The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a program to kill wild animals — around 1.5 million of them every year. Over the years it has killed 22 million animals, spanning 476 species. U.S. taxpayers fund the slaughter, but we aren’t allowed to know just what they’re paying for.
Formerly known as Animal Damage Control, the program, now called Wildlife Services, exists to subsidize private businesses like ranches. An example: a rancher who thinks wolves are attacking his herd can call in the government, and it will trap, poison, shoot from helicopters, or otherwise wipe out whatever wolves its personnel find nearby just as though it were a private company working for a customer.
The Center for Biological Diversity called on the USDA this month to put an end to the indiscriminate killing. Amy Atwood, a senior attorney at the Center, called Wildlife Services “an out-of-control, rogue agency that shoots, snares and poisons more than a million native animals every year, many unintentionally — including at least 13 endangered species” like grizzly bears and wolves. In fact, it is responsible for making some species endangered, including gray and Mexican wolves, black-footed ferrets and prairie dogs.
Wildlife Services has operated in the shadows for decades. As Atwood said, the program isn’t governed by enforceable regulations that would “ensure transparency and accountability to the taxpaying American public.” It takes our money to kill our wildlife but refuses to tell us the details.
There are also no regulations requiring the organization to use the best available science or to take the most effective possible steps to avoid killing non-target animals, according to the Center. That is why Wildlife Services kills endangered animals, as well as people’s dogs and cats, with impunity. The agency admits to killing 4,000 non-target animals in the last 17 years; the real number may be much higher.
The Center’s petition to Obama calls for some obviously needed, common-sense reforms, like regulations requiring the application of the best science when deciding whether to attack animals; avoiding killing the animals it isn’t gunning for; treating animals ethically (that one will likely befuddle them); trying every nonlethal method to handle the problem before resorting to killing; and informing the public about its victims. If all that happened, maybe Wildlife Services’ crude methods wouldn’t lead to stomach-churning incidents like this one (see the photo), in which dogs attacked a coyote who was caught in a government leg-hold trap.
Reforming Wildlife Services is, for good reason, a popular cause. Project Coyote and the Animal Welfare Institute joined the Center in filing the petition, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund signed on in support.
Stay tuned: USDA is legally required to respond to the petition. In the meantime, please sign our petition to the USDA calling on it to create the regulations the Center has called for.
As an eight-year-old, Greta Eagan wore lipstick to bed. But it wasn’t always clear to the woman behind the site Fashion Me Green that fashion was her calling.
"I always had this inclination towards fashion, but I didn’t let myself," said Eagan. "I was actually pre-med when I went to undergrad" at University of Colorado, Boulder.
After graduation, she took a gap year to live abroad. “I basically spent a year being a ski bum in Chamonix,” said Eagan, making the most of a minor in French. It was there she realized that she wanted to pursue a career in fashion.
While attending the London College of Fashion, Eagan began learning more about the wastefulness of the the fashion industry, and seeing it around her. She had classmates who had no problem with buying a cheap item, wearing it once and throwing it away, “not even bothering to wash it.”
She had already become careful about eating sustainably and seeking out non-toxic beauty products, so thinking about the source and impact of her clothing was the next logical step. “It all came to a culmination,” Eagan said. “I decided to focus my dissertation on sustainability and fashion.”
Since then, Eagan has been on a mission to prove that you can have beautiful things and beautiful experiences, while still living ethically and sustainably. She says eco-friendly clothing has inherited a bad rap, and sustainable garments are expected to be “either expensive, frumpy, ill-fitting or beige.”
Her friends in the fashion world didn’t understand at first. ‘I’d show up to brunch looking cute, and they’d say, ‘are you still doing the eco fashion thing?’ ” Eagan recalls. “I’d explain my outfit and they’d be baffled. But they loved it too, they loved to hear the story.”
Eagan started FashionMeGreen in 2010 as a way to showcase brands and designers who were creating clothing with sustainable methods. “I just wanted a visual representation of eco fashion that shows that it’s stylish,” she said, “while still being sustainable.”
Since starting the site, the the sustainable clothing frontier has continued to expand. “Eco-fashion is a really big umbrella. I think that’s what people don’t always understand.” She hopes her work can communicate all the possibilities for sustainable clothing, without limiting style options.
Of course, there are many different ways that sustainable dressing and production can be defined, but Eagan’s work provides her readers with a framework to understand the different possibilities. Regular features on the site include non-toxic “Beauty Spot” picks, carefully crafted outfits, and how-to videos.
The trend that excites Eagan the most is the move towards closed-loop manufacturing. Although few brands have fully realized close-loop systems in place, more designers and product engineers are thinking through the lifecycle of clothing, and planning for an item to be recycled.
One of the biggest criticisms of eco-fashion brands is that they’re not affordable, but Eagan is a champion for buying fewer, higher quality items. “There’s been a change in the air about fast fashion,” she said. “People are starting to realize that they have a closet full of clothes that don’t wear well over time and start to make them look not as put together or not their best self.”
Her mentality is not about chasing fads, but helping readers find a lasting personal style. “I’m happy to say, with all the eco-fashion brands who are producing amazing collections, I feel like I’m never starved for an option.”
Believing that change begins at home, President Barack Obama has called for the federal government to triple its use of renewable energy within the next six years.
Currently, the government receives 7% of its energy from renewable sources, but the goal is to hit at least 20% by 2020. Thanks to technological advancements and a rising interest in weaning the country off of foreign oil, the Obama administration believes the 20% figure is a reasonable mark to hit by the end of the decade.
According to the President, this step is necessary “to promote energy security, combat climate change, protect the interests of taxpayers, and safeguard the health of our environment, the federal government must lead by example.” He’s right: there’s no better way to demonstrate to the American public that we can rely on sustainable energy sources than by having government agencies become early adopters.
Although Obama has faced criticism for not doing enough to tackle pollution and other environmental issues, it’s not as though he has done nothing. Since the President assumed office, he has overseen the federal government’s carbon emissions decrease by 15% due to internal green policies and practices.
Considering that the U.S. government – which employs more than 500,000 buildings and 600,000 vehicles – is the “single largest consumer of energy” in the country, that’s no small feat. In 2009, the federal government released 123 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, so every step toward reducing that amount in the future will be significant.
Still, no matter how large the federal government, “leading by example” as Obama calls it will not be enough to avert global catastrophe. Companies and individuals will indeed have to follow suit in signing on for renewable energy sources. The administration will help to force some of these changes by putting caps on power plant emissions and strengthening vehicle emission standards moving forward.
The switch to renewable energy is not just good for the environment, but also the American economy. Even as most industries have floundered during the recession, the renewable energy continued to grow thanks to the rising demand. Moreover, the expanding industry creates new jobs, which in turn cuts unemployment.
While Obama may have settled on 20% because it was achievable, other nations are setting their sights higher. Scotland, for example, boosted its 2020 marker from 50 to 80% reliance on renewable energy and further pledges that by 2025 it will be at 100%.