Friday, February 18, 2005

RANCHING IS ANIMAL ABUSE

In the United States alone, ranchers can legally access 260 million acres of public lands, most of which have been ruined by over 120 years of grazing. Ranching has the distasteful distinction of ruining more wildlife habitat and native vegetation than any other land use. It seems that wherever wild animals are abused - whether it be for sport or profit - nature is abused.

Ranchers live in a world of self-imposed violence against animals. American ranchers continually shoot, trap, poison or persecute the following wild animals: coyotes, prairie dogs, mountain lions, bobcats, golden eagles, bighorn sheep, bison, wild horses, burros, jackrabbits and even ravens. Most are killed simply for sport. And don't forget roping, dragging, branding and castrating helpless calves. It appears that animal cruelty is a preferred lifestyle for some people. Ranching people are hunters and like hunters they share a notion that animals must be "controlled," which is part of their addictive thinking process. So-called "wildlife management" and ranching share the same goal of using animals as resources that must be managed or controlled.

We've all heard the tired stories about coyotes killing livestock and prairie dogs invading ranches and how they must be "controlled." Every animal killer has used similar, worn-out rationales, resulting in untold misery for countless animals.

Ranchers and hunters underestimate the intelligence of people who are not animal killers. We know that ranchers and hunters kill animals for fun and they have disdain for animals they consider "vermin" which include prairie dogs, and they also hate "varmints" which include coyotes. I have also read that hunters and ranchers can and will shoot stray dogs and cats, which contradicts any fanciful notion of hunters respecting animals.

Many people, including myself, would sell the family ranch instead of killing innocent animals who have as much right to live as I do. Or, better yet, we'd choose not to live on a ranch in the first place. Perhaps we'd build a fence, but we definitely would NOT shoot animals!

The well-known writer and environmentalist Edward Abbey could effortlessly summarize ranching abuses: "The rancher (with a few notable exceptions) is a man who strings wire all over the range, drills wells and bulldozes stockponds; drives off elk and antelope and bighorn sheep; poisons coyotes and prairie dogs; shoots eagles, bears and cougars on sight; supplants the native grasses with tumbleweed, snakeweed, povertyweed, cowshit, anthills, mud, dust and flies. And then leans back and grins at the TV cameras and talks about how much he loves the American West. Cowboys also are greatly overrated.

Do cowboys work hard? Sometimes. But most ranchers don't work very hard. They have a lot of leisure time for politics and bellyaching (which is why most state legislatures are occupied and dominated by cattlemen.) Anytime you go to a small Western town you'll find them at the nearest drugstore, sitting around all morning drinking coffee, talking about their tax breaks."

Edward Abbey continues: "All I want to do is get their cows off our property. I despise arrogance and brutality and bullies. So let me close with some nice remarks about cowboys and cattle ranchers.They are a mixed lot, like the rest of us. As individuals, they range from the bad to the ordinary to the good. Let those cowboys and ranchers find some harder way of making a living, like the restof us do. There's no good reason we should subsidize them forever. They've had their free ride. It's time they learned to support themselves."

Howard Lyman, the mad cowboy turned vegetarian, wrote: "At eight or nine I began milking cows and branding calves. At ten I learned how to castrate calves. Dick and I liked to grab a couple of twenty-two caliber rifles and shoot anything that moved, and a few things that didn't. We shot deer and elk, which we skinned and ate. We shot all kinds of birds: sparrows, crows, magpies, killdeer, curlews, partridge.

When we had an infestation of gophers, we shot a THOUSAND IN ONE DAY . . . After all the tons of herbicides and pesticides and chemical fertilizer I'd poured into it, the soil looked more like asbestos . . . The trees on and around the farm were dying . . . The birds were gone."
- By Scott Palczak