Bears are highly intelligent with strong family ties. They spend prolonged periods raising and nurturing their young. Photo by Jos Bakker
Missouri has proposed a hunting season on its small and still-recovering population of black bears, who were once nearly wiped out because of overhunting and logging, which decimated their habitat.
The Missouri Department of Conservation estimates that there are now approximately 540 to 840 bears in the state. But some studies show that those numbers may be inflated. And even if there are as many bears as the MDC claims, it’s still not a large number.
Missouri has no good reason for allowing such a hunt. Bears self-regulate their own populations because of limited food availability and slow reproduction. There have also been minimal bear-human conflicts in the state, and these are entirely preventable.
Fact is, the only reason the MDC is proposing this hunt is to appease trophy hunters. But Missourians do not support it, not least because it would deprive a majority of the state’s residents of the joy of seeing a black bear in the wild. According to a March 2019 poll conducted by Remington Research Group for the Humane Society of the United States, nearly half of Missouri residents outright oppose hunting the state’s bears while fewer than a third support such a hunt.
Instead of allowing trophy hunters to kill them, the MDC ought to be working hard to preserve its bear population. Bears are critical for a thriving ecosystem. They disperse seeds across vast distances—even more seeds than birds. They open up forest canopies and allow sun to filter to the forest floor. They also break logs while grubbing, which helps the decomposition process and facilitates the return of nutrients to the soil. Keeping bears protected is critical to maintaining the state’s biodiversity.
These are also incredible animals, highly intelligent with strong family ties. Bears have the largest brain size of any carnivore and are highly sentient. They spend prolonged periods raising and nurturing their young. They are also slow to reproduce, which means hunting them can lead to their numbers dropping even faster than projected. Trophy hunters also tend to target adult breeding animals, which can lead to cubs being killed by incoming male bears looking to take over the newly opened territory.
Black bears are naturally shy and typically try to avoid humans, and the only times they are likely to come near humans is when there is food available. The MDC can help avoid such conflicts by expanding public education about simple, non-lethal preventative measures that residents can take to coexist peacefully with bears–including using bear-resistant trash cans, cleaning up BBQ grills, feeding pets indoors, and using electric fencing around chicken coops and beehives.
In what is also a concerning development, the MDC’s proposal leaves the cruel practices of bear baiting and bear hounding on the table “if management needs change in the future,” although these are not part of the current proposal. Hound hunting, or using packs of dogs to pursue bears, is an incredibly cruel practice that causes stress and distress to wildlife, and to the hounds themselves. Baiting—the practice of leaving large piles of junk food to attract the animals and then shoot them—is particularly heartless. Baits often attract mother bears who are looking for food but who find themselves in the crosshairs of a hunter instead. An overwhelming 77% of Missourians are strongly opposed to these methods, according to the Remington poll, and the MDC should not even be considering it.
Missouri’s wildlife officials would do well to heed the needs of the state’s wonderful wild animals, and the wishes of their residents, instead of kowtowing to a handful of trophy hunters. If you’re a Missouri resident, please let the MDC know that you’re opposed to this unnecessary killing of the state’s small and vulnerable bear population. The agency is accepting input on this proposal until June 5th, and raising your voice in opposition to it could make all the difference.
Published at Wed, 27 May 2020 15:11:10 +0000
The pork industry confines mother pigs in crates so small the animals can’t turn around or take more than a step in any direction. Photo by Aumsama/iStock.com
“As dozens of plants that closed because of outbreaks begin reopening, meat companies’ reluctance to disclose detailed case counts makes it difficult to tell whether the contagion is contained or new cases are emerging even with new safety measures in place,” according to the Times. The article added that while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported nearly 5,000 meatpacking workers were infected with the virus as of the end of last month, the nonprofit group Food & Environment Reporting Network estimated last week that the number had climbed to more than 17,000. And the outbreaks may be even more extensive.
A Washington Post analysis found that the number of Tyson employees with the coronavirus exploded from less than 1,600 a month ago to more than 7,000 this week.
The problem is not limited to the United States. Slaughterhouses in Brazil, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom and France have reported the spread of the coronavirus among employees. At a single Cargill beef processing plant in the Canadian province of Alberta, 949 of about 2,000 employees were infected with the virus and two died. As in the United States, these facilities are staffed mostly by immigrants.
To those of us who watch Big Ag closely, the ongoing problems have a familiar ring. This is an industry that has always put increasing profits above the well-being of workers, animals, the environment and public health. That’s why we take on Big Ag and have never failed to point out the significant threat industrial animal agriculture operations, or factory farms, pose to humans and animals alike.
Our concern for those who work in such plants is grounded in long history and experience. Poultry workers, for example, have among the highest rates of injury in the country, as they are forced to shackle terrified, struggling birds, all while being exposed to blood and feces.
Factory farms are often located in areas populated primarily by lower income folks. These populations are then plagued by higher rates of asthma and other health problems caused by fumes emanating from giant lagoons of animal waste.
As for the suffering of animals trapped in these large-scale operations, that is incalculable. The pork industry confines mother pigs in crates so small the animals can’t turn around or take more than a step in any direction. Chickens used for meat are bred to grow abnormally large in a short period of time, leading the animals to develop crippling leg problems and other (often fatal) health issues.
Now, with the pandemic forcing a spotlight on these and other inhumane practices of Big Ag as never before, the question most Americans need to be asking is this: is the rush to supply America with meat worth so many lives, human and animal? Especially at a time when plant-based proteins, including some that taste and feel like the real thing, are so easily and widely available?
The pandemic offers us an opportunity to move forward in a better, more humane way, by reducing our consumption of animal products and embracing plant-based foods. For those looking to replace the taste and texture of meat, there are many plant-based, protein-packed meats now available at most grocery stores. Many national chain restaurants offer plant-based meats, as do hundreds of local restaurants nationwide. And the industry is flourishing, with companies investing millions in cultivated meat, which is produced by growing the cells that comprise meat in a food production facility instead of inside an animal.
In our recently released recommendations to avoid another pandemic, we identified a shift from animal-derived meat to plant-based proteins and cultivated meat as a key strategy. We’re planning to work with lawmakers to identify and implement reforms that will shape how our food industry emerges from this crisis. We’ve also joined other non-profits, like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in condemning the meat industry’s disregard for workers. LULAC’s Iowa branch is currently promoting Meatless May, a boycott of corporately produced meat.
You can do your part to help. Please visit the HSUS’s “Eating Humanely” resource for tons of useful information and delicious recipes for plant-based meals. The pandemic has been a difficult and trying time for all, but let’s take this opportunity to convince the nation’s biggest meat producers to reform their practices, even as we look at our diets and see how we can contribute to making a change that serves our nation, its residents and the animals well.
Published at Tue, 26 May 2020 22:57:18 +0000