www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/wildlife_damage/fs-m44-device.pdf.
[3] Knudson, Tom. “The killing agency: Wildlife Services’ brutal methods leave a trail of animal death.” The Sacramento Bee, 8 October 2014, http://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/wildlife-investigation/article2574599.html.
[4] Bale, Rachel. “This Government Program’s Job Is to Kill Wildlife.” National Geographic, 12 February 2016, https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/02/160212-Wildlife-Services-predator-control-livestock-trapping-hunting/.
[5] United States, Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency. “Livestock Indemnity Program.”October 2017. https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Assets/USDA-FSA-Public/usdafiles/FactSheets/2017/lip_fact_s heet_oct2017.pdf
[6] Project Coyote. (n.d.). Nonlethal Solutions to Reduce Conflicts: Helping Livestock and Predator to Coexist. Retrieved from http://www.projectcoyote.org/programs/ranching_with_wildlife/nonlethal-solutions-reduce-conflicts/
[7] The Humane Society of the United States. (2016). Wildlife Disservice: The USDA Wildlife Services’ Inefficient and Inhumane Wildlife Damage Management Program (Rep.). Retrieved from http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/wildlife/wildlife-services-white-paper-2015.pdf
[8] Project Coyote. (2017, August 10). Conservationists Seek Nationwide Ban on Wildlife-killing M-44 ‘Cyanide Bombs’ [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.projectcoyote.org/conservationists-seek-nationwide-ban-wildlife-killing-m-44-cyanide-bombs/
[9] Predator Defense. (n.d.). The USDA’s War on Wildlife. Retrieved from https://www.predatordefense.org/USDA.htm
[10] Theen, Andrew. “Environmental groups petition EPA to ban cyanide devices linked to wolf death.” The Oregonian, 10 August 2017 http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2017/08/environmental_groups_petition.html.
[11] The Chemical Poisons Reduction Act of 2017, H.R. 1817, 115th Congress (2017).

77 Responses so far.

  1. Debra Ann Yuhase Gillaspie says:

    This disgusting practice has no place in a civilized society! This is “their” [the animals] world too! Oh…and just in case you are wondering, I’m NOT a liberal; I’m a conservative voter and a state government worker with two college degrees, so I also have a brain!!!

    A young Idaho boy lost his dog to this barbaric practice! And, the public doesn’t even know about this? What else don’t we know about that you’re doing???

  2. Mary Dickson says:

    The use of cyanide traps to kill coyotes is deplorable and the use of M-44 with no warning signs shows a blatant disregard for human beings. I do not want my tax dollars used for such an inhumane practice. Please find an alternate means of handling the coyote problem.

  3. Deirdre says:

    This is horrible!! Stop!!

  4. Maris SIdenstecker says:

    What a horrible practice. Why is our Government killing animals instead of protecting them. And such a horrible death. Please, please halt this practice.

  5. Mary Maxson says:

    Please let Wildlife Services find non-lethal and environmentally sound methods of population control.

  6. Barbara Hood says:

    Our gov’t in action again – what Trumpian is in charge? – despicable -Trump and his minions are deconstructing our wonderful nation – they must be stopped – sound off and vote whenever/wherever you can.

  7. Vicki Raymond says:

    This is a horrible idea with no real remedy! A painful death that’s caused by humans has no place in society. It could just as easily be someone’s child as someone’s pet!! Please discontinue the use of this cruel method to control wildlife before it’s TOO LATE!!

  8. Janice Beyer says:

    Cruell and totally uncalled for!

  9. deborah says:

    God did not intend for his animal creation to be treated with such careless cruelty!!

  10. Joyce Stoffers says:

    Public lands should be for the benefit of the public, not private interests.

  11. ruth morrison says:

    HOW CAN US GOVT DO THIS ON GOVT LAND AND PARKS AS THAT IS NOT WAY TO TREAT ANY ANIMAL OR HAPLESS PERSON MAYBE THAT COULD COME ACROSS THE DEVICE!!

  12. sando says:

    I can’t believe that it isn’t illegal to place a dangerous object like those without a sign next to it…Coyotes can’t read signs…that wouldn’t change their effectiveness…and would at least warn people that that was happening.

  13. Graciela Downey says:

    Please!! Stop inmediatwly the use of M-44 cyanide traps

    How can anyone be so cruel! Its just being a monster!

  14. Patricia Guthrie says:

    Population “control” through murder is NOT population control – it is the unnecessary killing of animals, not all of them the intended “targets” – this is IMMORAL – and, we are supposedly a “Christian” nation?

