USDA using poison explosives to kill wildlife and pets in the West

By on March 24, 2017 with 0 Comments

When young Canyon Mansfield and Casey, his three-year-old Lab, headed out together to play in the area behind their home in eastern Idaho, they hardly expected the walk to be their last together.

Without notifying a soul, and in violation of their agreement not to place sodium cyanide M-44s on federal public lands, agents with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program placed a deadly device near the Mansfield’s home, on Bureau of Land Management land.

Canyon saw what he thought was a sprinkler and touched the M-44 with his hand. It exploded, discharging an orange powder onto his clothes and into his eye and knocking him off his feet. Casey was hit squarely by the cyanide cloud that erupted, and he watched in horror as his dog convulsed and then died before his eyes. The Pocatello sheriff came to the scene as did the local bomb squad and fire department. One official was hospitalized until early morning hours because of the level of cyanide in his blood.

Later, a grieving Canyon would be treated at the hospital for exposure to cyanide.

Casey’s death happened just days after M-44s killed two dogs in Wyoming near the Powder River area when they were out on a hike with their family. In this instance, it appears that the M-44s were placed there by a trapper certified with Wyoming’s Department of Agriculture program. Earlier this month, an M-44 claimed the life of a protected Oregon gray wolf, sparking a different but equally intense form of outrage. The agency confirmed its field agents had hidden nearly 100 M-44s in the ground to kill coyotes. In each case, the secretly placed landmines put the public, family pets, and protected wildlife at risk.

While the individual stories are new, the narrative is a familiar one. This rogue agency of the federal government slaughters millions of wild animals each year, using an arsenal of M-44s, aerial gunning, traps, and firearms. It does so much of this work at the expense of taxpayers, and it collects plenty of unintended victims.

The USDA is often unapologetic about the collateral damage it inflicts. Whether the killing of a pet or an endangered species is done with an M-44, a leghold trap, or a strangling wire neck snare, the agency typically offers no apology and issues a bland statement that refers to the tragedy as an “unintentional lethal take.” Had Casey’s death not been witnessed by the boy who loved him, we might have never heard about it, since the agency is known to cover up these kinds of abuses.

In Oregon, which neighbors Idaho, one lawmaker in particular has long waged a battle to reform USDA Wildlife Services. Congressman Peter Defazio, who has taken the agency to task over the years for its lack of transparency and arrogant disregard of public accountability, has introduced a bill in Congress to ban the use of M-44 and poisonous Compound 1080 collars. DeFazio also issued a letter to Oregon’s Gov. Kate Brown, thanking her for eliminating state contracts for USDA Wildlife Services from her proposed state budget – since the state pays a share of the annual budget for Wildlife Services. We admire Congressman DeFazio for his dedication to reform this agency and his effort to turn its management actions away from lethal and toward non-lethal methods. He’s been joined in the crusade by Congressman Earl Blumenauer, the co-chairman of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus.

DeFazio and Blumenauer aren’t alone in demanding that M-44s be removed from the landscape. In response to the Mansfield family’s ordeal, the Bannock County Sheriff and other community leaders have called for a ban on M-44s in Bannock County. Even newspapers have joined in calling for reform, including the East Oregonian, which called for USDA’s Wildlife Services to remove all M-44s from Oregon. (California and Washington have banned M-44s after The HSUS conducted winning ballot measures to bar the use of poisons in the states for wildlife killing purposes nearly 20 years ago.)

Recently, President Trump submitted his budget for 2018, and it called for major cuts in domestic programs, including the USDA. Somehow, Wildlife Services wasn’t on the list.

But it’s not too late for President Trump to take a second look and see the waste, abuse, and inhumane practices by an agency that has somehow survived even while doing things to hurt so many animals and the people who care about them. And locally, Gov. Brown and other governors can tell Wildlife Services to take its killing game out of the western states.

