Petition Asks USDA to Regulate Wildlife Services Program!

Petition Asks USDA to Regulate Wildlife Services Program!

In a landmark move, several prominent animal protection organizations, including the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, Project Coyote, the Animal Welfare Institute, and WildEarth Guardians, have jointly submitted a petition for rulemaking to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

The focus of their petition is the Wildlife Services program, a century-old initiative shrouded in controversy due to its secretive nature and the methods employed in what is termed “damage control” for wild animals.

The primary objective of the petition is to urge the USDA’s APHIS to embrace a comprehensive regulatory framework for the Wildlife Services program.

The organizations are calling for the phasing out of ecologically damaging and inhumane methods used in killing wild animals.

This includes the prohibition of specific cruel and indiscriminate techniques such as neck snares, M-44 cyanide bombs, lead ammunition, and more.

Furthermore, the petition advocates for a ban on operations in wilderness areas, emphasizing the need to protect these sensitive ecosystems.

A crucial aspect of the petition is the call for clear standards to ensure that Wildlife Services treats animals humanely. The organizations behind the petition are also advocating for greater transparency and accountability to the public. This comes in response to concerns about the secrecy surrounding Wildlife Services’ operations and the lack of a concrete legal framework to hold the agency accountable for the large-scale killing of native wildlife populations.

The current petition builds upon a similar effort in 2013, where APHIS denied a rule-making petition without substantively addressing the concerns raised and the numerous scientific studies cited. The organizations argue that Wildlife Services, in its current form, employs destructive and dangerous methods that put the public at risk, all while operating on behalf of animal agriculture and industry interests.

Between 2010 and 2022, Wildlife Services reportedly killed over 37.4 million native animals, including coyotes, foxes, mountain lions, beavers, and various bird species. Disturbingly, the program also unintentionally claims the lives of non-target animals, including companion animals and imperiled species such as eagles, wolves, and grizzly bears. The massive scale of animal destruction has contributed to the local extinction of several North American species, fundamentally altering ecosystems on local, regional, and continental levels.

Daniel Waltz, Managing Attorney at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, emphasizes the need for accountability, stating, “Wildlife Services uses destructive and dangerous methods to kill millions of native wildlife populations, placing the public at risk, on behalf of animal agriculture and industry interests.”

Johanna Hamburger, Director and Senior Attorney for the Terrestrial Wildlife Program at the Animal Welfare Institute, echoes the sentiment, saying, “For decades, Wildlife Services has relied on cruel and indiscriminate methods of killing wildlife that pose a risk to people, companion animals, and non-target species, including threatened and endangered species.”

Sign this petition to stop the killing!

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What you can do

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Fighting for Wildlife supports approved wildlife conservation organizations, which spend at least 80 percent of the money they raise on actual fieldwork, rather than administration and fundraising. When making a donation you can designate for which type of initiative it should be used – wildlife, oceans, forests or climate.

This article by Trinity Sparke was first published by One Green Planet on 23 November 2023. Image Credit :Derek R. Audette/Shutterstock.

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