US producers ‘in tears’ at having to cull livestock on their farms

With slaughterhouse capacity in crisis due to Covid-19, one farmer believes he has developed a more humane way of ‘depopulating’ animals

Pigs at a farm near Le Mars, Iowa

Pigs at a farm near Le Mars, Iowa. Breeders are having to slaughter animals on their farms. Photograph: Dan Brouillette/Bloomberg /Getty Images

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Published onWed 10 Jun 2020 06.29 EDT

As traumatised US farmers continue to cull their animals in response to the slaughterhouse crisis, an Iowan pig producer has developed an on-farm method which he believes is quicker and more humane than other available options.

The coronavirus crisis has hit US meat plants particularly hard. As a result there is a lack of slaughter capacity, and farmers are being forced to cull or “depopulate” their animals on-farm.

Approved methods include gassing with CO2, but the practice is controversial. “Dying this way is not a peaceful experience”, even under normal circumstances, let alone in makeshift sheds or trailers, said president of welfare group, Mercy for Animals, Leah Garcés.

Gassing the animals is currently thought to be one of the fastest and most humane methods, leaving animals unconscious within two minutes and dead within 10. The carcasses are incinerated, composted or rendered for fat, fertiliser and pet food.

But for Dwight Mogler of Iowa’s Pig Hill Farms, that is too long. Mogler is a sixth-generation pig farmer with firsthand experience of gassing newborn pigs. “I have talked to people who have been on site for a CO2 depopulation and we have used it for neonatal [new-born] pigs. It can take up to a minute,” he said.

Mogler, who produces about 150,000 pigs a year, says he is fairly confident the gassing is not painful for newborns, but it is disturbing. “There are muscle spasms and the limbs flail, but no vocalising,” he said.

Another depopulation option is overheating, or hyperthermia, commonly known as ventilator shutdown (VSD). A recent undercover video of an alleged VSD pig cull at a different Iowa producer contained disturbing scenes and sounds.

Asked about the video, Mogler said it would have involved turning off the ventilation, turning up the temperature and then the introduction of steam. “It would take less than one hour and any remaining pigs would be shot with bolt guns. It might only take 10 minutes in fact for the pigs to die. But for us that is too long.”

Having rejected CO2 and VSD, Mogler decided to build his own cull facility. It will replicate a slaughterhouse death time of less than two seconds. Ready to undergo testing, Mogler’s system consists of a mobile unit with a V-restrainer, an electrical stunning point and a captive-bolt gun.

Mogler aims to slaughter about 170 pigs every 45 minutes, using a rotating slaughter crew to avoid mental or physical fatigue. “Our capacity would be about 1,500 to 2,000 pigs a day,” he said, and no pig caretakers will be involved in the slaughter.

As well as developing his own cull technique, Mogler donated two pigs to a Missouri sanctuary. Initially reluctant, because the goals of a sanctuary are so at odds with those of a farmer, Mogler changed his mind after talking to a rescue coordinator. “ I found we had so much more in common [than expected]”, he said.

Donating pigs to food programmes is another option for farmers, particularly with so many Americans facing increased financial and food insecurity, but slaughtering remains a challenge. For a few there is still space at local lockers, as Iowa’s smaller, state-inspected butchers are known. Most, however, are already overwhelmed, with some fully booked into 2021.

Despite donation difficulties, psychologist and Iowan farmer Dr Michael Rosmann thinks it’s worth the effort. “It helps the farmers a bit, to know they have tried to find a solution for at least some of their pigs,” Rosmann said. “It’s probably only going to help with about 1% of their animals. These are farmers with anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 pigs. It’s a very complex situation and it is not going to end soon.”

Farmers are extremely distressed by the possibility of having to depopulate their animals, said Rosmann, who has talked to several in the past few weeks. “One of them was in tears. He could not bring himself to kill his pigs and he was asking for advice,” Rosmann said. “My suggestion was to find food programmes or local butchers, or people who are able to butcher the animals themselves – that’s allowed by law, if you kill it and eat it yourself.” Sadly, he said, many of those able to slaughter their own animals might be illegal migrants and afraid to come forward.

At industry level, Iowa Pork Producers Association spokesperson, Dal Grooms, said its newly created food-bank donation programme, Pass the Pork, has seen 48,404lb of pork, about 456 pigs, enter the food chain via local lockers.

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Imprisoned chicken with eyes closed
Photo credit: Vancouver Chicken Save.

By Karen Davis, PhD,
President, United Poultry Concerns

“Share the fact that you are an animal lover.”
– Advice to farmers depopulating their animals.

There’s love and there’s “love.” There’s humane and “humane.” There’s euthanasia and “euthanasia.” There’s euphemism.

According to Merriam-Webster, “Euphemism derives from the Greek word euphēmos, which means ‘auspicious’ or ‘sounding good.’ The first part of ‘euphēmos’ is the Greek prefix eu-, meaning ‘well.’ The second part is ‘phēmē,’ a Greek word for ‘speech’ that is itself a derivative of the verb phanai, meaning ‘to speak.’ Among the numerous linguistic cousins of ‘euphemism’ on the ‘eu-’ side of the family are ‘eulogy,’ ‘euphoria,’ and ‘euthanasia’; on the ‘phanai’ side, its kin include ‘prophet’ and ‘aphasia’ (‘loss of the power to understand words’).”

Speaking of farmed animals, euphemism is the cover-up equivalent of the mass burials of these animals in the ground or the stomach – their “euthanasia.” Call it collusion, conspiracy, complacency or corruption, a pact between agribusiness and the major news media guarantees that the animals will not truly be seen, heard or empathized with. A stock photo or video clip of a piglet “nursery,” a “meatpacking” plant or a “poultry processing” plant does not enlighten a public content to let industry and the media interpret the meaning of these images. See, for example, Meat Plant Closures Mean Pigs Are Gassed or Shot Instead and Millions of Pigs Will Be Euthanized As Pandemic Cripples Meatpacking Plants.

