Cows have such a peculiar role in modern society. Millions of them are cruelly abused every year at the hands of the animal agriculture industry, but they are also some of the most protected animals. Cattle ranchers look after cows to make sure they are not attacked, and when another animal is seen impeding on their grazing land or injuring them, ranchers will reach out to their local governments to get rid of the “pests.” We’ve seen wild horses driven out of their native land to protect livestock and now, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is moving forward with plans to exterminate an entire pack of wolves in Washington due to recent attacks on livestock.

Admittedly, this was not a rash decision. Earlier this month, two of the wolves were exterminated after a spate of attacks. And when the wildlife department confirmed that the wolves, dubbed the Profanity Pack, were responsible for the death of three calves earlier this week, they decided action needed to be taken. “Maintaining public tolerance for wolves sometimes requires lethal measures,” Jim Unsworth, director of the state wildlife agency, said in a statement earlier this year.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone agrees with the decision to kill members of a species that was once so close to extinction (and may very well become endangered again). Roger Dobson, a “tribal elder” of  Protect The Wolves, a group that advocates for the animals, sent a cease and desist letter to Mortarello demanding the wolves be spared the cruel fate. In the letter, Dobson alleged that the owner of the livestock had been careless with his animals, and has repeatedly left his livestock in harm’s way over the past few years.

It is only through the lens of the animal agriculture industry that we are placing cows above wolves. It is only because cows bring money to humans while wolves simply frighten them, that such an action is taking place. Wolves are not leaving their native habitat to intentionally hunt cattle. They are simply acting in response to the encroachment of livestock on their land. Wolves play a very important role in their ecosystems as apex predators. They help to keep small animal populations under control which prevents overgrazing and soil erosion. A recent study even showed that when wolf populations were restored in Yellowstone National Park, the entire ecosystem was positively transformed. So while it might just seem like this is a battle between cows and wolves, in reality, it’s about the entire future of this ecosystem.

Not to mention, this is just one of the many destructive acts being done to protect the prized livestock of the animal agriculture. Deforestation, water depletion, air pollution and habitat destruction caused by animal agriculture are resulting in the sixth mass species extinction event our planet is currently experiencing. By leaving meat and dairy off of our plates, we are diminishing the demand for these goods, and in turn giving thousands of other species a chance at surviving, as well.

To learn how you can use your food choices to help animals like wolves and wild horses, join One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign.

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Lead image source: Alan Jeffery/Shutterstock