IG Investigates Cover Up and Animal Abuse at Wildlife Agency

Sunday, 05 Jan 2014 04:37 PM

By Elliot Jager

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The Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Agriculture will investigate its Wildlife Services agency for unnecessary cruelty to animals and other potential wrongdoing, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Agency personnel have been accused of killing mountain lions from planes, covering up the accidental killings of protected species, including a golden eagle, and using dogs to kill coyotes.

Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., ranking minority member on the House Committee on Natural Resources, and John Campbell, R-Calif., a member of the Republican Study Committee, have pushed for the investigation questioning how Wildlife Services,  formerly known as the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, spends its money and understands its mission.

The agency's job is to exterminate predatory animals that pose a menace to farming and ranching. Beneficiaries of its services include agribusiness and other federal agencies, the Times reported.

He said that the agency will not reveal its clients.

"I have come to the conclusion that this is an agency whose time has passed," DeFazio said. "Why should taxpayers, particularly in tough times, pay to subsidize private interests?"

Critics said that the agency's annual killing of more than 3 million birds and other wildlife is indiscriminate and sometimes counterproductive. Experts say the agency ignores science sometimes removing one predator only to unleash others.

DeFazio calls Wildlife Services "the least accountable federal agency" recalling that "the last time I tried to get more specific financial information, they just blew me off and said they couldn't provide that," according to the Times.

Supporters, including the California Farm Bureau Federation, said that the agency provides its services for free and that farmers and ranchers would face prohibitive costs if they had to instead turn to the private sector.

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