Sunday, June 09, 2002

Predator Control and Homeland Security?

I usually try to steer away from politics, but I can't refrain from commenting on President Bush's proposal for a Department of Homeland Security. In particular, I would like to comment on the proposed inclusion of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in the new Department. At present, APHIS is a relatively unknown agency within the Department of Agriculture. According to the APHIS Web page, it is organized into 9 (actually 8) functional units:

Agricultural Biotechnology - Regulates the movement, importation, and field testing of genetically engineered plants through permitting and notification.

Agricultural Trade - Enforces animal and plant import and export regulations to help ensure that foreign pests and diseases are not introduced into this country and that U.S. agricultural products meet the standards of importing countries.

Animal Care - Provides leadership in establishing acceptable standards of humane animal care and treatment and to monitor and achieve compliance with the Animal Welfare Act through inspections, education, and cooperative efforts.

Aquaculture - Serves important aspects of both plant and animal aquaculture, especially involving disease, pest prevention, and wildlife damage management.

National Veterinary Accreditation - A voluntary program that certifies private veterinary practitioners to work cooperatively with Federal veterinarians and State animal health inspectors, who help ensure that exported animals will not introduce disease into another State or country.

Plant Health - Synonymous with Plant Protection and Quarantine.

Plant Protection and Quarantine - Preventing the introduction of plant pathogens into the United States.

Veterinary Services - The mission is protect and improve the health, quality, and marketability of our nation's animals, animal products, and veterinary biologics by preventing, controlling, and/or eliminating animal diseases, and by monitoring and prom ing animal health and productivity.

Wildlife Services - Seeks to minimize the economic damage caused by wildlife.

As envisioned by President Bush’s top-secret planners, all of these APHIS functions would be transferred to the new Department of Homeland Security, where they would be lodged in the Border and Transportation Security component (see graphic). Their sister agencies within that component? Immigration and Naturalization Service, Customs Service, Coast Guard, Federal Protection Service, and Transportation Security Administration. What does APHIS have in common with these other 5 agencies? Not a thing, a far as I can tell.

Now I’d like to focus specifically on the Wildlife Services function of APHIS. Historically, Wildlife Services was a program within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, where it was known as Animal Damage Control. ADC was transferred to USDA and APHIS in 1986 under the administration of Bush the Elder. This was a political move orchestrated by agricultural interests, who felt that their predator control needs were not being adequately addressed by the USFWS. The name was later changed to Wildlife Services to project a more positive image to the American public. But their primary mission has NOT changed. They are still in the business of controlling and killing wildlife to benefit economic interests of the American public, primarily agriculturists. Now, unless terrorists have devised a plan for using predatory wildlife such as blackbirds, coyotes, and cormorants to inflict agents of mass destruction on the American public, I am at a loss to explain what possible role Wildlife Services would play in the new Department of Homeland Security.


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