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Associated Press publishes intentionally misleading anti-wolf article

[large thumbnail url=”associated-press-publishes-intentionally-misleading-anti-wolf-article” filename=”editorial” year=”2011″ month=”05″ day=”26″] [thumbnail icon url=”associated-press-publishes-intentionally-misleading-anti-wolf-article” filename=”news” year=”2011″ month=”05″ day=”26″] A writer for the Associated Press wrote an article which appeared on Madisonet.com, and other sites, which was filled with rhetoric and demonstrated a major bias in favor of the livestock industry.

While most media articles attempt to feign some form of balance, this article – Ranchers cheered by lifting of wolf protections – even failed to do that,  providing a full four paragraphs from a staff attorney for the Center of Biological Diversity out of the more than 20 that make up the story.

Worse, and I mean Collette Adkins Giese no disrespect – I am sure she had little to do with what the writer selected to use – the four paragraphs are flimsy at best. One such paragraph was the following:

Adkins Giese said wolves kill a relatively small number of livestock, and she argued those losses can be handled through compensation or nonlethal options. Federal statistics show guard animals, fencing and frequent checking are the most common nonlethal measures.

Shortly after this, the writer of the article quoted the following numbers:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates wolves killed 8,100 adult cattle and calves across the country last year. That loss was valued at $3.6 million, making up less than 4 percent of all losses. Most cattle were lost to illness or weather.

The internet is a wonderful thing, I happened to have the document that the writer used, and it also lead me to believe that they had also inserted the last half of Adkins Giese’s paragraph above.

These numbers are presented incorrectly. In fact, I would say they were presented this way to intentionally mislead.

The report – Cattle Death Loss (Released May 12, 2011, by the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).) – actually says something quite different.

The table the writer used was

 Number of Head and Total Value of Cattle and Calf Death Loss by Cause – United States: 201

Number of Head and Total Value of Cattle and Calf Death Loss by Cause – United States: 2010

Find the line that says wolves under Predator causes. Follow it across and you see the familiar 8,100 number used by the writer. You even find the “less than 4%” of total loses listed… 3.7% to be precise and the dollar value. But there is a MAJOR omission made by the writer at this point. The writer says total losses, NOT total predator-caused losses. The writer also cleverly drops in the leading causes from total losses.

The ACTUAL number is that wolves account for 0.2% of total losses, and 3.7% of total predator-caused losses.

Note: Theft, yes theft, accounts for TWICE as much loss of cattle as wolves do. Vultures kill more cattle than wolves do, and only bears are blamed for less cattle deaths than wolves – making wolves and bears the bottom two causes of cattle deaths out of ALL potential causes for loss (predator and non-predator).

The remaining 20 paragraphs contained anti-wolf rhetoric such as:

“Let the public know what kind of killers we’re faced with,” Marchessault said. “They’re killers and that’s the way it is.”

Really? Just… really?

“We were just running along fine for the last 25 to 30 years of my life, and now you put a huge predator into the mix. It certainly makes it a challenge,” said John Helle, part of a four-family sheep and cattle operation near Dillon.

Marchessault’s neighbor, Tom Tash, said wolves killed two calves and probably killed another in late March and early April. “And another cow split her pelvis fighting them off and had to be destroyed,” he added.

No anti-wolf story is complete without some horror story. Remember, the headline of this article is “Ranchers cheered by lifting of wolf protections” – you’ll be hard-pressed to figure out exactly why, however, once you have read it.

Kim Baker, president of the Montana Cattlemen’s Association, said her family lost six head in 2008 and 2009, for which they were reimbursed $2,100, although the cattle’s value was closer to $42,250. She said authorities have killed seven wolves on their property.

Besides the dead livestock, the mere proximity of wolves puts cattle under so much stress they don’t breed or put on weight properly, said Baker, who ranches near Hot Springs, Mont.

I don’t care about the first paragraph. But the second one is just a beauty. I wonder if she would be willing to cite scientific studies which support such a claim? I wonder if the “journalist” who wrote the article even cared to find out, or look for supporting evidence themselves? Sure doesn’t seem like it. Don’t need to do research in today’s media. Attribute it to someone and you’re all good and are no longer responsible.

“This is time to get them off the list,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. “That’s how the Endangered Species Act was set up.”

The final line of the article is this one. I think the one thing we can be pretty sure of with the Endangered Species Act is that it doesn’t list political benefit as one of the criteria for delisting an animal.

Related Links

Ranchers cheered by lifting of wolf protections

Cattle Death Loss report – National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – May 12, 2011

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