Though current society seems to have forgotten that the word “euthanasia” means, literally, a good death, or to die well – exemplifying a “loss of the power to understand words” – there’s a kind of implicit social agreement that this term can magically relieve us of culpability for inflicting horrible death and atrocity on innocent nonhuman creatures.

Yet there is awareness of the real meaning of euthanasia, as is evident in the fact that we do not call mass-killing, live burial, suffocation, throat-cutting, gassing, paralytic electric shock and the like “euthanasia” in the case of ourselves. Speciesism is not a mere abstract concept. It’s the wellspring of our attitude toward nonhuman animals. It determines the fate we subject them to and our language of justification.

I’ll wager that once the coronavirus news cycle has passed, the sympathetic attention being paid by the media to the plight of “meatpackers” will dissipate. For the animals, nothing will change, since the major media have shown them no mercy, compassion or acknowledgement to begin with. The occasional op-ed or letter to the editor expressing sorrow for our animal victims is overwhelmed by the standardized coverage. An example of the rare exception is Our Cruel Treatment of Animals Led to the Coronavirus.

An article in the Progressive FarmerHard Decisions: How Consumers View Mass Depopulation, in which I’m cited, draws attention away from the euphemistic use of the word “euthanasia” as a synonym for the mass-extermination of “livestock,” focusing instead on how to manage the negative publicity of “mass depopulation.” An industry representative is quoted: “producers should expect to see visuals hitting the news and social media that will be shocking.”

Actually, this prediction is what has not happened. Farmers needn’t worry that the major news media will blow their cover. Or that “visuals,” if shown, would shock a public worried about having enough “meat” on the table – a worry amped up by the media. As for social media, these outlets seem mainly to attract those who already care strongly one way or the other.

So what’s a farmer to do? Advises the industry representative: “It’s okay to share that this is an incredible crisis for you and your family just like it is for families all around the world. Share the fact that you are an animal lover and have dedicated your life to spending more time with animals than humans. Remind people you are just one person in a community of farmers all dealing with this heartbreaking reality.”

But what, for the farmer, is the “crisis,” the “heartbreaking reality”? It can’t be what the animals are being put through, since for them a terrible death and its attendant pain and terror await regardless. More to the point, the “crisis” is the loss of income, the “waste” and disposal of animals whose purpose, from the farming perspective, is to become a marketable product.

Imprisoned chicken
Photo credit: Vancouver Chicken Save.

Back in the days when I attended farm animal “welfare” conferences, I used to wonder, listening to the speakers and watching their slides, “Do they honestly, personally believe that the filthy, cobwebby, manure-filled buildings, cages and related contrivances of cruelty to chickens constitute welfare?” To what extent, I wondered, did self-deception figure in the professional deception that relies on euphemisms, including that the captive birds are “happy,” “content,” and “singing,” and that farmers “care” about their animals above the bottom line.

Currently, some animal advocates seek to turn agribusiness adversaries into allies in an effort to change the chicken industry from maniacally cruel to marginally kinder. The ultimate goal of this undertaking is to reverse the business of transforming plants into “chicken” by transforming “chicken,” so to speak, into plants. Real chickens in this remake no longer figure in the plant-based version of themselves or in the cellular meat version either.

This reminds me a little, inversely, of how in ancient Greek and Roman mythology, people seek to transform the goddesses of vengeance and retribution, known as the Erinyes or Furies, by giving them the euphemistic name Eumenides, meaning “the Kindly Ones.” A thing to remember about the Furies, though, is that they personify guilt and the pursuit of justice in the wake of murder and other crimes, so transforming them into “the Kindly Ones” amounts to a euphemistic subterfuge to avoid moral reckoning.

The carefully constructed obliteration of our animal victims from the coronavirus coverage shows how casually we turn our Furies into “Kindly Ones” where other species are concerned. In this instance, “the Kindly Ones” function as a disabled conscience. With our words of commission and omission we muzzle our guilt – the condition of guilt we refuse to feel. The animals are being euthanized – put to sleep – so we can rest easy and return to normal.

https://upc-online.org/slaughter/200519_whats_love_got_to_do_with_it.html

‘Critically low’ caribou population prompts wolf cull in the Chilcotin

The BC Government is moving forward with a predator control plan in an effort to save the Itcha-Ilgachuz mountain ranges’ rapidly declining caribou herd. (Public domain photo)

Itcha-Ilgachuz herd numbers down to 385, from 2,800 in 2003

The provincial government is moving forward next month with plans to remove about 90 wolves in the Itcha-Ilgachuz mountain ranges in an effort to save the area’s dwindling caribou herd.

Read more: Wolf cull being eyed for threatened Itcha-Ilgachuz caribou herd west of Williams Lake

Today approximately 385 caribou remain in the area, a decline from 2,800 in 2003, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development noted.

“Wolves are caribou’s principal predator in B.C. and high wolf numbers are associated with declining caribou populations,” the spokesperson stated. “It is clearly the case for the Chilcotin/Itcha-Ilgachuz caribou herd which has reached a critically low population.”

In addition to the cull, other recovery actions including habitat protection, habitat restoration and maternal penning may be implemented.

“Based on five years of research on wolf management in the central group, we know that wolf populations can rebound quickly. It is imperative to implement a predator control plan to ensure the last remaining caribou in the Itcha-Ilgachuz have a chance to survive.”

Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett supports the wolf cull.