  15. Marion Louck says:

    Have you no heart or compassion for any living thing ~
    I suspect that, also, includes people. There is a correlation between violence and how people treat animals.

  16. Janet Monfredini says:

    I am sickened and appalled that we allow this in our shared wild places. Shameful.

  17. D. Bullock says:

    I believe there should be a nationwide ban on M44 cyanide traps.
    I ask you to support a nationwide ban.

  18. Eleanor Israel says:

    Shocking! This has to stop and a law passed. The things that happen are just so cruel and governments do t care at all.

  19. Elexas Arnold says:

    This is sick

  20. Kate Anderson says:

    Cyanide canisters and traps should be outlawed throughout the US. They are cruel and inhumane, as well as indiscriminate killers

  21. john La Stella says:

    this stupid practice must be stopped.

  22. Donna wallace says:

    This is such a inhuman practice and obviously not thought out there are just so many things that can and have gone wrong . They have to be removed before more animals and people suffer

  23. dennis toll says:

    it should stop

  24. Stefon Lira says:

    Please stop this horrifically cruel practice. Wildlife is precious and an important part of our history and survival here, this suffering is not acceptable.

  25. Kathie Scully says:

    The government, hunters, BLM all have one goal in mind – to terminate domestic and wild animals! All animal lovers throughout the world must stop this inhumane practice and all forms of sterilization practices to kill and reduce animals population.
    Why doesn’t the government control human population?

  26. Robin Waters says:

    Stop this now!

  27. Anne Green says:

    This is cruel and should not be allowed to be done. You are killing animals that are loved and wanted. The wild animals you seem to want to kill probably aren’t hurting anything either! Using my tax dollars to fund this is wrong! I am not ok with this at all! This needs to be stopped!

  28. Pam says:

    Horrid, inhumane practice murders helpless animals!! Stop allowing this!

  29. No poisons on federal land

  30. b bergeron says:

    Must be stopped. For our Animals and our lives

  31. Shirley DeRuchie says:

    I had no idea this is happening, this is America and I hope we set an example better than this. uncalled for, barbaric,

  32. John says:

    Is our govt nuts?? They have stopped to an all time low. What if a human comes in contact with this device? This is inhumane practices and needs to be stopped ASAP!!!!

  33. This practice is ridiculous and unnecessary.

  34. P Nunez says:

    Please stop the torture, suffering and death of innocent lives under the pretense of saving lives!!! All creatures matter and deserve respect and protection; not just the ones you used and abused to fill greedy hands and line dirty pockets!!

  35. Carole Smith says:

    This news is horrendous. There is so much going on in this country that we do not know about.

  36. Mike Niewiarowicz says:

    This is an insane practice and must be stopped before someones kid get killed by one of these landmines

  37. Christine Williams says:

    Please end this terrible method of indiscriminately killing and causing suffering to innocent lives!

  38. Humans are evil and disgusting! Where did humans learn to be so cruel to innocent animals? We are a civilized world and there is no reason to abuse and torture any animal. Just because they cannot speak doesn’t mean they become prey just because we have the ability. I want tough laws to stop this cruelty and protection for these animals to put these foul sub humans in jail. Stop this cruelty now!

  39. MICKI HERGENREDER says:

    THE government is OUT OF CONTROL as usual. Complete BRAINDEAD practice, no regard for pain, suffering and torture
    STOP THE KILLING!!!!!!!!!!!

  40. tania kurman says:

    compassion for animals is a must!

  41. Gail Wienclawski says:

    This practice is absolutely disgusting!! It needs to stop NOW! I can’t believe it was ever put into practice in the first place. Sometimes you have to wonder what the people responsible for these practices were thinking!!

  42. Reno Rambo says:

    It’s become disgustingly obvious that all facets of our government have subscribed to exceptionally cruel and vile practices to justify animal cruelty. All the other deaths are simply collateral damage. Small wonder Americans have so little faith in their government.

  43. Alexandra says:

    This just mean & cruel this needs to be stopped right now immediately. No animal deserves this kind of mistreatment.

  44. Roberta Thornton Howard says:

    We need to stop this practice immediately.

  45. Ann Bicking says:

    This is horrendous and dangerous! Stop killing innocent animals and using our taxpayer money for your devious endeavors!!

  46. Eva Hickey says:

    PLEASE STOP.

  47. Sandy Shea says:

    Are you kidding me? How despicable. Something needs to be done asap.

  48. Terri East says:

    STOP!!!!!!!

