The meat industry could be driving wildlife extinct
by Lindsay Abrams

Ok, so you don’t feel bad about cows having to die in order for you to enjoy a hamburger. That’s fine — most people feel the same way. But what about the grizzly bears? Or the wolves? Or the 175 other species threatened by extinction? Would you keep eating that burger if you found out it was endangering all of those animals, too?

Well, would you?

A new campaign from the Center for Biological Diversity is presenting a broader perspective on the environmental damage wrought by the livestock industry. NPR has the scoop:

The conservation group says that some populations of grizzly bears and wolves have already been driven extinct by the livestock industry, and an additional 175 threatened or endangered species, like the prairie dog, could be next. Most of this drama is playing out on federal lands, where the needs of wildlife conflict with the needs of grazing cattle, says [population and sustainability director Stephanie Feldstein].

The federal government has for decades promoted and subsidized cattle grazing on 270 million acres of public lands in 11 Western states. According to Feldstein, one of the hot spots of livestock-wildlife conflict is predator species like wolves and bears preying on cattle.

The California grizzly subspecies, for example, was driven extinct in the 1920s by hunters assisting farmers and ranchers, according to historical documents at the University of California, Berkeley.

Ranchers also all but wiped out the Mexican gray wolf, the most endangered wolf species in the world, in the U.S. (A few survived in Mexico and in zoos, and scientists have been trying to bring them back through breeding, the group Defenders of Wildlife says.)

A study published back in January adds large carnivores, like pumas, lions and sea otters, to the list of meat industry casualties. All that, of course, comes along with the major impact our growing demand for meat has on the climate. Taken together, it’s worth considering whether that burger is, in fact, worth it.

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

10 thoughts on “The meat industry could be driving wildlife extinct

  1. The larger our world population gets, the more wildlife will be lost to the livestock industry. Not to mention the energy industry. If you truly care about wildlife, you should at least cut back on the amount you eat, and try to be conservation in your energy consumption. But sadly, the more prosperous we become, the more meat we eat. It’s happening in the developing countries now, who don’t learn from the Westernized world’s mistakes, but want to emulate our prosperity.

    • You are so right, Ida. I just saw another article about more “agricultural development” programs in the making in Africa, in order to “feed hungry people.” We know what this means: less land for wildlife, more for livestock and crops to feed them. We have never fed all the humans born, and it certainly will not happen now, with going on 8 billion and more. We are crowding out, and eating out all other life.

  2. Call me a pessimist, but I’m wagering that if they don’t care enough about the welfare of cows to stop eating beef, the collateral damage of their dietary choices on wolves, grizzly bears or the “175 other species threatened by extinction” isn’t going to stop them either. Any logically-consistent, right-thinking person who cares about wild animals also cares about domestic animals and vice versa. As a rule, self-centered gluttonous pigs (apologies to swinedom) care only about themselves.

  3. Welfare ranchers and their destructive, non-native livestock need to get off of OUR public lands. Ranchers feel they are entitled to destroy wildlife and habitat on lands that belong to all of us. Time for them to go, especially since only 5% of our beef supply comes from Western ranchers anyway.

  4. Public Land from Open Range to Multiple Use

    The history of public lands in the USA has been one of the government encouraging and supporting settlement (homesteading), ranching and farming and a war on wildlife and wilderness. Our forebears “settled” the wilderness by claiming and using public land as their own. The first wolf bounty was in 1630. There was from the beginning of civilization in the world, and settlement of this country, a war on flora and fauna and especially predators that really continues to this day; slowed now by conservation awareness and efforts and the general public’s concern and interest in conservation and expressed in Acts like EPA and ESA and others, and conservation organizations.

    The US Forest Service, USDA, has been permitting grazing on public land since 1897. The emphasis then was on permitting grazing while protecting timber reserves. The USDA Forest Service first published a Policy on grazing and timber use on public lands in 1905.