“The Itcha-Ilgachuz herd are living in an isolated area, hard to get to,” Barnett said. “I’ve talked to many people who know something about wolves who say it is the right thing to do, so let’s hope it does what it is intended to do and we protect what caribou are left.”

She criticized the ministry for not having public meetings about the caribou recovery plan.

“The more people that understand why this is being done the better. We’ve asked for meetings throughout the region.”

So far the ministry confirmed it has consulted with local government and Indigenous communities on caribou recovery planning.

In 2019, the licensed hunt for caribou was closed in Management Unit 5-12 to protect the Itcha-Ilgachuz herd.

Residents living in the remote area say they have notice a rapid increase in wolf numbers, and a sharp decline in caribou numbers in recent years.

The wolf cull is expected to be carried out by helicopter.

Aerial removal is the favoured method for wolf culls as it is considered the most effective and humane, according to an August 2019 letter penned by ministry staff.

Wildlife Management: When Forest Wails and Mourns

Photo credit: John E. Marriott

“Just as ships’ bottoms pick up layers of barnacles over time, so, through their lives, human societies and individuals become encrusted with layers of cultural and ideological sediment. … The cemented coating clings as though chemically bonded to me and screams bloody bloody murder at my slightest advance…”~John Livingston

Awar on wildlife in British Columbia never ends; cruelty goes on, unabated. We cannot unshackle ourselves from the self-centered belief system — the thickened layer of barnacles — that destines us to view nature as a resource subordinate to our needs. When, in 1981, John Livingston wrote “Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation”, he cautioned against the fallacy of turning the Earth’s fabric into a “natural resource”. It was echoed by Neil Evernden who recognized that, once deemed a resource, nature inevitably becomes a casualty of reckless exploitation. And this is what has happened. Under the guise of fostering “conservation”, we have concocted a management approach that gives us a license to discard a delicate assembly of life as if it were a lump of coal.

The decades-long tragedy of the caribou habitat is a proof, as good any, of cruelty and travesty inherent to current wildlife management strategies. What strikes the most is how long it has lasted. In the 1970s, a biologist, Michael Bloomfield, showed that the widespread destruction of the habitat by logging and other resource development activities threatened caribou survival. These warnings were never listened to. The B.C. government has allowed for the destruction of the habitat to continue, and the caribou population dwindled from 40,000 in the early 1900s to approximately 15,000 today, all scattered among 54 herds. Thirty of those herds are at risk of extinction and 14 have fewer than 25 individuals.

Photo credit: John E. Marriott

This is the current reality. With impunity grounded in political support — regardless of a party in power — the industrial encroachment fragments the caribou habitat and decimates their food source. Consequently, chances for the survival of the caribou diminish as their habitat shrinks in size. The resilience of nature is no match for greed and political expediency. A cycle of life gets broken. What is worse, the officially sanctioned ecological devastation not only ensures the eventual disappearance of the caribou but sentences to death wolves, cougars, and many other species that depend on the same habitat.

Death comes in many forms, and, for some animals, anguish and agony mark the path. The fate that wolves suffer shows most glaringly the tragedy that befalls nature when the government gives in to demands of the resource-extraction industry. In 2014, the B.C. government, with its Management Plan for the Grey Wolf, authorized the war on wolves. Since 2015, under the guise of caribou conservation, over 700 wolves have been killed. They were trapped, hunted, poisoned to death, gunned down from helicopters. Even more abhorrently, extermination tactics have used “Judas wolves” to find their packs and wipe out all of their members. But this not where the war against the wolf ends. The stated number does not include “wolf whacking” contests that take place in the interior of B.C. — an officially sanctioned bestiality that not only dooms wild animals but debases us, as human beings.

Photo credit: John E. Marriott

And, yet, even this is not enough. Now, the NDP government argues that “landscape scale habitat management is needed to support self-sustaining caribou populations”. It thus proposes a predator hunt legislation that would — in the name of reversing caribou population declines — erase more than 80 percent of the wolf population in parts of the central B.C. In other words, it would get rid of the “surplus” of wolves. To call this wildlife management approach fallacious and unethical is to be greatly euphemistic. The innocuously sounding phrase — “landscape scale habitat management” — camouflages an outright slaughter.

And it is the slaughter compounded by ecological ignorance. Any discussion about maintaining stable wolf populations — an underlying premise behind the predator hunt legislation — defeats its purpose if the exact number of wolves in a habitat remains unknown. As so is the case here. The Management Plan for the Grey Wolf states that the wolf population might be approximately 8,500. In reality, this number can be anywhere between 5,300 and 11,600, since, as the plan admits, estimating the population size is challenging due to the secretive nature of wolves, their extensive range, and the density of forested habitats they inhabit. Moreover, hunting data in B.C. lack reliability. The plan states that there is “considerable uncertainty in the current take of wolves by resident hunters and trappers as B.C. does not have a mandatory reporting system…[and] without more reliable estimates of the harvest, it is difficult to assess the sustainability of BC’s wolf harvest.” This ignorance does not, however, prevent the government, Max Foran states, from accepting “generous hunting quotas, no limit on killing females or pups, no bag-limit zones, long and sometimes open year-round hunting seasons, no license requirement for residents.” This is not management but a “wolf killing plan”, he writes.

Killing that will never stop. The ministry’s scientists claim that “a very extensive effort will be required every year to continue to keep the wolf population low” because of the wolf’s natural resilience and quick recovery. Like stubborn weeds, wolves must be eradicated repeatedly. This malignancy cannot be allowed to grow.

