In spite of public outcry against killing practices, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services branch was responsible for the deaths of 3.2 million innocent wild animals in 2015 – according to a report from the Center for Biological Diversity – that’s half a million more than 2.7 million in 2014. What’s more, according to agency insiders, the department actually kills more than it reports. Shockingly, the program is not even required to be held accountable by the public for any of these numbers, so everything, from the methods that they use to slaughter the animals to the number of animals unfortunate enough to fall victim to their inhumane practices are typically kept hidden.

Wildlife Services usually kills predators such as coyotes, bears, mountain lions, eagles, and other animals in order to make life safer for livestock. Predators are routinely poisoned, trapped, and shot dead, coyotes and wolves have been reported to have their dens and pups destroyed. While we’d like to believe that there must be a logical reason for such merciless practices, such as an actual need for population management, if we look at the number of livestock actually killed by predators we see an entirely different story. Around 155 million acres of public land is used for livestock-grazing in the U.S. and as a result, it’s estimated that meat production affects 14 percent of threatened or endangered animals in the U.S. due to competition for space. On average, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program, (formerly called Animal Damage Control) kills more than 2.4 million animals each year, including more than 120,000 native carnivores – and this year’s totals indicate rates are only increasing.

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According to Michael Robinson of the Center or Biological Diversity, “[there’s] simply no scientific basis for continuing to shoot, poison and strangle millions of animals every year — a cruel practice that not only fails to effectively manage targeted wildlife but poses an ongoing threat to other animals, including pets.” In addition to methods being lethal to pets, any animal that happens to be passing by is susceptible to being caught in a trap set by Wildlife Services. Not to mention, killing off large numbers of predators can have lasting negative effects on an ecosystem.

How can we change this? Federal Wildlife Services kills predators for the reason of putting a stop to the loss of livestock, so by reducing our meat and dairy consumption and introducing more plant-based meals into our diet we can help reduce the impact that we have on the lives of coyotes, wolves, and others.

To learn more about how you can use your daily choices to protect precious wild species, join One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet movement!

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Lead image source: Tony Grover/Flickr