Say what you will about President Joe Biden’s administration, at least they’re not beholden to the folks at the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
According to a report in the U.K. Guardian, a little-known division of U.S. Department of Agriculture had a very busy year in 2021, killing over 1.75 million animals — including over a million European starlings.
The numbers raise an interesting quandary for liberals, considering that their beloved big government is slaughtering 200 animals an hour. Of course, for conservatives, they would argue that putting some of this culling in the hands of sportsmen and not factory slaughter machine of the feds might be a better way to go about it. Either way, it’s something pretty much everyone can get themselves upset about.
(It’s also worth noting that here at The Western Journal, we’ll always stand up for hunters’ rights — including their Second Amendment rights. If you want to support us in our fight, please consider subscribing.)
Wildlife Services, according to its website, “provides wildlife damage management assistance to protect agriculture, natural resources, property and health and safety.”
This includes doing away with invasive species, reducing wildlife that may cause issues at airports and protecting agriculture, among other things.
However, the U.K. Gurdian took a closer — albeit dispassionate — look at this aspect of Wildlife Services’ duties and the 1.75 million animals killed.
“The 2021 toll shows the killings span a Noah’s Ark of species, including alligators, armadillos, doves, owls, otters, porcupines, snakes and turtles. European starlings alone accounted for more than 1m of the animals killed,” they reported in March.
“A single moose was shot, along with a solitary antelope and, accidentally, a bald eagle.”
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This, the Guardian said, “has further stoked the fury of conservation groups that have decried the killings as cruel and pointless. Wildlife Services maintains the slaughter is necessary to protect agricultural output, threatened species and human health.”
To be fair, one species made up the lion’s share of the culling — and it wasn’t even a lion, so there was more good news.
Over 1,028,000 European starlings were killed off by the program in 2021. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the 200 million European starlings in America were originally introduced in just a small number by a Shakespeare enthusiast who noted the avian species from the Bard’s poems hadn’t managed to survive the winter when released in North America by the American Acclimatization Society in the 19th century.
However, Smithsonian Magazine noted “the tiny flock found shelter beneath the eaves of the American Museum of Natural History” in New York City and began to thrive. Fast forward to today, and we have 200 million of them, and they don’t play nice.
“Starlings will bully other birds, kicking bluebirds, flickers and woodpeckers out of their nests,” Smithsonian Magazine noted. “They can consume whole fields of wheat and transmit avian, animal and human diseases. A fungus called Histoplasma capsulatum can grow in the soil beneath roosting starlings; the fungal spores can become airborne if the soil is disturbed and cause the disease histoplasmosis, which, in rare cases, can cause blindness or death.”
Even still, they’re not the only species culled — and most aren’t invasive. Among native species slaughtered, there were over 26,000 Canada geese killed, just under 25,000 beavers, almost 64,000 coyotes, 10,775 black-tailed prairie dogs, over 75,000 northern pikeminnows 10,162 common ravens, 9,583 double-crested cormorants and a partridge in a pear tree. I might have made one of those up.
Just because I made it up doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, however — and that’s because there’s plenty of animals slaughtered accidentally by Wildlife Services.
“Plenty of animals are killed unintentionally, too, with 2,746 unfortunate creatures, including bears, foxes and dogs, exterminated by accident last year. This is partly down to the methods used by Wildlife Services, which deploys leg hold traps, snares and poisons to target animals. The agency uses a variety of other approaches, too, such as rounding up and gassing geese or shooting coyotes from helicopters or aircraft,” the Guardian reported.
“It’s stomach-turning to see this barbaric federal program wiping out hundreds of thousands of native animals,” Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Guardian.
“Killing carnivores like wolves and coyotes to supposedly benefit the livestock industry just leads to more conflicts and more killing. This is a truly vicious cycle, and we’ll continue to demand change from Wildlife Services.”
The question is whether or not this is the approach Wildlife Services should be using. I’m not a radical environmentalist by any stretch of the imagination (I’m still trying to find where I put my “Pave the Rainforest” t-shirt, for instance), but some of Wildlife Service’s methods are dubious.
For instance, Wildlife Services uses what’s known as an M-44 cyanide bomb to do away with certain animals. It’s not any better than it sounds: The Guardian noted they’re “essentially canisters placed in landscapes that eject a cloud of sodium cyanide when tugged at by animals. It will typically kill foxes, coyotes and other targeted species within five minutes.”
“The use of M-44 canisters can go awry, however, such as when pet dogs inadvertently trigger them. In 2017, a 14-year-old boy, Canyon Mansfield, was covered by the toxic powder when he encountered one of the devices while walking his dog Kasey behind his home in Pocatello, Idaho. The incident injured Mansfield and killed his dog, prompting calls by environmentalists, so far rebuffed by the federal government, to ban the use of M-44s.”
Yes, this is a tricky subject, and some of this is very necessary. This isn’t to question that. Rather, it’s going to question the proportionality. And there are other ways to do it, after all. All I’m saying is give hunters a chance.