3.2 Million Wild Animals Were Killed By The U.S. Government Last Year

Your tax dollars are paying for it — here's how you can speak up.

The U.S. government is using your tax money to wage a war against wild animals so that ranchers raising livestock for meat can keep getting richer.

That's the bad news. The good news is a new investigation highlighted in the New York Times over the weekend shows how unjustified these killings really are - and people are outraged.

Wildlife Services, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), killed 3.2 million wild animals in 2015 - including bobcats, prairie dogs, coyotes and foxes - by trapping, shooting and poisoning, which can also unintentionally kill endangered species and even family pets. The slaughter last year was up half a million animals, from 2.7 million in 2014.

Ostensibly, Wildlife Services exists "to improve the coexistence of people and wildlife," but the special interests of massive ranches that feed the factory farm industry appear to be a main priority, taking precedence even over the integrity of the natural ecosystems. And that means that wild animals are being pushed out, rounded up and even killed.

Wildlife Services killed 3,437 foxes in 2015. | Shutterstock

"While predators are far from the leading cause of death of livestock, they are the most visible," Richard Conniff, author of "House of Lost Worlds: Dinosaurs, Dynasties, and the Story of Life on Earth," wrote in a New York Times op-ed. "Killing as many of them as possible in turn can feel like a deeply gratifying solution, in a way that dealing with disease or bad weather never has been. We seem to kill predators out of mindless, even primordial antipathy, rather than for any good reason. It is how we managed by the mid-20th century to eradicate gray wolves almost completely from the lower 48 states."

According to the new investigation, the government bases its slaughter on roughly 100 "scientific" reports - and only two met the gold standard for scientific evidence.

"[M]any of these methods are implemented without first considering experimental evidence of their effectiveness," the investigation says. This means that animals are being killed - and it could be making the conflict between wild animals and farmers even worse.

Killing predators to protect livestock doesn't even work, another recent study showed. In fact, it can backfire. For instance, for each wolf killed, the odds that other wolves will prey on nearby farm animals actually increase.

Wildlife Services killed 731 bobcats in 2015. | Shutterstock

Even though livestock grazing can wreak havoc on ecosystems, the government not only kills wild predators to keep cattle safe until slaughter, it also offers financial incentives to the ranchers. "Livestock grazing is promoted, protected and subsidized by federal agencies on approximately 270 million acres of public land in the 11 western states," the Center for Biological Diversity says. "Federal-lands livestock grazing enjoys more than $100 million annually in direct subsidies; indirect subsidies may be three times that."

Wildlife Services killed over 20,000 prairie dogs to make room for cattle in 2015. | Shutterstock

The authors of the latest study recommend that policy makers stop killing animals until they understand what they're actually doing to the natural ecosystem.

"[A]fter a century of unregulated slaughter of America's native species," Conniff said, "this could be the moment to set down the weapons, step out of the way, and let ranchers and scientists together figure out the best way for predators and livestock to coexist."

Click here to learn how you can contact Wildlife Services to voice your concern. Click here to learn how you can cut down on your consumption of cheap meat, which is driving the factory farm industry. Click here to pledge to reduce your meat consumption.