Even before the U.S. Senate confirmation hearing for former Gov. Tom Vilsack who is nominated for Secretary of Agriculture, he was being propositioned to do away with the current U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Wildlife Services (WS) programs.
A coalition of 115 animal rights and vegan groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, submitted a letter to Vilsack urging him to end the federal government's role in wildlife conflict management, disease prevention and protection of livestock utilizing WS.
In rebuttal of this effort, the American Sheep Industry Association along with 76 other agriculture industry organizations from across the nation, sent a letter to Vilsack on Jan. 12 asking for his support of WS to help protect the nation's food and fiber production as the AGENCY is key to mitigating wildlife damage to agriculture and disease prevention.
The National Agricultural Statistics Service documents a $127 million loss to the sheep, goat and cattle industry every year as a result from predation.
"These are losses suffered by producers with a management program in place comprising of private, county, state and federal activities," the letter stated. "Loss of the livestock protection program as endorsed by animal rights groups would not only mean loss of the professional wildlife managers but result in hundreds of millions more in losses annually."
A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report states the current WS program using both lethal and non-lethal methods, is the most effective program of those evaluated. The report recognizes that non-lethal control methods are typically implemented by livestock producers, while WS must use lethal methods in situations where non-lethal controls are ineffective, impractical or unavailable.
"Unfortunately, those opposed to animal agriculture generally ignore the GAO reports on WS in their attempts to distort the facts about the program," the letter continues.
In addition to ASI, the other national organizations represented on the letter include the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the Public Lands Council, the National Farmers Union and the National Trappers Association. The other co-signers included state departments of agriculture, state sheep and cattle associations, state farm bureaus, state predatory boards and wildlife associations.
Another letter supporting the efforts of WS was sent to Gov. Vilsack from the Animal Agriculture Coalition, which represents major U.S. animal and animal-related commodity organizations in the United States including those associated with aquaculture, beef, dairy, horses, poultry, sheep and swine.