One of WildEarth Guardians top priorities is confronting the cruel and inhumane treatment of wildlife through the use of traps, poisons and other barbaric practices and activities such as contest hunts. We are opposed to all practices that result in needless suffering and mindless killing of animals but we are especially opposed to the senseless killing of native carnivores because of their ecological importance as ecosystem engineers and because of their aesthetic beauty.
While people are responsible for individual acts of cruelty it is agencies, one federal agency ironically called "Wildlife Services" as well as the individual state wildlife agencies, that are primarily responsible for allowing the bloodshed.
One of our primary and long-standing goals is to abolish the federal wildlife killing program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture which Congress created in 1931 and whose primary mission it is to kill native wildlife, including over 100,000 native carnivores annually. Likewise, we seek to reform state wildlife policies to prohibit the use of traps, poisons and contest hunts.
Science informs our policies and positions which means, for example, that we seek to prohibit or severely restrict trapping of endangered species such as lynx or wolverine. However, we believe science is not our only compass. We believe that ethics and compassion are our deepest guides which is why we want to altogether ban the use of traps, poisons, aerial gunning and contest hunts.
Barbarism in Action
Under the guise of "wildlife management" most states allow all sorts of barbaric practices to kill animals, some of them sanctioned and also carried out by the federal Wildlife Services. Every year thousands of wolves, coyotes, bobcats and even critically endangered species like lynx and wolverine are trapped and killed. Why the slaughter? Some kill for the fur, some kill to eliminate competition for agribusiness and, sadly, some kill for no other reason than "fun."
TRAPPED: CRUEL AND UNUSUAL
Steel leg-hold traps are legal in almost every state and there are often no limits on the number or type of animals that can be caught and killed - whether for their fur or simple blood-lust. Trapping is indiscriminate meaning that many non-target animals are killed or injured by traps. Moreover trappers often are not required to frequently check traps.
AERIAL GUNNING: SCORCHED EARTH FROM ABOVE
For decades now Wildlife Services has killed at least 25,000 coyotes per year from helicopters and small planes. The goal: to pre-emptively remove as many coyotes as possible from an area before livestock are pastured, and particularly to eliminate breeding coyotes, with their needs to provision their pups.
CONTEST HUNTS: BARBARIC, BUT MOSTLY LEGAL
Wildlife killing contests are legal in every state but California, which recently banned them. Contests hunts, many of them well publicized and sponsored events are on the rise, especially on public lands in the American West. While coyotes are the primary target of these events other animals includes foxes, prairie dogs and bobcats.
DEADLY POISONS: ONCE BANNED, NOW LEGAL
In 1972 President Richard Nixon issued Executive Order 11643 banning the use of poisons to control native carnivores on public lands. Under pressure from the livestock industry Ronald Reagan lifted the ban allowing M-44s and Compound 1080, two highly toxic poisons to be again used by agribusinesses to kill carnivores.
Compassion in Action: 2015 Work
WildEarth Guardians is working in state legislatures, the U.S. Congress, the federal courts and with the Obama Administration to secure a more compassionate future for native carnivores and other animals that are the targets of traps, poisons and people's perverse pleasure. We work largely outside the paradigm of state game commissions, which are run mostly by old, white men who hunt and trap and which serve the interests of the status quo. While litigation, especially that which relies on the Endangered Species Act, is a powerful antidote to the arrogance and intolerance of state wildlife agencies we are also engaged in longer-term political work in state legislatures. We are trying to advance an agenda of compassion for native animals in strategically selected states and on public lands where legal precedents can be applied broadly to other public lands and states.
Native carnivores are important ecosystems actors. They increase biological diversity and provide free ecosystem services upon which we all depend. They have an inherent right to exist, and most people enjoy viewing them. For these and other reasons, trapping, contests hunts and other forms of barbarism must be outlawed and the Wildlife Services' lethal predator-control program must be abolished.
In the case of Wildlife Services and protecting animal agriculture, we believe the time has come to mandate viable non-lethal alternatives to using dangerous toxicants, traps, and aerial gunning. While practical and time-tested non-lethal aids are available to the livestock industry and farmers, the federal government neither heartily uses them, nor does it spend significant resources developing new ones.
The long criticized "sledgehammer approach" to wildlife management must come to an end. Largescale, carnivore-killing programs are unsustainable and environmentally harmful.
In order to prevail we believe we need to be both patient and persistent, using every tool possible to advance our vision. Our opponents have the benefit that the status quo serves their agenda of continued persecution of animals. However, we know that time, momentum and the American people are on our side and that it will only be a matter of time before we ban traps, end contest hunts and mandate an ethic of coexistence for agribusiness that prohibits the senseless killing of all native carnivores.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Bethany Cotton, Wildlife Program Director, 503-327-4923 email: "bcotton 'at' wildearthguardians 'dot' org"