Unfortunately, the cruelty and the bureaucratic cold-heartedness underpinning this statement account for merely a part of its tragic perversity. However inhumane, the perpetual killing of wolves is based on the premise that, following a bout of slaughter, the species is able to recover. Only an unfounded human hubris would allow for such a premise to sustain itself. The so-called “surplus” of wolves is very fragile in the face of climate change, and wolves are vulnerable to the unpredictable ecosystem dynamics. Precariousness and unpredictability are the words that define a broad range of interdependences in the critical caribou habitat. The social-ecological system operates on various scales– some of them observable and some not — and there are tipping points, the crossing of which takes us into a place of no return. After all, we live in the times of a rapid environmental change where the only certain expectation is uncertainty. That is why the “managed” killing of predators is a callous misnomer that is bound to unleash not only savagery but also unknown ecological ramifications.

Photo credit: John E. Marriott

Still, numerical variations in the wolf population, as well as both known and unknown ecological consequences of their repeated slaughter, do not tell the whole story. What remains hidden from all of us, living far away from the land of the wolf, is individual suffering to which, through our political indifference, we implicitly consent. What we do not see is paralyzing anguish, pain, and psychological trauma that comes in the aftermath of the shattered family structure. Death destroys even those who survive. After a killing spree is temporarily over, surviving wolves return to mourn a loss. They also face a world unknown to them. As Marc Bekoff and Sadie Parr write, “those individuals that survive to make new wolf families must do so without access to the knowledge and culture held by their slain family members, something that takes generations to build. They become refugees on their own land.”

Finally, this is not only about the caribou or the wolf, but also about us, humans. Perceiving nature through the prism of its cruel and ignorant management comes at a price that we will have to pay. Destroying wolves destroys us as a society. It diminishes us. Our appreciation of and compassion for the natural world have evolved throughout centuries and molded into moral and ethical principles. We break these principles at our peril.

It is time to start peeling layers of “cultural and ideological” sediment we wrapped ourselves in. The cemented coating that clings to us offers the comfort of familiarity, but it is a false comfort that chips away at our humanity. The main argument for killing wolves in the caribou habitat is ensuring that the caribou will still be there, in the future. So our children and their children can watch them roam the forest. Given the ongoing destruction of the habitat, it will not happen no matter how many wolves we decide to shoot. But even if the demise of the caribou were to be somehow temporarily postponed by the merciless “recovery” plan, what then? Should we tell our children how many generations of wolves we have killed to accomplish this? Should we tell them that they what they see is the legacy of killing fields?

PLEASE TAKE ACTION:

In British Columbia:

  1. Support Pacific Wild campaign “Save BC Wolves” at https://pacificwild.org/campaign/save-bc-wolves/
  2. Support Wolf Awareness campaign at https://www.wolfawareness.org
  3. Support Wildlife Defence League campaign at https://www.wildlifedefenceleague.org/mountain-caribou
  4. Write and Send letters to:

Premier John Horgan — Premier@gov.bc.ca
Minister Doug Donaldson — FLNR.Minister@gov.bc.ca
Darcy Peel — Director, BC Caribou Recovery Program caribou.recovery@gov.bc.ca

Please also help wolves In Ontario:

“The Ford government wants wolves and coyotes to pay the price for declining moose populations in Ontario. By re-opening a proposal abandoned by the previous government after it was outed as being unscientific and unethical, the PCs are trying to liberalize the hunting of both wolves and coyotes across northern Ontario.”

Comment by September 26th at http://earthroots.good.do/wolf/huntingcomment/?fbclid=IwAR08lwxns1Z0hw5tnc_uBZ5M9y6syqKQwWy5u48mkT0S2A1mOBZ6Zz2Pn_0

Protest Slaughter of Canada Geese in Denver, Colorado

Denver Parks and Recreation Manager Scott Gilmore calls it a “rodeo”

canada goose with goslings

As summarized by Julie Marshall in Boulder County’s Daily Camera, July 1: “Two weeks ago, our tax dollars paid a gaggle of federal employees to stalk Canada geese by land and by lake at Denver’s highly popular Washington Park, without witnesses, at the break of dawn. It was hardly a stealthy operation, because seasonally molting geese cannot fly. The goose hunt was triggered by Denver Parks and Recreation, whose manager, Scott Gilmore, explains that it’s mostly about poop. People complain a lot about goose poop, he says. And so up to 2,200 geese will be rounded up this year, poisoned or gassed, and churned into meat to feed to poor families, our government tells us.”

Read the article: Mindless cruelty for the sake of a tidy park

 

In The Healing Power of Geese and Other Animals, June 30, Marc Bekoff, PhD, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, describes the magnificence of these geese and criticizes the horrific terror attack being conducted in Denver on them and their goslings:

“Humans are usually the reason why geese go where they go, and when they become a nuisance, some humans favor culling them. Of course, ‘culling’ is a way to sanitize what they’re really doing, and that is killing them. Sometimes those responsible for these killing sprees or those who carry them out say they’re euthanizing whoever is on their hit list. This also is misleading because euthanasia refers to mercy killing because an individual is in interminable pain or incurably ill. It’s the last and most difficult choice that people have to make, and geese who are being killed in Denver are healthy bird beings.”

 

What Can I Do?

Please sign & share this Petition to Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock urging that Denver Parks and Recreation Manager Scott Gilmore be fired:

Fire Scott Gilmore

 

Thank you for taking action.
United Poultry Concerns

 

Zimbabwe Ready to Sell Elephants to ‘Anyone Who Wants Wildlife’

  • Planned sale of elephants to Angola will help reduce ‘excess’
  • Zimbabwe tourism minister Prisca Mupfumira says in interview

Zimbabwe plans to sell elephants to Angola and is prepared to ship wild animals to any other interested countries as the southern African nation seeks to reduce its elephant population due to growing conflict between people and wildlife.

