In last year’s Animal Welfare Institute’s quarterly newsletter for the spring of 2013, the article entitled “New certifications recognize farmers and ranchers who make peace with predators and other wildlife” makes some fascinating points.
A study carried out by Oregon State University found that predator species like wolves, coyotes, bears, and others were beneficial to native plant communities. They keep herbivore populations in check, which allows plants to thrive and the health of streams and watersheds to improve.
The standard approach to conservation of predators has been to set aside conservation areas, while sort of expecting that the predators will remain within these areas. Of course, the predators don’t know where the boundaries are, and this does nothing to stop ranchers and farmers from killing predators who wander onto their land, threatening their livestock.
Killing predators is counter-productive. There is good evidence that killing coyotes actually increases their population since nature encourages them to breed more when they are threatened.
There are always some farmers and ranchers who simply do not want to kill any wildlife, including predators, and a recent system has been put into place to recognize and encourage their willingness to co-exist with wildlife.
A program issuing certifications – Certified Wildlife Friendly ™ and Predator Friendly ™ is the result of a partnership between AWI’s program, “Predator Friendly,” and the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network.
Farmers and ranchers who participate in the program are audited by a third party to demonstrate that they are fully in compliance with high standards of wildlife conservation and co-existence.
Those who pass the audit may use the labels Certified Wildlife Friendly ™ or Predator Friendly ™ with their products. The standards include preserving wildlife habitats, using non-lethal strategies for predator control, and fostering co-existence with wildlife. There is an emphasis on understanding the nature and habits of wildlife, in order to apply common sense measures of deterrence. In some cases, farm animals can be moved into protective shelters for the night.
Other strategies may include grazing large and smaller animals together, like cows and sheep. Another is the use of electric fencing or using “fladry;” – this means tying brightly colored fabric strips to fencing so that they wave in the breeze.
Ensuring that farm animals have their babies in sheltered areas will keep them safer. Another time-tested tactic is guard dogs, used in many countries since time immemorial, but much under-used in the U.S. Guard dogs and herding dogs, when loved and well cared for, enjoy their jobs and their active, outdoor lives.
To some who may object that these programs do nothing to improve the abysmal lot of farm animals, or to bring the world any closer to embracing vegetarian or vegan lifestyles, that is a valid point. However, in bringing about any change, one must start from where one is and progress one small step at a time, taking into account the culture one lives in, and what is possible at any given moment.
Fostering a sense of compassion for wildlife increases the total amount of kindness in the world, and more kindness has a tendency to spread and grow, over time, to benefit other animals too.
To read the original article in the Animal Welfare Institute quarterly, click here.
To read more about the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network, click here.
To read more about the Predator Friendly program, click here.
Photo: g’pa bill / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.” / Coyote pups in Mesa, Arizona.