Target: William Clay, Deputy Administrator of Wildlife Services
Goal: End the federal government’s cruel and unwarranted extermination campaign, and demand transparency in wildlife management
Wildlife Services is a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that is supposed to be responsible for eradicating or controlling invasive species. In recent years, however, it has destroyed far more native species than invasive ones, for reasons that remain unclear. Although the department has been criticized frequently for its lack of transparency, it has come under special scrutiny recently because of the more than 4 million wild animals slaughtered in 2013. These deaths include 75,326 coyotes, 866 bobcats, 528 river otters, 3,700 foxes, 12,186 prairie dogs, 973 red-tailed hawks, 419 black bears and at least three eagles.
The number of animals that have been shot, poisoned, snared, or trapped has varied widely over the years, from a low of 1.5 million in 2001 to a high of 5 million in 2008, again for reasons unknown. The agency has consistently declined to release information on the slaughter, except to say that it is a “service” to those who “experience damage from wildlife each year.” It has also refused to release information on who it has entered into agreements with, how its budget is being spent, or even on what poisons it is spreading around the American countryside, poisons which have been to know to be accidentally consumed by livestock, pets, and in some cases, human beings.
Wildlife Services has also been accused of excessive cruelty, and has had issues with employees being charged with animal cruelty after using their brutal traps on domestic species. Many of the traps the agents use are banned in other countries because of their barbarism, and since these traps are not carefully supervised, they often end up brutalizing and killing non-target species. According to one estimate, these traps have been responsible for 4,000 accidental deaths since 2006. This collateral damage includes blue herons, mule deer, black bears, and pet dogs.
Representative Peter DeFazio of Oregon has called Wildlife Services “one of the most opaque and obstinate departments I’ve dealt with.” The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a petition and launched a legal campaign to demand an explanation and “end the mass killing of our native species to benefit a handful of politically connected business interests.” Sign this petition to help support the Center’s cause, and let Wildlife Services know that its opacity and cruelty will not be tolerated.
Dear Mr. Clay,
One of the things that separates humans from other species is our capacity for empathy. Despite this fact, we also now know that animals are capable of rich emotional lives and display a wide array of emotions, including sorrow and agony.
Knowing what we do about these animals, their relationships to each other, and their ecological roles, Wildlife Services’ massive culling and cruel methods are both scientifically dubious and morally indefensible. Anything that causes a creature unimaginable suffering for extended periods of time is downright sickening, and has no place in a government that is supposed to be representative of the American people.
Your agency’s brutal killing spree is unscientific, unnecessary, and absolutely unconscionable. I demand that you put a stop to these random, barbaric, and unethical slaughters immediately.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Minnesota Historical Society via Flickr