“We have no predetermined market for elephant sales, we are open to everyone who wants our wildlife,” Tourism Minister Prisca Mupfumira said in an interview on the sidelines of a wildlife summit in Victoria Falls. “The main problem is landmines in Angola, so we are trying to assist them by having a fund to deal with those before we send the animals.” Millions of landmines were used in Angola’s 27-year civil war that ended in 2002 and many have yet to be cleared.

Leaders of the four southern African nations that are home to more than half of the world’s African elephants gathered in Zimbabwe on Tuesday to discuss a common management policy and reiterate calls on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to relax some of its rules, including a moratorium on ivory sales.

The four countries – Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and Botswana – joined forces earlier this year to lobby CITES ahead of a global conference scheduled for August. They say they should be free to decide how to deal with their wildlife, and income from sales of ivory stockpiles can be used for conservation. Botswana says it has too many elephants, while Mupfumira said Zimbabwe had an “excess” of 30,000 of the animals.

Namibian President Hage Geingob and Zambia’s Edgar Lungu told delegates at the summit that the rights of communities living among elephants are being overlooked and there should be a “new deal” with CITES that allows them to benefit from wildlife. President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, who oversaw the lifting of a hunting ban in May to enable villagers to shoot some elephants if they destroy crops, made similar comments.

Zimbabwe has already sold African elephants to China in recent years. The West African nation of Gambia, which doesn’t have any pachyderms, has also expressed interest, Mupfumira said.

“They said come and teach us and send us technical know-how,” she said. “We must allow free movement, and we must also decide – its our own resource.”

Did Washington State Fish and Wildlife internal directive lead to killing of Snoqualmie Valley cougar?

[Article by contributing writer, North Bend resident and wildlife enthusiast, Melissa Grant]

On April 5th 2019, a Capital Press headline read, “WDFW Director: When in doubt, remove the cougar.” This memo came shortly after a March Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Commission meeting in Spokane. New director Kelly Susewind – WSU grad with a degree in geological engineering and longtime Department of Ecology employee – took over in January 2018 after the former director resigned. To many, the new director’s ‘remove the cougar’ stance sounded like a change that could result in the killing of more animals.

Less than a month later – in our own backyard – that directive claimed one of its first victims.

The audio transcript of that March Commission meeting made it clear that many were concerned about cougar populations. Most notably, one group claimed that cougars and wolves were responsible for the deaths of 25,000 deer annually in NE Washington. They also went on to claim these predators were responsible for DFW funding shortfalls. If you believe their numbers and follow their extrapolations, you can see how the cougars are costing the state a fair bit of money in lost hunting permits. Apparently, they and the other meeting attendees convinced Susewind the problem was statewide and the memo was distributed to wildlife & enforcement programs on April 24th.

The very next day, on social media, a story started unfolding. In the comments of a wildlife story, a local man was telling a tale of losing his goat to a cougar. “I had my 130lb goat plucked off by a cat 30yards from my back door.”  Some tried to help by sharing links and tips for protecting livestock. Others offered contact info for the local DFW bear and cougar specialist. It was clear from his response he didn’t think much of the Department or want their advice. “lol. WDFW has been here tracking this mother and 3 cubs for 8 years. Who is this ‘specialist’? Do they have experience hunting and hunting predators?” He said he also had a second goat taken in early February. Like the three men at the commission meeting, he seemed convinced the reason for the attacks was simple: loss of deer. Furthermore, the WDFW had been at his house that very day looking and he was disgusted by the “spiel” he had heard about responsibility.

It was clear this man wasn’t inclined to change his mind and a quick look at his Facebook page showed he had very poor husbandry, leaving his goats susceptible to attack. But what effect did the memo have on his two previous encounters with DFW officers? There were enough details to submit a public records request for both goat depredation incidents.

Soon after there was a Digital Open House with the WDFW director and other staff on May 13th. Armed with a copy of the memo and having studied department reports on cougars, four questions were put into the queue for consideration:

  • A recent incident in the Snoqualmie Valley involved a resident with poor husbandry losing two of his livestock in three months. One call involved multiple officers, according to some accounts. What is the cost per call? How much taxpayer money is spent on repeat offenders?
  • How are you solving repeat problem situations with large predators outside of killing animals? What if people don’t follow recommendations given by officers? Will you be following up with citations, fines and long-term solutions?
  • There are recommendations in WDFW 2018 Game Status and Trend Report to avoid/minimize conflict and interactions with large carnivores through outreach, education, better husbandry and an emphasis on personal responsibility.  However, the director’s memo regarding dangerous wildlife of April 24th excludes all references to these things. Is there a general trend towards de-emphasizing personal responsibility?
  • WDFW manages fish and wildlife. Why does it suddenly sound like it is just helping remove or eliminate wildlife and carnivores? Where does responsible management play a role?

Two and a half hours later, these questions were either not asked; asked but significantly changed; or answered with what can only be described as blather.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, the questions were resubmitted to the director. Game Division Manager Anis Aoude replied on May 17th. The answer to the third question stood out as somewhat reassuring: “The Director’s memo that you mention was not intended to de-emphasize personal responsibility.  It was intended to stress that human safety should be paramount when making decisions related to large carnivores.  Our employees will still be emphasizing that good animal husbandry is the best way to avoid livestock depredation.  They will also continue to provide technical assistance and suggestions along those lines.”

That answer coupled with point two on the memo – “When public safety is threatened or when livestock have been killed despite an owner’s efforts to protect the stock, staff will make every reasonable effort to removing the offending animal(s)” – seemed to suggest that the memo didn’t mark a statewide change in policy after all.

However, getting the reports from the local goat incident a few days later would again call into question what that memo actually meant for our state’s animal residents.

