Friends of Animals has submitted a legal rulemaking petition to new U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Martha Williams to stop the killing of threatened and endangered species on U.S. hunting ranches.
“It is appalling that for decades FWS has used its delegated authority to establish a captive-bred wildlife permitting program that has created an entire market for animals headed for extinction that otherwise would not exist,” said Stephen Hernick, an attorney for Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program. “There is no evidence that the slaughtering of these animals on U.S. ranches is helping them in the wild. There are no plans of returning them to their natural homes and there never will be. Profit, not conservation, is the driving force here.”
When Congress enacted the Endangered Species Act, it was considered the strongest and most effective tool to protect animals headed for extinction. However, it has a nonsensical loophole: It permits shooting of threatened and endangered animals, such as scimitar-horned oryxes, addaxes and dama gazelles, on U.S. hunting ranches. That’s because the ESA contains an exemption that allows FWS to grant permits authorizing prohibited activities such as hunting if the agency determines that the activity will enhance the survival of the affected species, the petition states.
There are more than a 1,000 captive trophy hunting ranches in the U.S., mostly in Texas. FWS makes no effort to track the number of threatened and endangered animals held on these ranches. An estimate by the industry more than a decade ago revealed that it holds more than 11,000 scimitar-horned oryxes, over 5,000 addaxes and more than 800 dama gazelles, as well as thousands of other threatened and endangered animals.
FWS has become so complicit with the hunting industry that in 2005 it tried to make it even easier for hunting ranches to operate by not even requiring a permit to kill African antelope. FoA sued the agency over its blatant disregard of the ESA, and a federal court ruled in favor of FoA in 2009. After FWS complied with the court’s order by removing the permitting exemptions in 2012, two years later Congressman John Carter betrayed the animals and inserted a rider into an appropriations bill for FWS to reinstate the exemptions.
“A canned hunting ranch like Y.O. Ranch in Texas can never fulfill the purpose of the ESA, yet since 2014 it and hundreds of others have been allowed to pimp out endangered African antelopes for $6,000-$10,000 to well-heeled trophy hunters without a permit and without any oversight by our country’s so-called wildlife agency,” said Priscilla Feral, president of FoA. “FWS, which Congress entrusted with enforcing the ESA, should be ashamed of itself.”