From a speech delivered at FARM's Animal Rights 2012 as State of the Movement: Wildlife
When people think about the animals who suffer and die for our country's
meat based diet, they think about the chickens and the cows and the pigs.
They never think about how meat eating affects the bison and the bears, the
beavers, the badgers, the birds, the bobcats.
My career for the last 28 years has been as a National Park Service
Ranger, and as a Ranger and as a vegan, I think about it. I care for
wildlife. I should take a moment to say that the opinions I will express are
my own and do not reflect the opinions of the National Park Service...which
is a damn shame.
The future for wild animals looks grim. We are in the sixth great period
of extinction, but unlike the previous five known extinction periods, this
one was caused by us. Species are disappearing at a rate 1000 times faster
than the background rate of extinction. Many scientists think that by the
end of this century fully half of all existing species will be extinct.
Three of the main causes of extinction are habitat loss, climate change and pollution, all three of which are linked to animal agriculture.
Seventy percent of the rainforests have been cleared to pasture cattle and to grow livestock feed. Raising animals for food (including land used for grazing and land used to grow feed crops) now uses 30% of the Earth’s land mass. Eighty percent of all the agricultural land in the U.S. is used to raise animals for food and grow grain to feed them—that’s almost half the total land mass of the lower 48 states.
Animal agriculture is devastating to global biodiversity because of
Climate change has emerged as another leading cause of species
extinction. According to the United Nations a leading cause of climate
change is animal agriculture.
Climatic warming has caused severe declines in once-common amphibian
species native to Yellowstone National Park. The number of salamander
populations fell by nearly half and the number of frog populations in
Yellowstone fell by 70% in the last decade. Global warming is expected to
result in extinctions of up to one-third of all butterfly species.
Worldwide, coral reefs are currently declining more quickly than
rainforests are being cut down. This is devastating for the countless
organisms that inhabit coral reefs. More than a third of coral reef fish
species face extinction from the impacts of climate change. Many Arctic
mammals, such as polar bears, walrus, and seals depend on sea ice for their
survival and are severely threatened by the melting ice.
Pollution is another main cause of extinction. Almost half of all of
America’s streams, rivers and lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming
or aquatic life. And the leading cause of this pollution is livestock waste
and agricultural chemicals used to grow crops for farmed animals.
The Mississippi River carries tons of this pollution into the Gulf of Mexico every year. This has resulted in a dead zone the size of Massachusetts which can’t support life. The Earth currently has more than 400 oceanic dead zones, and that number continues to grow.
Industrial livestock farms store manure and other farm wastes in gigantic
tanks known as “lagoons” which can hold millions of gallons of manure. These
lagoons often leak and during large storms, they may rupture or simply
overflow. When this happens, the environmental damage can be enormous.
Millions of fish and other animals have died in such events.
We have known about pollution for years, but have done very little to
control it. The reality of climate change has been slow to be accepted. And
our leaders have done nothing about it.
And there are those who keep trying to dismantle the Clean Air Act, the
Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act.
Earlier this summer, U.S. Representative Billy Long of Missouri
introduced a bill in the House called the Superfund Common Sense Act that
would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from calling animal manure
from farms a pollutant, a contaminant or a hazardous substance, so that
those involved in animal agriculture won’t have to worry about cleaning up.
There is a senate version of this bill and its main sponsor is senator from
Idaho Mike Crapo. The Universe has a very strange sense of humor.
Most people think that there are federal agencies which protect wildlife,
the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife
Service, the Bureau of Land Management... but the fact is that these
agencies have become confederates to livestock producers in a War on
I don't blame Obama, he inherited a very nasty mess, but he really could
have made some better choices.
From a vegan environmentalist's viewpoint, one of Obama's biggest
mistakes was to appoint a rancher and hunter from Colorado as the Secretary
of the Interior, in charge of the National Park Service and the Endangered
Species Act. Ken Salazar, when he was governor of Colorado, threatened to
sue the Federal Government if the black tailed prairie dog was listed as an
endangered species. Ranchers don't like prairie dogs. As governor, Salazar
had stated that he wanted to dismantle the endangered species act, and now
as Secretary of the Department of the Interior, he is in charge of the
Endangered Species Act.
There are no government agencies protecting wild animals, it's only us.
It's groups like the Farm Animal Rights Movement, it's groups like
WildEarth Guardians, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of
Wildlife, Sea Shepherd, and all the local vegetarian societies and animal
rights groups, it’s you and me.
Because of lawsuits by environmental groups, the Fish and Wildlife
Service made over 500 positive listing decisions in 2011, the most since the
Endangered Species Act took effect in 1973.
A couple of months ago at the International Whaling Commission meeting,
South Korea announced that they planned to start "scientific" whaling like
Japan. Because of international protests by people like you and me, in July
South Korea announced that they wouldn't begin a whaling program after all.
The number of nations and cities in the US which have outlawed captive
wild animals in circuses continues to grow. Last February, the Greek
Government banned the use of all animals in circuses. Bosnia, Austria and
Croatia have bans on wild animal acts, and several European countries
including Portugal and Denmark have measures to ban or phase out wild
animals in circuses.
Bolivia was the first country to ban all animals from circuses in
February 2011, followed by Peru in July 2011. This last June, Paraguay
banned the use of wild animals in circuses. Similar Legislation is currently
being considered by the Governments of Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Chile
Last December, Russia, formerly Canada's top commercial market for seal fur, banned the import of all harp-seal products.
In June, the Governor of Ohio signed the Dangerous Wild Animal Act into
Law which bans ownership of lions, monkeys and other exotic animals. Similar
laws banning exotic animal ownership are being considered in Virginia,
Arizona, Missouri, West Virginia, Tennessee, Indiana and Oklahoma.
Shark fin products are now illegal in four states and at least six other
states have pending legislation. More and more nations have outlawed the
practice of shark finning, and even China announced last month that they
plan to ban shark fin soup from being served at official banquets.
According to a recent report by the US Forest Service, wildlife watching
and photography continues to grow as outdoor activities, while hunting and
trapping are in serious decline.
The decline in hunting has worried the NRA and other pro-hunting groups,
so in the last few years they have mounted successful campaigns to have the
minimum legal age for obtaining a hunting permit lowered to twelve years of
age in most states. In my state of Texas, a nine-year-old can obtain a
permit to hunt unsupervised.
That’s not the worst of it. Texas allows the blind to hunt, as long as
they are accompanied by a sighted hunting companion. And with the age
requirement being what it is, it could be a nine-year-old leading a blind
person on a hunt.
You know, even though I am a park ranger, I don’t go into the woods as
often as I used to.
Is it too much to hope for that our letters to our representatives will bring congress to its senses? Of course it is.
But we have to keep trying. And we have to continue the fight on all fronts.
And we have to become the most effective animal advocates we can be.
That's why we are here this weekend.
I believe that the most important step any individual can take to help all animals, domestic, enslaved and those in the wild, is to not eat them.
And to influence other people to not eat the poisonous products of the
meat and dairy industries.
Most people don't think about how their eating habits affect the wild lands and wildlife.
Unless they do start to think about it, the woods will soon be silent.