The first report was dated February 3rd and told a tale of a goat killed by a small or juvenile cat. The DFW officer searched the property, found the kill site and questioned the owner as to the whereabouts of the goats that previous night. He was told that the goats “roam free during the day and loiter around the barn at night”. They added they were not secured in the barn and had not done so for a “long time”. The officer continued his search, found a gap under the fence a cat could climb under and noted that the fence could have easily been jumped over as well. He informed the owner of his findings, gave advice to secure the goats at night and suggested adjustments be made to the fence.

The second report was dated April 26th – two days after the memo was issued. On the 25th, the owner contacted the DFW again to say his remaining goat had been killed by a cougar. The officer then contacted his supervisor who told him to give the owner permission to tie the carcass to a tree and shoot the cougar if it came back. Late that night the owner called, saying he’d shot at two cougars – killing one. In the morning after speaking with the officer from the prior incident who had noted the property’s inadequate fencing, several officers headed to the residence.

Once at the residence, the officers walked the property, took photos and found the deceased cougar and goat. Karelian Bear dogs arrived to look for a wounded cougar, but none was found.  The dead cougar was a 50-60lb sub-adult female. The officer’s supervisor recommended not issuing a written warning for negligent feeding, poor fencing and husbandry practices “due to the Directors memo” even though the report noted, “no effort was made to better his fences.” The reporting officer also noted he “would have told him not to kill cougar and put up an electric fence if not for the director’s memo”.

So, does Washington State have a cougar problem? In some areas perhaps, but experts say that hunting practices may partially be to blame for this problem. Many incidents involve juvenile cats that were either alone or with another similarly aged animal. Orphaned cubs – left alone without a mother – often resort to preying on humans and livestock out of desperation. Thus, hunters who kill a mother cougar may be inadvertently causing this issue.

Calling for increased hunting pressure on cougars is unwarranted. There is no evidence that decreasing a cougar population will decrease interactions, as research has shown in multiple states. There is no evidence that an increased cougar population leads to more problems.

According to the WDFW’s 2018 Longterm Funding Plan, department funding comes from six main sources: federal, user fees, state and local contracts, state bonds and license plates. User fees alone are approximately 23% of the DFW’s spending, with a major portion of that coming from hunting and fishing licenses.

WDFW’s mission statement is: “To preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities”. Sounds a bit like they must try and serve two masters simultaneously. Perhaps that meeting back in March tipped the scales towards the consumptive users’ needs – aka hunters and fishers. How else do you explain how an issue in the northeast corner of Washington affected policy in the Snoqualmie Valley?

Residents in Eastern Washington have been making themselves heard on the subject of cougars. If you want your opinion to be considered, you must also make your point of view known. You can contact the Director at:

Kelly Susewind: Director’s Office PO Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504-3200 | 360-902-2200 | director@dfw.wa.gov

Botswana’s Plan To Cull Elephants And Sell Them As PET FOOD Wins Ministerial Approval

https://greenworldwarriors.com/2019/02/27/botswanas-plan-to-cull-elephants-and-sell-them-as-pet-food-wins-ministerial-approval/?fbclid=IwAR1YqU4kzDgJh29vjP280IwQ2ihCtfSLXrJgXWY7NNHHN8W1lUXK52jSg_w

Botswana is moving towards culling elephants by lifting its wildlife hunting ban after a group of the country’s ministers endorsed the idea, but the proposal has drawn heavy criticism. Botswana’ is planning to cull elephants and sell them as pet food wins ministerial approval.

The southern African country’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi had previously tasked a government subcommittee with reviewing the hunting ban – which had been put in place by his predecessor Ian Khama in 2014.

A Botswana Defence Force colonel near the marked remains of an elephant killed in the Chobe national park area

The committee decided to recommend lifting the ban last Thursday, and the country’s minister of local government and rural development Frans Solomon van der Westhuizen advocated ‘regular but limited elephant culling’, NPR reports.

Elephant meat canning – including for pet food production purposes – was also recommended by some.

Konstantinos Markus, a Member of Parliament who spearheaded efforts to eliminate the ban, argued that the ‘expansion of the elephant population in Botswana has impoverished communities.’

According to reports Markus said rural citizens of Botswana have grown hostile toward elephants, especially in the north where he said the animals have cut maize yields by nearly three-quarters.

Botswana is reportedly home to 130,000 elephants, according to the Great Elephant Census, but concern has been rising regarding the ‘growing conflict between humans and wildlife’.

The country’s Government has also said pinpoiting the precise elephant population is difficult partly because herds can roam across borders into other countries.

Botswana’s consideration of lifting the ban has drawn heavy criticism.

The Telegraph reported that an elephant conservationist who works with the country’s government called the proposed cull ‘short sighted’.

One Twitter user said she was ‘devastated’ to hear that the country was considering lifting the ban

The conservationist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the paper: ‘Botswana does have too many elephants, and there is huge elephant human conflict.

‘But this is not economically viable and it doesn’t take into account the reputational damage to the country. Better exploitation of sustainable tourism is a far better model.’

Online campaign group Elephants DC, which advances anti-poaching and anti-smuggling policies and has 35,000 Facebook folloewers, said: Botswana in the news for all the wrong reasons.

America should help NOW defend future impending poaching slaughters of the elephants. This nation is largest last haven of African elephants, many now whom are refugees after fleeing conflict elsewhere, in the world.’

One Twitter user said: ‘DEVASTATED to hear that @OfficialMasisi is considering lifting the ban on hunting elephants. It has even been proposed that the slaughtered elephants be made into ‘pet food’.

‘Please let Masisi know that if this is authorised, tourism to Botswana will dramatically decrease.’

