When we think of animal agriculture, we likely associate the industry with rampant cruelty, environmental degradation, and pollution, among other abuses of power. Indeed, the practice of breeding and killing animals for human consumption informs a wasteful, profit-driven industry, one that has negative effects on just about everything it touches.
This even includes the extreme suffering of many species who have been forced to flee from their natural habitats as the animal agriculture industry attempts to usurp as much land as possible for increased livestock production. When cattle make their presence on these lands, not only does the grazing destroy native vegetation, erode soil and land, and contaminate waterways, but it also threatens biodiversity and promotes the mass extermination of whole species.
More than 175 threatened or endangered species have been put at risk by the presence of livestock on federal lands, and this is just in the U.S. Forced to flee from their natural habitats, these animals have become vulnerable to extinction and death. They have been unjustly rendered collateral damage of the animal agriculture industry, making this is a global problem that is largely unaddressed.
It’s a perfect example of the domino effect: animals who have been subsisting on their native lands for hundreds of years suddenly lose their habitat to the greedy hands of animal agriculture. Due to cattle encroachment and habitat loss, the entire balance of the native ecosystem is destroyed. This puts many species into close contact with humans who view them as “pests” or “predators” and as the result these animals are killed. Let’s take a look at some of the animals that have become collateral damage of the animal agriculture industry:
The jaguar inhabits the Pantanal region of Brazil, also known as the largest tropical wetland in the world, have become endangered due to cattle production in the region. When its natural prey (deer, pigs, and tapirs) are no longer abundant, the jaguar turns to cattle. In turn, it becomes the prime target of cattle ranchers. While the number of jaguars killed is not well-documented, as cattle become more abundant in the region, the desire to decimate jaguars will surely increase.
2. California Grizzly Bears
The grizzly bear, currently listed as “threatened” by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), has also been a targeted species in areas in the Western United States. In order to make room for more domestic livestock, the federal government shoots, traps, and poisons animals, including the grizzly bear.
In another campaign orchestrated by FWS, wolves have been labeled a threat to livestock, despite evidence indicating otherwise. Their presence in the desert Southwest has been decreasing rapidly as animal agriculture gains a significant footing in this region of the U.S.
The gorilla is yet another species that has lost its habitat as a result of human interest. Mountain gorillas typically inhabit the mountainous areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. In places where the agricultural industry has made its mark, this population is threatened. Moreover, because these gorillas are especially vulnerable to human disease, they often die when they come into contact with humans that manage these operations.
5. Wild Horses
Wild horses are seen as competitors to the population of grazing livestock, and as a result, their numbers have been reduced to just 40,000 in the U.S. In recent years, the roundup of horses has been prevalent because they are deemed as competitors for limited natural resources.
What You Can Do
The best way to protect animals like these and others from the reach of the animal agriculture industry is to limit your own consumption of animal products. As the demand for meat and dairy decreases, the need to expand livestock operations into the native habitats of these animals will also decrease. With thousands of delicious plant-based alternatives to meat and dairy (that also happen to be better for your health and the environment), protecting animals has never been easier!