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USDA's Short Supply of Empathy

Story ID:10953
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Uvalde Texas usa
Year:1980
Person:Rex Shaddox
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Katie Medlock asked this intriguing question on Care2 – Do Vegans and Vegetarians Have More
Empathy? And her answer-“Scientific research suggests the answer is yes.” Well, despite
science’s role in arriving at this conclusion, it didn’t surprise me that a number of people who
commented on Care2 disputed the science by giving all their indefensible rationale for in this
case- eating animals which are cruelly raised and slaughtered.

Then from Harper’s Magazine an article which really shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows anything
about the USDA -a government entity which in my opinion doesn’t even know the meaning of the
word “empathy.” Not too long ago an article appeared in the Washington Post revealing how the
USDA was conducting cruel experiments involving farm animals in a Kansas Research facility. I
cannot understand how this president and others just simply let this agency do whatever it wants.
Now a new expose by Harper’s Christopher Ketcham where he reveals that the USDA has been
known to torture dogs and kill endangered species.

In the fall of 1980 Rex Shaddox was working in Animal Damage Control in Uvalde, Texas. Animal
Damage Control was then a branch of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. it was his job to kill wild
carnivores and coyotes in particular. They were said to prey on the flocks of local sheep ranchers.

One day his supervisor, Charles Brown, told Shaddox and his fellow agents to meet at the city dump
outside of town. Brown said that they were going to do some M-44 tests with dogs. The M-44 is a spring-
loaded device that is planted in the ground and ejects sodium cyanide when set off. It was one of
the weapons used by Animal Damage Control to kill coyotes.

At the dump -Brown and several colleagues saw the arrival of a truck from the Uvalde city pound pull up.
In it were abandoned dogs of various breeds. A small collie was pulled off the truck and given to Brown
who took it by its neck. He then took an M-44 cartridge and forced it into this poor docile dog’s open
mouth and with his thumb sprayed a white dust of cyanide into the collie’s mouth. The collie howled,
convulsed, coughed up blood and screamed in pain. You can imagine the reaction of the other dogs in
the truck. They howled and beat against their cages – fearing they would be next.

Brown then opened a capsule of amyl nitrate and put it under the collie’s nose which he said was
an immediate antidote to cyanide poisoning. This made the collie heave and sneeze. And then this
agent who was completely devoid of empathy forced another M-44 cartridge into his mouth. The collie
screamed again in pain. Shaddox could take no more and yelled at Brown to stop.

Unbelievably, but Brown was not the only one devoid of empathy because Shaddox noted: “He and the
other trappers thought it was funny.” This dog was convulsing and dying and they’re laughing. For
Shaddox this was a hell of a way to die. He felt that they were heartless bastards who showed no
sympathy, no feeling, no nothing. He admitted that he was no animal-rights guy, but this was wrong.
And he also noted that these were federal employees and what they were doing was evidently
sanctioned by our government.

Shaddox quit his job after disputes with Brown re this horrifying incident in Uvalde. He would have
a long career in wild life enforcement and would spend part of it investigating his former employer.

Of course, this agency’s primary focus has been to respond to the ranchers who want their livestock
protected from predators. As one retired Wildlife Service agent remarked- “Ranchers call us up
and the system kicks in, guns blazing.” Well, not only guns but the cruel cyanide cartridges which
Brown showed the trappers may still be used. And what about the practice of denning – where
agents set fire before the places where animals rear their young. These little animals surely don’t
deserve such a death.

Ketcham also devotes a whole paragraph to the killing spree of the US Wildlife Service:

“Since 2000, Wildlife Services operatives have killed at least 2 million native mammals and 15 million
native birds. Many of these animals are iconic in the American West and beloved by the public. Several
are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. In 2014, Wildlife Services killed
322 wolves, 61,702 coyotes, 2,930 foxes, 580 black bears, 796 bobcats, 5 golden eagles, and 3 bald eagles.
The agency also killed tens of thousands of beavers, squirrels, and prairie dogs. The goal of this slaughter
according to the agency’s literature, is to provide ‘federal leadership and expertise to resolve wildlife
conflicts and create a balance that allows people and wildlife to coexist peacefully,’”

It sounds good on paper and perhaps some of this killing is necessary, but somehow it doesn’t make me
feel good. What about you?