African bush elephants in Botswana may lose their protection from the 2014 law

Regarding the idea that the African democracy could be set to cull the animals, one Twitter user said: ‘Conservationists around the world must join forces to ensure that this ludicrous idea never happens.

Elephants are the most majestic of creatures. Thousands have been slaughtered for their ivory, now this shocking development. Elephants will become extinct.’

Another said: ‘Guys gonna pls stop the savagery against the elephants… everybody likes elephants – they connect us into the history of life itself. The Queen and Prince Philip like to feed them bananas too. Cheers.’

But one social media user took a different approach, saying: ‘Do you know the struggle of someone in Shakawe who’s has to face this animals every other day? Have you ever had you crops completely erased by elephants. What really is your mandate?’

The country’s Government published a press release clarifying that ‘no decision has been taken’ regarding the hunting ban 

Last year, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Bill Oddie, Peter Egan, and a cross-party group of MPs rallied against proposals to lift the ban, claiming that allowing hunting could force the species to the point of extinction.

When the 2014 ban was imposed, the government had said it was moved to act after indications of ‘several species in the country’ showing declines.

The ban permitted hunting in registered and private game ranches. Some have argued that the rules may have been a detriment to the animals and people alike.

NPR reports that a spokesperson for conservationist non-profit organisation Elephants Without Borders said: ‘Some people are worried that elephants have recovered in greater numbers than the environment can sustain, and there is significant concern over increasing human-elephant conflict.

‘During the past 20 years the elephant range in Botswana has expanded by 53%, causing increasing concern about the impact of elephants on biodiversity, the viability of other species and the livelihoods and safety of people living within the elephant range.’

Botswana’s Government published a statement on Twitter outlining how it had not taken a decision regarding the committee’s recommendations.

It read: ‘The Government of Botswana wishes to inform members of the public that no decision has been taken with respect to the recommendations contained in the Sub Committee of Cabinet Report on the hunting ban that was presented to His Excellency Dr. Mokgweetsi E. K Masisi, President of the Republic of Botswana recently by the chairperson of the said sub-committee.

Conservationists set Botswana’s elephant population at 130,000, but lawmakers claim the actual figure is much higher than this

‘As members of the public may recall, the moratorium on hunting was introduced in 2014 by Government and it was not meant to be a permanent decision. It is against this background that in June 2018, Government decided to consult with key stakeholders on the hunting ban in view of the increased human/wildlife conflict.

‘In this regard, a Cabinet Sub Committee on the Hunting Ban was established to conduct a nationwide consultative process that covered, holding kgotla meetings, consulting with individuals, local authorities, researchers and other key stakeholders.

‘Members of the public are reminded that consultation/therisanyo is the bedrock of out democratic dispensation as a nation. The long-standing peace, democracy and good governance experience that Botswana is often cited for, promotes social cohesion, unity in various communities, freedom of expression and equality before the law.

‘Therefore Government wishes to assure members of the public that it will uphold this principle and continue to engage with other important stakeholders before a decision regarding the recommendations is made.’

The statement was attributed to Carter N. Morupisi, Permanent Secretary to the President and Secretary to the Cabinet.

Botswana, which is roughly the size of France, has a population of around 2.3 million people and contains vast tracts of remote wilderness that make it a magnet for foreign tourists who want to view wildlife.

International tourism could generate £160m for Botswana this year, rising to £280m by 2021 – more than trophy hunters spend across the whole of southern Africa.

Source: Dailymail

Study: killing cormorants tripled losses of salmon & steelhead

https://www.animals24-7.org/2019/02/12/study-killing-cormorants-tripled-losses-of-salmon-steelhead/

(Beth Clifton collage)

“This goes down as one of the really significant failures in wildlife management in recent decades.”

PORTLAND, Oregon––Cormorant massacres at East Sand Island,  near the mouth of the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington,  not only did not save any salmon and steelhead from predation in 2015 through 2017,  but may have tripled predation losses,  according to new research by Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife avian predation biologist James Lawonn.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers killed 5,576 cormorants and destroyed 6,181 nests in an effort to prevent the birds from eating an estimated 12 million young salmon each year,”  summarized Karina Brown for Courthouse News Service and Willamette Week on February 5,  2019.

Double-crested cormorant.
(Sally Fekety photo)

“Little to no gain”

Lawonn,  however,  told Brown that he expects “expects little to no gain” in salmon and steelhead survival as result of the killing,   ordered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and executed by USDA Wildlife Services

Explained Brown,  “That’s because cormorants are now living farther upriver—still in huge numbers.  And where they live makes a difference.  Cormorants who live closer to the ocean choose from an extensive menu of ocean fish that form huge schools in the Columbia estuary,  such as anchovies,  herring and smelt.  Upriver, they eat a far higher proportion of salmon and other freshwater fish.

“None of the estimated 16,000 birds who fled East Sand Island in 2017,  amid the USDA Wildlife Service gunfire,  “were tagged or radio-collared,  so there is no data to show exactly where they went.  But last year,  a sudden surge in cormorants nested on the Astoria-Megler Bridge,  seven miles upriver from the island,  and at other upriver spots.”

Bridge cormorant colony “will likely double”

Some cormorants had nested at the Astoria-Megler Bridge,  spanning the Columbia River,  since 2004,  “but only in very small numbers,”  Brown specified,  paraphrasing Lawonn.

“Now there are 1,750 breeding pairs on the bridge,”  Brown wrote,  “and based on available habitat,  the colony will likely double.”

Altogether,  the Columbia River estuary cormorant population has recovered to about 10,000 nesting pairs,  “a number comparable to the original average of 12,000 pairs on East Sand Island before the Corps of Engineers project,”  Brown assessed.  “Other spots upstream have become new homes for 750 breeding pairs.”

