Saturday, January 10, 2015

Worshipping Golden Calves

The Adoration of the Golden Calf

If you think cows are the only victims of the beef industry and that chowing down on a hamburger or steak only affects them, think again.

For decades now, regulatory-captured federal and state government agencies, primarily in the West, have been on a full out blitz to decimate wild animals and waning species deemed a threat to the livestock industry, particularly cattle. These agencies have betrayed their duties to protect and defend wildlife and have chosen instead to guard corporate interests. Years ago I wrote on this issue, but it bears repeating as the situation has only gotten worse.

Wolves, grizzlies, bison, coyotes, burrows, horses, prairie dogs, elk, pumas, sea otters, bobcats, and mountain lions are just a few of the species viciously targeted by government agencies using taxpayer dollars in order to protect “live stock” investments.

The Wildlife Services agency, a branch of the USDA, has a track record of executing millions of wild animals every year, mostly on behalf of farmers, ranchers, and the animal industrial complex. Animals who are considered nuisances, who interfere with the raising of cattle and the hunting of big game, don't stand a chance. According to a three-part series by the Sacramento Bee, Wildlife Services has used steel traps, wire snares, poison, and aerial shooting from helicopters to kill indiscriminately, even those unintended animals like federally protected bald eagles; more than 1,100 dogs, including family pets; as well as birds, beavers, river otters, and rare and endangered species.
The Interagency Bison Management Plan claims to be concerned with the welfare of Yellowstone National Parks' bison (American buffalo), yet one of the IBMP’s members is the Montana Department of Livestock—a direct conflict of interest. Politically motivated by corporate pursuits, the IBMP has zero tolerance for wild animals like wolves and bison, who occasionally leave the park. A common threat levied against bison is their potential to spread tuberculosis in cattle, but this has been greatly exaggerated and unfounded. According to the Buffalo Field Campaign, there has never been a documented transmission of brucellosis from wild bison to livestock. The IBMP continues to use false threats of bison transferring brucellosis to cattle as justification for the murders of hundreds of bison.

Gray wolves have also suffered dearly as a prime target of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency along with Congress continue to play games with the lives of gray wolves, listing and delisting them from the Endangered Species List at will. Ranchers view the wolves as a direct threat to their livelihood and have successfully lobbied government agencies for support. The government's hired marksmen have targeted wolves from helicopters in the air and trappers have caught them on the ground. 

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Coyotes aren’t faring any better. Every year the National Predator Hunters Association helps organize events like Austin, Nevada’s annual “Coyote Derby” (pictured right) whereby participants are encouraged to kill as many coyotes as possible. One participant interviewed by a member of Catholic Concern for Animals said the derby is held in support of local agricultural families that are having livestock decimated by predators.

Last September, the Bureau of Land Management—which has become known as the organization that stood down to racist, right-wing rancher Cliven Bundy and his band of thugs—began eliminating 800 plus wild horses from 1.2 million acres of Western land to placate cattle ranchers. Many of the horses were injured or killed during capture, starved to death or auctioned off for their meat.

State and federal governments are not only happy to lend meat industries their services but, according to Meatonomics, also fork over taxpayer money to pay for it. The cattle industry is a major recipient of the very type of government handouts that conservatives often decry as welfare. Currently, 63 percent or $38 billion of taxpayer money is given to animal food producers every year. And if that wasn’t enough, Americans also incur $414.8 billion in annual externalized costs thanks to the meat and dairy oligarchy.

Though cattle seem to get most of the government's consideration, they fare no better. Viewed merely as meat machines, they are protected so long as they too can be subjugated for a profit. For that matter, any animal utilized for food or who gets in the way of this exploitive process is in danger of being exterminated. For example, rather than curtail human development and the fishing industry, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed gunning down 16,000 cormorants, birds who nest on Oregon's East Sand Island, in order to prevent them from eating their natural diet of salmon and trout. Why? So what remains of salmon and trout (human overfishing has depleted these species) can be sold for human consumption. The bottom line is the industry (money) is sacrosanct and animals are not.

One might assume, at the very least, that environmental organizations are looking out for wildlife and fighting against corporate interests, but even they have succumbed. Late last year the Natural Resources Defense Council proclaimed victory in Illinois after Governor Pat Quinn signed the Protection of Wildlife Bill. Sounds nice, right? Well, according to NRDC, the bill will make hunting and shooting mountain lions, gray wolves, and black bears illegal except in cases where the animals threaten livestock. Apparently no animal is safe when it comes to Big Ag.

Earlier this year, the Center for Biological Diversity launched a project called Take Extinction Off Your Plate to educate people about the links between meat consumption and wildlife loss. According to their website, livestock grazing is among the greatest direct threats to imperiled species, affecting 14 percent of threatened or endangered animals and 33 percent of threatened or endangered plants. Wild animals suffer not only the collateral damage of meat-related deforestation, drought, pollution, and climate change, but also direct targeting by the meat industry. Native species are frequently killed to protect meat-production profits, to reserve more feed for cattle, and because they disrupt the unnatural homogenous landscapes desired by livestock managers. 

I'm sure most people who eat beef products are not aware that in doing so they’re harming many more animals than just cows. Ultimately, there would be no appeal for slaughtering wildlife and protecting cattle if consumers didn’t compensate the animal agriculture industry through their beef purchases; yet another reason why people can’t claim to love animals and eat them.

Consumers have the power to make a difference for animals by becoming informed citizens and making ethical choices. It starts with each individual, an awareness of other life around us, and a willingness to go against the crowd. It starts with going vegan

The golden calf isn't relegated merely to antiquity; it exists even today, in many ungodly forms.

Poussin, Nicolas. The Adoration of the Golden Calf. 1633-1634. National Gallery, London. Wikipedia. Web. 28 July 2014.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article Bethany.

It bothers me a great deal that some of my tax dollars go to big ag subsidies that help the ranchers make more money. Not just the funds that go directly to them but also the subsidies that go to the corn & soy farmers, which allow cheap feed for the animal farms.

If we just stopped subsidizing these industries animal products would become expensive enough that many more people would start thinking about going vegan for financial reasons. I know it's not the best reason to go vegan but every new vegan is one less person supporting the atrocities of the meat industry.