Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

The ignored casualties of livestock farming


I could be talking about the people, the slaughterhouse workers, when I refer to the “ignored casualties”, and they are worth talking about here at some point. Tonight, however, I’ll talk about the other casualties because honestly we do hear about the people, at least once in a while. How often do we hear about the wolves and foxes, the birds, the cats and dogs that are killed by “Wildlife Services“? From a John Robbins article:

In 1997, following the advice of public relations and image consultants, the federal government gave a new name to the ADC—”Wildlife Services.” And they came up with a new motto—”Living with Wildlife.”

This is an interesting choice of words. What “Wildlife Services” actually does is kill any creature that might compete with or threaten livestock. Its methods include poisoning, trapping, snaring, denning, shooting, and aerial gunning. In “denning” wildlife, government agents pour kerosene into the den and then set it on fire, burning the young alive in their nests.

Among the animals Wildlife Services agents intentionally kill are badgers, black bears, bobcats, coyotes, gray fox, red fox, mountain lions, opossum, raccoons, striped skunks, beavers, nutrias, porcupines, prairie dogs, black birds, cattle egrets, and starlings. Animals unintentionally killed by Wildlife Services agents include domestic dogs and cats, and several threatened and endangered species.

All told, Wildlife Services, the federal agency whose motto is “Living with Wildlife,” intentionally kills more than 1.5 million wild animals annually. This is done, of course, at public expense, to protect the private financial interests of ranchers who wish to use public lands to graze their livestock.

The price that western lands and wildlife are paying for grazing cattle is hard to exaggerate. Conscientious management of rangelands can certainly reduce the damage, but widespread production of grassfed beef would only multiply this already devastating toll.

“Most of the public lands in the West, and especially the Southwest, are what you might call ‘cow burnt.’ Almost anywhere and everywhere you go in the American West you find hordes of cows. . . . They are a pest and a plague. They pollute our springs and streams and rivers. They infest our canyons, valleys, meadows and forests. They graze off the native bluestems and grama and bunch grasses, leaving behind jungles of prickly pear. They trample down the native forbs and shrubs and cacti. They spread the exotic cheatgrass, the Russian thistle, and the crested wheat grass. Even when the cattle are not physically present, you see the dung and the flies and the mud and the dust and the general destruction. If you don’t see it, you’ll smell it. The whole American West stinks of cattle.” — Edward Abbey, conservationist and author, in a speech before cattlemen at the University of Montana in 1985

Wildlife Services kills millions of individuals, whether “wildlife” or cats or dogs,  using our tax dollars to benefit private businesses. It is such a tired story – the government taking money from its citizens to give to the corporations. Let’s give the money to the homeless, to the 45 milion needing health insurance, to education. Let’s let the ranchers take care of themselves. Let’s let the cost of animal products go up – no matter how expensive it gets for humans to consume them, it will never match the cost to those individuals who are “harvested”.

carlyle at poplar spring


2 responses to “The ignored casualties of livestock farming

  1. Rich January 10, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    I have always had an interest in wolves and I followed the plot of the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone. Groups like the Defenders of Wildlife had to create a $100,000 trust fund that would be used to pay farmers for any livestock killed by wolves. It is sad when cattle farmers (aka Death Merchants) must be bribed in order not to protest the reintroduction of a natural predator that was eradicated by overzealous farmers and so called conservationists in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. They were killed to protect livestock and the natural prey of the wolves.
    Luckily the wolves are protected in every state except Alaska, but your entry makes me wonder what animal is next to be hunted to near or total extinction by so called conservationists?

  2. Deb January 10, 2007 at 11:32 pm

    Thanks for the link and the information on the wolves! It is sad on so many levels that the ranchers have to be bribed for the wolves to be reintroduced.

    I’m sure any animal that is seen as a threat (no matter how vague) or a “pest” is already being targeted. RMAD in Colorado has been fighting hard for the prairie dog.

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