The Mass Killing of Wildlife for Your Burger, Cheese, and Leather

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The Mass Killing of Wildlife for Your Burger, Cheese, and Leather

By Stephanie Ernst on AnimalRights.Change.org

Alternate title:
Government Gives Finger to Prairie Dogs, High-Fives Animal Ag

Most progressive people profess concern for wildlife, even if the tens of billions of domesticated animals we abuse and brutally kill each year aren't yet on their compassionate radar. I was one of those people once. But the truth is that the slow, horrible, unnecessary deaths of millions of free-living animals each year are happening for the benefit of those who eat and wear animals and animal products.

Winter holidays are upon us, so what gift is the government willing to give the dwindling population of prairie dogs? Plenty of poisons that ravage their bodies and cause them horrible deaths, but no endangered species protections, officials ruled yesterday. And why the barbaric killing and the refusal of protections? People's demand for flesh, dairy, leather, and wool. If your initial reaction to this is confusion, don't worry -- it gets worse.

When I first went vegan, I experienced the same revelations that a number of people experience once they begin investigating animal rights issues in depth. I was blown away to learn just how much everything is tied together -- and just how much the vast majority of us simply don't know about the far-reaching effects (and influence) of animal agriculture, all animal agriculture, not just so-called factory farming. And one of the many areas where animal agriculture -- for meat, dairy, wool, leather, and so on -- is the bully asserting its power and causing destruction is the habitat and very lives of wildlife, or free-living animals.

Ranchers are allowed to "rent" public lands for obscenely low prices, so that they can put cattle and sheep on that land to graze (see also "Ranching on Public Lands" section here). And this translates into the displacement and barbaric killing of the animals who already lived there. If you think the Amazon is the only place where ranching is wreaking havoc, you're dead wrong. The rapid deforestation -- and thus, habitat loss -- and environmental destruction in the Amazon isn't the only wildlife-related cost of consuming meat, dairy, leather, etc. Ranching and farming right here in the good ol' United States is a disaster too.

For example, the federal government intentionally kills millions of free-living animals each year, most of them at the behest of ranchers and farmers who consider those animals a nuisance. And 90-plus percent of those killings happen via poisoning, "with agents ranging from strychnine to sodium cyanide," the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) reports. PEER continues, "Widespread poison application often kills 'non-target' species, as well. For example, toxins used to eradicate starlings in cattle feedlots also kill owls, hawks, raccoons and domestic cats. Other methods include aerial gunning, 'denning' (killing animals in their dens), and traps."

These aren't "humane," necessary, or justifiable killings. Indeed, while waiting for the now-denied protections for prairie dogs, wildlife/conservation groups have been battling the government's pending approval of yet another poison, this one called Kaput-D, which may be added to the arsenal of poisons already used to kill prairie dogs and other animals (including endangered species). Here, courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity, is one of the "humane" deaths the eating and wearing of animals pays for:

Kaput-D is an anticoagulant poison. It causes animals to lose blood through various orifices, including eventually the skin membranes, over a period of weeks. During this time, poisoned prairie dogs may wander around as they become weaker and weaker and vulnerable to predation. As that point, animals that prey on prairie dogs or use prairie dog habitat can themselves be poisoned.

On top of what happens to the animals on farms and in slaughterhouses, free-living wildlife get the pleasure of slowly bleeding to death for the benefit of animal agriculture and its supporters. Still hungry?

Most progressive people profess concern for wildlife, even if the tens of billions of domesticated animals we abuse and brutally kill each year aren't yet on their compassionate radar. I was one of those people once. But the truth is that the slow, horrible, unnecessary deaths of millions of free-living animals each year are happening for the benefit of those who eat and wear animals and animal products. And we haven't even touched on such topics as the destructive, deadly pollution resulting from animal ag in this post.

Animal rights advocates will keep saying it for as long as we have to: It is all connected. Violence breeds violence. If you oppose unnecessary killing and violence and cruelty, if you believe in respecting our fellow animals and our world, if you want to see the dangerous path our planet is on reversed, it's time to exit the cycle of violence and pick up that vegan starter kit.
 


Note: If anyone is preparing to leave that inevitable comment about how many more free-living animals are supposedly killed in fields for the vegan diet, please see this post: Are Vegans Responsible for More Deaths in the Fields? The graph there (read Number of Animals Killed to Produce One Million Calories in Eight Food Categories) shows just how many more animals must die for an omnivorous diet, and it doesn't even factor in the millions of wildlife intentionally killed for ranchers (it reports only on the animals killed during crop harvesting).