Bob Sallinger.  (Facebook photo)

Feds knew killing cormorants would not help

That the cormorant massacres would do little or nothing to conserve salmon and steelhead was no surprise to Audubon Society of Portland conservation director Bob Sallinger.

The outcome should also have been no surprise to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies involved in the killing,  Sallinger contended in an unsuccessful 2015 lawsuit,  based on a suppressed and ignored study by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologist Steve Haeseker.

(See Feds hid data showing that killing cormorants will not help salmon & steelhead.)

Cormorant catching a fish.
(Beth Clifton photo)

“One of the worst things I’ve seen”

“We think this goes down as one of the really significant failures in wildlife management in recent decades,”  Sallinger told Brown.  “It’s without question one of the worst things I’ve seen in my 25 years of wildlife advocacy.”

“This was never about protecting salmon,” emphasized Sallinger.  “This was always about scapegoating birds to avoid the real challenges that the Corps of Engineers needs to face up to. And the result has been a stunning failure,  whether you care about birds or fish.”

Sallinger and many other conservationists have long blamed salmon and steelhead declines in the Columbia River estuary on the many upstream dams blocking the Columbia,  the Willamette,  and other spawning rivers.

(Beth Clifton photo)

Dams & hot water

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has refused to do what’s necessary to modify those dams to protect salmon,”  Sallinger has often said,  “and that is why salmon are continuing to decline. Killing wildlife is not going to change that situation.”

Several reports indicate that global warming is also a major and growing factor.  Effects of elevated water temperature have been found by at least one recent study to be contributing to the premature deaths as many as half of the adult sockeye salmon returning to the Columbia River and tributaries to spawn.

(Beth Clifton photo)

Feds blame eagles

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,  meanwhile,  denied to Brown that shooting thousands of cormorants and smashing their nests had anything to do with their 2017 exodus from East Sand Island.

Instead,  wrote Brown,  “The Corps blames eagles for the birds’ mass abandonment of the island.”

“The management plan has been very successful in reducing the amount of salmon eaten by birds on East Sand Island,”  contended U.S. Army Corps of Engineers biologist Kris Lightner.  “We just don’t know about the estuary as a whole.”

(Beth Clifton collage)

“Pure scapegoating”

Responded Oregon State University wildlife ecology professor Dan Roby,  who was hired by the Corps of Engineers to study the potential effects of rousting cormorants from East Sand Island,  but whose advice was ignored,  “If there is a place in the Columbia River estuary where it would be best for cormorants to nest – and by best,  I mean their effect on salmon and steelhead survival – it would be East Sand Island.”

Brown published her exposés of the failure of the cormorant killing to help salmon and steelhead on the same day that ANIMALS 24-7published Why killing predators won’t bring back the salmon,  examining and exposing schemes pursued by a variety of state and federal agencies to try to recover salmon and steelhead by killing gulls and California sea lions.

Beth & Merritt Clifton

All of this,  said Sallinger,  “is a continuation of a very unfortunate pattern of killing wildlife to protect other wildlife––pure scapegoating.”

Wildlife officials defend mountain lion management practices

This photo of a mountain lion provided by Colorado Parks and Wildlife is not one of the animals involved in last month’s West Glenwood sightings.

In the weeks since local wildlife officials began to receive reports of mountain lions near homes in West Glenwood, threatening dogs and stalking humans, criticism of the way Colorado Parks and Wildlife handled the situation persists.

After numerous reports of mountain lions in and around Glenwood Springs, caught on infrared video and at least one personal encounter, officials trapped and killed five of the big cats in January. That decision has prompted strong reactions from Glenwood Springs Post Independent readers, wildlife advocates and people across the state who felt another solution should have been be exercised.

CPW spokesman Mike Porras maintained that wildlife officials did not make the decision arbitrarily and used their years of knowledge and experience working with wildlife to determine that lethal removal of these animals was the correct solution.

One comment Porras said he’d been hearing from those concerned with the actions is that “the wildlife officials took the easy way out.” He said he felt that was both untrue and hurtful to the wildlife officers who have dedicated their lives to protecting the state’s animals, environment and people.

He said killing an animal is “the hardest decision” a wildlife officer has to make, and argued the easier move would have been to trap the animal, take it somewhere else and simply let it be — perhaps to its ultimate demise, regardless.

CPW has received several comments in reaction to previous stories in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and picked up by other media outlets statewide demanding the mountain lions be relocated instead of being euthanized.

 

Relocating these particular lions, which had shown “no fear to humans,” was not a viable option for wildlife officials, according to Porras.

Porras said that doing so could result in the lions returning to West Glenwood or moving into other human population centers. He added that the displaced lions could disrupt the ecosystem wherever they were moved, especially if there are other established lions nearby.

Last week’s story reporting that five animals had been euthanized received responses from residents in Colorado, California and Washington state, some suggesting that it is the lion’s territory where humans are living. Others offered different solutions for officials.

One example was from Washington, where the state’s department of fish and wildlife adopted a Karelian Bear Dog Program, essentially a hazing technique to try to get the animals to move elsewhere. The primary purpose of the program is to limit the many bear-human conflicts that occur in Washington and reduce the number of bears that have to be lethally removed, according to the state website.

Porras said these types of hazing techniques are used by wildlife officials throughout Colorado, but added that with these particular lions it was not considered an option because there was no guarantee the hazing would result in new learned behavior for the full-sized predators.

He said there was “no guarantee based on one encounter” that the lions would leave for good if hazed, and officials simply were “not willing to take that risk.”

Among the reports wildlife officials received about West Glenwood mountain lion activity last month included multiple attacks on pets, sightings of mountain lions stalking people in the middle of the day and carcasses of recent elk killings left in people’s backyards.