A federal judge has given permission for the U.S. Forest Service to shoot around 150 "unauthorized" cattle from helicopters over the Gila Wilderness in southwestern New Mexico, despite protests from ranchers and animal welfare groups. Officials have closed a large part of the forest and will continue the cow culling until Sunday. Ranchers had asked for a delay, saying the operation violated federal regulations and amounted to animal cruelty. They also argued that the government was not being truthful about the cattle in question. The Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA), the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, the Humane Farming Association, and the Spur Lake Cattle Company all raised objections to the Forest Service's description of its chopper hunt, which began last Thursday. R-CALF USA's Property Rights Committee Chair Shad Sullivan said the cattle are descendants of herds that legally grazed on rancher-owned allotments decades ago, and that some may have intermingled with adjacent allotment owners' branded and tagged cattle, proving they are domestic livestock, contrary to the Forest Service's claim that they are "feral."
Sullivan also accused the Forest Service of inhumane and cruel treatment of the animals and said the larger issue may be the unchecked power by unelected bureaucrats within governmental agencies setting a precedent for how federal officials handle authority. He also cited "pressure from environmental groups" as a factor in the Forest Service's decision to use helicopter hunters to put down the cattle. Sullivan added that last year's chopper hunt resulted in some cattle being shot but not killed, calves being left motherless, and mature cattle receiving injuries that prolonged their suffering, leading to an inevitable death and leaving carcasses strewn about the land and in waterways.
The use of taxpayer money to fund animal cruelty has raised concerns, especially since major animal welfare groups such as PETA have not spoken out against it. The situation has sparked outrage from many who see the government's actions as inhumane and a violation of animal rights. Some are also questioning the government's truthfulness and whether it has violated its own regulations. The culling of the cattle is an environmental issue as well, as it could affect the ecosystem of the Gila Wilderness and the surrounding areas. The controversy highlights the need for transparency and accountability in government agencies and the importance of animal welfare.