Humane Society International closes another dog meat farm in South Korea (our seventh)

By on March 23, 2017 with 3 Comments
Humane Society International closes another dog meat farm in South Korea (our seventh)

“When I first entered the darkness, the overpowering stench of feces and urine made me retch,” said Adam Parascandola of Humane Society International. “The ammonia burned the back of my throat. We could hear the cacophony of desperate barking but we couldn’t see their faces, just their eyes peering out.” Some of the dogs cowered . . . 

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A Senate Republican attack on animals menaces grizzlies, wolves in Alaska

By on March 22, 2017 with 62 Comments
A Senate Republican attack on animals menaces grizzlies, wolves in Alaska

I tossed and turned almost the entire night. It wasn’t a nightmare that roiled me. It was yesterday’s awful spectacle in the U.S. Senate. By a 52 to 47 vote, senators approved, on a party-line vote, their colleague Dan Sullivan’s resolution to rescind a 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rulemaking action that forbids the . . . 

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Can the humane economy continue to advance in our challenging times?

By on March 21, 2017 with 0 Comments
Can the humane economy continue to advance in our challenging times?

It’s fitting, it seems, that on the launch day of the paperback version of The Humane Economy: How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers Are Transforming the Lives of Animals in bookstores, Burger King and Tim Horton’s announced new policies concerning the welfare of chickens raised in meat production. These major food retailers are announcing new space . . . 

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An attempted overthrow of our national wildlife refuge system

By on March 20, 2017 with 12 Comments
An attempted overthrow of our national wildlife refuge system

Let’s be very clear. The resolution advanced by Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan to allow unconscionable methods of hunting grizzly bears and wolves on national wildlife refuges in the state is an attack on the entire national wildlife refuge system. Sen. Sullivan wants to give the Alaska Board of Game carte blanche to allow the most . . . 

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Gulliver’s travails underscore urgency of lead ammo ban

By on March 17, 2017 with 2 Comments
Gulliver’s travails underscore urgency of lead ammo ban

Gulliver’s chances didn’t seem high when a caring person saw him fall from a tree and called animal control. A beautiful bald eagle, Gulliver was the victim of acute lead poisoning. Gulliver couldn’t stand or even hold his head up. His bloodwork showed a lead level of 94.2, startlingly higher than the normal level of . . . 

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Arkansas poised to enact draconian ag-gag measure

By on March 16, 2017 with 10 Comments
Arkansas poised to enact draconian ag-gag measure

The attack on animals – and the people who defend them – isn’t just happening on the federal level. It’s happening in some important states, too. The Arkansas Senate yesterday approved a controversial state “ag-gag” bill that allows employers in Arkansas to sue workers who expose cruelty at their workplaces. It had passed the House . . . 

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HSUS 2016 annual report: Transformational progress for orcas and elephants, farm and lab animals, and others

By on March 15, 2017 with 2 Comments
HSUS 2016 annual report: Transformational progress for orcas and elephants, farm and lab animals, and others

Today, we officially release our 2016 annual report. I hope you’ll read and take pride in the progress we are making across such a wide range of issues and challenges. Below, I’ve closely reproduced my President’s essay from the report. I’m proud to note that thanks to you, we grew our net assets by nearly . . . 

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Alaskans say no to using aircraft, cruel traps to kill grizzlies on national wildlife refuges

By on March 14, 2017 with 9 Comments
Alaskans say no to using aircraft, cruel traps to kill grizzlies on national wildlife refuges

When we worked to outlaw cockfighting in the last U.S. state where it was legal, we knew that the people of Louisiana didn’t support the practice and had their own aspirations of banning such blood spectacles in their state. The politicians there had it wrong for years, somehow convincing themselves that there was strong support . . . 

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The United States needs a federal anti-cruelty statute

By on March 13, 2017 with 4 Comments
The United States needs a federal anti-cruelty statute

I’ll get to that matter, but some background first. In 2014, South Dakota became the 50th state to adopt felony-level penalties for malicious cruelty. That action puts an exclamation point on the notion that opposition to the worst forms of cruelty is a universal value in the United States and that people who commit such . . . 

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