    For years in the west there was an open range policy: Graze on public land for free and have roundups each year for sorting out the herds by brand and branding the new young additions. Here in Montana we have one small city named for that tradition, Roundup, in which I lived for 8 years, one of the first homesteads in Montana. By 1960’s there was a growing interest and push for multiple use. The Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960 is a reflection of changing attitudes. By the 1970’s there was the Multiple Use Conflict Resolution Act with a goal of retiring public land permits by offering permittees $175.00 per animal unit (AUM is one horse, one cow and her calf, five sheep, five goats). Current permits sell for $1.35 per animal unit per month (AUM) and are usually good for 10 years and renewable if conditions have been maintained and the land is suitable for continued grazing. AUM’s have actually decreased from 18 million in 1954 to 8.9 million in 2012. AUM’s apply to 23,000 such permits in 16 western states.

    The National Public Land Grazing Campaign is an effort to recover public land from grazing and it is supported by over 225 conservation organizations. The General Accounting Office (GAO) estimates that it costs $144 million per year to administer public grazing and a return of $121 million, so a loss of $123 million. The general public is subsidizing ranching, but the USDA Forest Service and BLM sees this as supporting ranching and farming industry, extraction industries, rural America lifestyles and now multiple use management for all (ranching, farming, extraction industries, recreation, wildlife and residential settlement). There is inherently conflict in so many interests in a dwindling resource and in that conflict situation politics of conflict and some large divides of opinion. Encroachment on wilderness and wildlife from multiple uses of public land has pushed down true wilderness to the last 2.5 percent in the continental US with another 2.5% in Alaska. The major predators are endangered or threatened, persecuted, and marginalized. Sportsmen (hunters) push for farming game animals in the wilderness and nearby lands by the old idea, unfounded and mistaken idea, of killing and marginalizing the predators.

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or AKA Bureau of Land Mafia, administers 245 million acres, 155 million acres for livestock grazing. The BLM issues 18,000 permits, 21,000 allotments for, usually, 10 year periods. The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 gave birth to the US Grazing Service, a division of the Interior Department, which was reorganized in 1946 creating BLM. Multiple use emphasis was really manifest by the 1960s’ and 1970’s: EPA (1969), ESA (1973), Federal Land Policy Management Act (1976), Public Rangelands Improvement Act (1978). There are efforts to recover the wolf and the grizzly and many others, and either recover or protect wildlife and wildlife habitat in general.

    Multiple use, when talking about the last 2-5% of wilderness, seems like another form of continuing encroachment, and the results of the conflicts of multiple use have and will likely continue to result in continuing encroachment. But at least there is visible a strong manifestation of conservation efforts with many positive results over the past half century and maybe gaining momentum in this century, with also growing conflict and political maneuverings. There is even a growing questioning of the value and health of the public lands and national forests and wilderness and people and the environment in ranching and the rancher and hunter led war on wildlife.

  5. Some great comments on public lands ranching. Now, if we can just get the many “wild life” groups to stop their collaboration and compromise with ranchers, we might be able to save our public lands and the remaining wild life that live there. What we are seeing now is a re-birth of the dangerous, (often racist), anti-wilderness, anti-wildlife, pro-privatization of federal lands movement–The Sage Brush Rebellion folk, who are forming networks with fanatics like Cliven Bundy (Nevada public lands, law- breaking rancher), and the Otero County, NM public lands ranchers, who have a common agenda: to privatize all public lands, solidify alliances with the hunting, trapping and energy development industries, and to fight any/all protection and reintroduction of native wild animals. These public lands ranchers have declared war against those who want less “multiple misuse” of these lands, and who want to protect remaining wild animals and their ecosystems. It doesn’t take much intelligence to see how bad things are on these lands: the riparian areas are mostly destroyed, along with the native grasses, and soils are hotter, with less nutrients, due to livestock grazing with climate disruption/change. Those who still believe that there are “good ranchers” out there, need to face the stark reality that even the few who might consider themselves “wolf-friendly” will not go up against the livestock industry when needed. The only “wolf-friendly” is rancher one who gets out of the ranching business, period. Public lands belong to the native animals, and the animals increasingly will need these areas as buffers and sanctuary as the climate changes more rapidly..

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