  49. catherine riddell says:

    I vehemently object to MY tax dollars being spent to perpetuate this obsolete organization. USDA/Wildlife Services an abhorrent. non-scientific,antiquated organization that must be stopped. Eliminating predator species by haphazard, lethal methods that kill MANY non-target species is ineffective in addressing the root problems of poor and negligent livestock management. It has been proven over and over that by killing the alpha coyote pair the other pack members reproduce at higher levels, ultimately INCREASING the coyote population in a particular area. Abolish this group.

  50. Marian Carter says:

    This is thoughtless, stupid and cruel, and apparently done with little thought of consequences. It’s also a good example of how our “public servants” abandon compassion and decency in the name of soulless expediency. Whoever thought up this monstrous business should have his/her head examined.

  51. Judy Graham says:

    This practice is inhumane, barbaric and stupid. Stop spending my tax dollars on this cruel practice.

  52. This cruel and inhumane treatment of helpless animals must be stopped!

  53. Leisa Hemke says:

    This needs to be stopped

  54. Christine says:

    These cyanide bombs are really cruel. More importantly, they pose a threat to humans and domestic animals. Using them to “control wildlife” populations is plain stupid.

    Animals were here long before people. In my mind, this Earth belongs more to THEM than it does to us. We are SUPPOSED to have higher intelligence, and use that intelligence to PROTECT our fellow animals, however, that, sadly, is not the case. I’m not an activist, just a person with COMMON SENSE.

    I much prefer the company of animals to most people today. Animals are simply trying to survive, however, it’s becoming increasingly difficult with people and farmers encroaching on THEIR homes.

    God put every living thing on the Earth for a purpose. It is not up to man to decide which species lives or dies. Killing any living thing for profit is simply not right and there is NO way to justify it no matter HOW you try to argue the point.

    More action should be taken to PROTECT our wildlife from senseless killing so that others can profit. Karma IS real.

    Time to stop the madness in the world and get back to doing what God and Nature intended. BALANCE. Maybe PEOPLE should stop overpopulating the Earth. There’s a thought. Most people today are as worthless as the day is long.

  55. Shoshana Serxner-Merchant says:

    There are other ways to protect farm animals than putting poisons out that will kill without discrimination.

  56. Americans have some of the most innovate minds in the world this is what we’ve come up with? Come on we can do better than this! Please find a more humane way to deal with population control/predators.

  57. Thomas Filip says:

    cruel and inhumane-stop!

  58. This inhumane and cruel practice needs to stop now!

  59. Janet Needler says:

    this is unconscionable -NO person has a right to do such cruel and inhumane things in order to “get rid” of something they do not like –if wild animals are bothering their animals then bring the animals in at night -humans do NOT have a right to “accidentally” hurt other animals or humans — children and family pets have been seriously hurt from these cruel and awful practices —

  60. Cynthia McWilliams says:

    Wildlife service? This is wildlife slaughter. When will we evolve and allow other species to live on their own terms?

  61. j m says:

    Can’t believe they are still using these things…well, yes I can. The boy and dog happened months ago, and apparently the outcry then, did no good. Just proves how little our government listens to the people, or cares what we want. Fed up with the lack of compassion, civility, and caring in this country.

  62. Donna Sepulveda says:

    This is unbelievable and so sad the evilness that you are allowed to set death traps for these poor animals that have hearts and souls – you are monsters! They do no harm to you and this MUST be stopped now!!!

  63. Connie Almy says:

    Has everyone gone crazy? STOP!

  64. Susan Grabowski says:

    This is horrific. How selfish and destructive can humans be!!!!!!!!

  65. Not surprising, but disgusting and cruel. Stop such practices.

  66. Cecyl Ivie says:

    STOP this inhumane treatment against ALL animals. GOD. I thought Wildlife Services was there to HELP animals. Stop the Farming, NOW!!!\
    Cecy Ivie

  67. Cecyl Ivie says:

    STOP this inhumane treatment against ALL animals. GOD.

  68. Rebecca Harrison says:

    STOP THE KILLING!!

  69. cruel and inhumane must be stopped

  70. Sally says:

    This disgusting and inhumane treatment of animals needs to be stopped.

  71. Marcia says:

    This is horrific! They need to leave the animals alone. What a terrible way to die!! Stop this killing!

  72. Helene Minniti says:

    They do what ?!

  73. Bruce Smith says:

    More stupidity and murder from our Federal Government. Lets leave this country for anywhere else! War on citizens and our pets.

  74. Wilma Hens says:

    Stop the uncontrolled random killing of non-human animals. It is cruel and most inhumane. Shame on us all who are paying for it with our tax dollars!!!

  75. Kathie Jenni says:

    USDA’s “Wildlife Services” needs to be stopped from these ineffective, inhumane, indiscriminate poisonings and other horrific killings. The American public does NOT support such cruelty.