The hot seat just got hotter for the rogue agency that’s responsible for the cruel and indiscriminate killing of millions of animals every year in the U.S., following a request for an investigation and congressional review made by two senators.
Wildlife Services (WS) began as Animal Damage Control, which started out killing pests and added predators to its list of targets in 1914. The agency has since expanded its services and has continued killing hundreds of thousands of native animals every year under the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
Major problems within the agency made waves with the public following a series of articles by Tom Knudson that were published in the Sacramento Bee in 2012, offering much needed insight into what was going on behind the scenes.
The agency has been accused of wantonly killing wildlife, including endangered species, using methods that range from using poisons, traps and snares to aerial gunning and employing snipers. It has also been accused of illegal activity, coverups, falsifying reports, injuring people and killing family pets, while employees have been found guilty of horrific and intentional acts of animal cruelty without facing disciplinary actions.
For decades WS has gone unchecked while biologists question the lack of science behind the killing, conservation organizations file lawsuits to stop the slaughter of wildlife and concerned citizens write letters and sign petitions both pleading and demanding the government find better solutions, all while we, ironically, foot the bill for the rising death toll.
The USDA’s inspector general will now finally be investigating the agency, following requests from Reps. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.) and John Campbell (R-Irvine), who are calling for “a complete audit of the culture within Wildlife Services,” reports the LA Times.
They’re also calling for congressional oversight hearings over concerns about the agency’s spending. According to the LA Times, last year an audit found “unreconcilable” problems with the agency’s accounting practices, violations of state and federal laws and $12 million in a special account missing. DeFazio said he was troubled about not being able to get information from WS and called it the “the least accountable federal agency” he’s ever seen.
They, and others, also object to the agency doing the bidding of special interests and private businesses at the expense of taxpayers — really, that the agency continues to operate at the beck and call of ranchers who want vital predators destroyed. Previous attempts to investigate have been hindered by powerful agricultural lobbies.
The news of the investigation also follows a formal petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and other organizations calling for reform in December.
“For far too long Wildlife Services has run roughshod over America’s wildlife,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. “We call on the USDA to clean house and bring Wildlife Services into the modern era of predator conservation and stewardship by adopting rules that justify their actions and that allow for public input and the integration of ethics, economics and science-based ecology.”
Predator Defense is also working to raise awareness and ignite calls for change and will be screening Exposed: USDA’s Secret War on Wildlife, a new documentary featuring whistleblowers who have come out in opposition to WS.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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