Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur

Taxpayer-Funded Animal Slaughter Obsolete

By Andy Kerr

Column #15 - Go to next column

Length: 756 words

Published: 13 February 1997, Wallowa County Chieftain

The federal government subsidy of public land livestock grazing is one of the more notorious examples of corporate welfare, which harms the taxpayers and the environment.

Another handout to this the select elite who graze their sacred cows at the public's trough is not so well known. Each year $37 million of our federal tax-dollars go to fund the Animal Damage Control program. We also pay for it through your state and local taxes. 40% of ADC's entire budget is spent on killing the public's wildlife on the public's lands. It works about to about $550 handout per public land grazing permittee.

In 1994, overall ADC killed 160,000 mammals and 620,000 birds and harassed and maimed countless others, primarily in the name of protecting crops and livestock. ADC relies on unreliable loss reports from those who often have an incentive to over-report such losses and/or ascribe mortality to predators, when other natural or manmade reasons are actually the case.

It's also quite inhumane. Denning (killing coyote pups in their dens by gun, flame-thrower, hook, bullet, barehanded, etc.), aerial gunning (sometimes non-target animals are shot), traps and snares (again to the detriment of non-target species) are among the methods used.

It also quite dangerous to other wildlife and to humans. Chemicals like Compound 1080 (first developed by Nazi Germany) which the governments calls "one of the most dangerous toxics known to man." Less than 1/500th of an ounce can kill a human. "Not only the target animal is killed, but any other creature that feeds upon the carcass, resulting in a chain of death," says Wildlife Damage Review, a group which seeks to end the ADC program on environmental, economic, fiscal and moral grounds.

Cyanide and other dangerous chemicals are also used and misused in this effort.

While $37 million isn't a great amount of money in the context of trillions of dollars of federal debt, this mistaken expenditure causes the federal government to spend more money at cross-purposes. For example, ADC admits that its practices may harm 147 threatened and endangered species, while elsewhere the federal government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually to protect these same species.

Enlightened and responsible ranchers practice sound husbandry practices such as burying livestock carcasses instead of leaving them to bait predators. They avoid prime predator habitat during lambing and calving times and/or use temporary fences, guards and herders. Public land ranchers do few, if any, of these things.

A review of the data shows that the predator control efforts are often counterproductive. It is well documented that coyotes have larger litters of pups when their numbers have been thinned by human efforts.

Kansas offers a striking contrast. The state doesn't have any federal ADC livestock protection program, yet Kansas farmers suffer significantly lower predation rates than farmers in adjacent Oklahoma and Nebraska where ADC is quite active. Obviously, ADC has failed.

ADC has a long and sordid history of acting lawlessly and outside the standards of common decency. "It's like sausage making: you don't really want to know what goes into it," said Bill Rightmire, Wyoming's former ADC Director.

ADC should be abolished. If the states—which generally have the authority and responsibility for wildlife—want such activities, they should pay for them. Better yet, those who benefit from the ADC program should pay for them. "Those who receive special benefits and services from the federal government should be the ones to bear the costs of these services, not the general taxpayers," said Ronald Reagan.

Since public lands are for public purposes, public moneys should not be expended to kill the public's wildlife for private benefit. Nor should private moneys be allowed to do so on public lands.

The few worthwhile components of ADC such as research of non-lethal solutions to wildlife damage conflicts, and wildlife disease monitoring should be turned over to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Yes, wildlife can cause damage and sometimes need to be controlled, sometimes by lethal methods. Such damage suffered by farmers and ranchers is a cost of doing business. First, they should take reasonable steps to avoid the conflict. Second, they should initially employ non-lethal means. Only as a last resort should lethal means be used and only then under controls which prevent harm to non-target animals and humans.

In any case, the farmer or rancher should pay for animal damage control. Since it's a cost of doing business, it's tax-deductible. It should not be tax-funded.

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