Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy
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How to Stop the Killing: Livestock and Predators

One of the unquestioned and unspoken assumptions heard across the West is that ranchers have a right to a predator free environment. Even environmental groups like Defenders of Wildlife more or less legitimize this perspective by supporting unqualified compensation for livestock losses to bears and wolves. And many state agency wolf management plans specifically call for compensation to livestock producers-but without any requirements that livestock husbandry practices be in place to reduce or eliminate predation opportunity.

In a sense, ranchers have externalized one of their costs of business, namely practicing animal husbandry that eliminates or significantly reduces predator losses. Most of these proven techniques involve more time and expense than ranchers have traditionally had to pay, in part, because they have been successful in making the rest of us believe it was a public responsibility to eliminate predators and not a private business cost.

This is not unlike how power companies have successfully transferred one of their costs of doing business-namely reducing air pollution from burning coal-on to the public at large and the environment. Ranchers have been doing the same transfer of costs in the West for decades. And it is not limited just to predator control. When livestock trample riparian areas, destroy soil crusts, pollute waters, eat forage that would otherwise support native herbivores, spread disease that harms wildlife (as with bighorn sheep), and spread weeds, the environment, and ultimately the taxpayers and citizens of this country are absorbing the costs, while the ranchers gets the profits.

And so it is with predators. Killing predators to appease the livestock industry is nothing more than another subsidy to an industry that is already living off the public largess, in part, because most predator losses are completely avoidable with proper animal husbandry techniques. 

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