New Mexico filed ‘animal cruelty’ charges against Biden’s National Forest Service for killing 150 cows by helicopter.
Cattle Slaughtered by Helicopter
Less than 24 hours before bullets were set to fly, a group of animal activists, including the Humane Farming Association, hoped an 11th-hour lawsuit would stop the planned aerial slaughter of 150 cattle in New Mexico.
Unfortunately, a federal judge cleared the way for the operation when he denied a request by ranchers for a delay.
During a federally-approved, three day-event that started last week, the U.S. Forest Service was to shoot 150 ‘feral’ cattle from a helicopter using high-powered rifles, roaming a southwestern area of the state.
Here’s What Happened
The federal agency announced its decision on Feb. 16, explaining feral cattle on the 560,000-acre Gila Wilderness Area “pose a significant threat to public safety and natural resources.”
New Mexico’s Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a statement Friday saying she was disappointed by what she described as the U.S. Forest Service’s lack of meaningful, long-term engagement with stakeholders on a controversial issue.
Because of a weather delay, the aerial shooting began Friday morning instead of Thursday, a Gila National Forest spokesperson told Earther in a phone call today. Due to the delay, the spokesperson said the cattle cull might run through February 27, a day later than scheduled.
Cows Eating and Drinking on Wild Land Cause Damage
Environmental groups had pressured officials to eliminate the cows over concerns that their hooves and mouths damage streams and rivers in southwest New Mexico’s vast Gila Wilderness.
“The feral cattle in the Gila Wilderness have been aggressive towards wilderness visitors, graze year-round, and trample stream banks and springs, causing erosion and sedimentation,” Camille Howes, Gila National Forest Supervisor, said in a statement. “This action will help restore the wilderness character of the Gila Wilderness enjoyed by visitors from across the country.”
The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA) and Humane Farming Association (HFA) called the proposal “cruel and inhumane.”
Ranchers in court documents had argued the agency was skipping the steps of rounding up the cattle and impounding them, opting instead for the last resort of gunning them down.
Their attorney said in court that the operation could result in an estimated 65 tons (59 metric tons) of dead animals being left in the wilderness for months until they decompose or are eaten by scavengers.
The Forest Service said it would release results this week after the entire operation is concluded.
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