Misrepresentation of Facts for Political Gain

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In a recent opinion piece discovered in an American newspaper, the writer stated: “…nearly 98 percent of all livestock losses are from birth defects, illness, injuries, and natural disasters…” If true, then 2% of all livestock losses are from other causes. What other causes? This statement is quite misleading and does nothing actually to inform and educate people on the realities of humans being forced to coexist with wild carnivores, especially around livestock growers.

In my attempts to discover where any individual or group would arrive at the number of 98% mortality due to defects, illness, injuries and natural disasters, I was left scratching my head. I can only assume that this figure was somehow devised from taking the total inventory of livestock (in the United States?) and making it fit into a narrative.

In the context of the opinion piece in question, the writer is defending wolves by attempting to show that there are no differences in livestock losses whether wolves (or any other large predator?) were present or not. That’s simply a non substantiated claim and makes little sense, other than an attempt at protecting only the wolf.

If we are going to just talk about wolf depredations on livestock, then we would have to only count livestock present in those areas where wolves are present. Simply put, the state of Florida, a very large livestock growing state, doesn’t have wolves. I can rightfully declare that wolves do not predate on livestock in Florida. But in areas where wolves are existing in high densities, mortality of livestock due to wolves can be quite high.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, over 37 percent of all sheep deaths were due to that of predators. That’s substantially higher than a fraction of 2%.

Mississippi State University claims that predators were responsible for 5.5 percent of the total adult cattle death losses from all causes, and 9 percent of all death causes for calves. Again, much higher than a fraction of 2% as claimed.

It is much easier to defend the large predators, especially those making trouble in human-settled landscapes by taking the human face out of the discussion. Tossing out random numbers, percentages and dollar values without consideration of the human on an individual and case by case basis is absent compassion and dishonest at best.

An examination of individual losses of livestock growers reveals a much different story than throwing out big numbers, with poor and inaccurate comparisons for political purposes. Three, five, ten percent losses in property and revenue is often enough to run that livestock grower out of business.

And it isn’t just a problem in the United States. Recently France has shared that the state is spending 12.26 million Euros for livestock herd protection plus an additional 2.5 million Euros in compensation for livestock losses. The compensation values do not justly make compensation. At 300 wolves in France, that’s approaching 50,000 Euros per wolf, per year in costs. Certainly one could argue that regardless of the percentage of livestock losses due to wolves, this cost is not sustainable. (Note: Here is the link to an English translation of that website – Of interest, the January PDF made available was too large for Google Translate to handle. Sorry.)

Also out in France (English version), a report that 9,033 domestic animals were killed by wolves. That doesn’t count those missing and unconfirmed animals. Last year those kill number were just below 7,000 at 6,810 – a 30% increase.

The points to be made here are that it does nobody any good to manipulate and misrepresent numbers to promote political and private agendas. Readers need to be presented facts in order that they can make their own honest judgement. In addition, unless something is done to mitigate, probably even put an end to, wolves and other large predators trying to coexist with humans, especially ranchers, farmers and livestock growers, all will suffer in numerous ways, including the preservation of the real wild wolf.

Below I’ve included a ten-minute video showing the facts and frustrations of the realities of dealing with wolves within their livestock industry. The video is titled, Sheep Breeders, the Invisible Bites. It helps to place a human element to the issue, without overstating the obvious.


Sheep breeders, the invisible bites – MSA by MSATV