Target: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
Goal: To urge Louisiana to develop humane standards for alligator slaughter
In 1972 the state of Louisiana introduced the Alligator Marsh to Market Program in an effort to provide financial incentives to landowners who did not convert or develop wetland properties. At the time, the American alligator was listed as an endangered species and it made sense for a state like Louisiana to take action to protect the alligator from extinction but as the number of alligators in the state began to increase, the program became more about making money and less about protecting alligators.
Alligator farms began to spring up in Louisiana in the mid 1980’s and the state declared September the annual alligator hunting season in order to “provide long term benefits to the survival of the species, maintain its habitats, and provide significant economic benefits to landowners, alligator farmers and alligator hunters”. The alligator industry has since grown to a $20 million dollar per year money making machine but how much better off are the alligators?
According to studies, private ownership accounts for more than 75% of the alligators’ natural habitat in Louisiana and Louisiana is responsible for 85% of the farm raised alligator hides sold commercially throughout the world. There are more alligators indoors in Louisiana today than there were in the wild in 1985 when the farming program began and not for conservation, but for cultivation for profit.
Alligator eggs are harvested at a rate of hundreds of thousands per year and sent to farms for incubation. Within one to two years, many of these young reptiles are sold for slaughter or slaughtered on the premises. Only 15% are transplanted back into the wild to maintain sustainable numbers; the purported basis for the program.
Free roaming alligators have a life expectancy of up to 50 years. Most farm raised alligators are lucky to reach age three. Alligator slaughtering practices are not regulated and are often inhumane. On one farm, a rancher confessed that he thought refrigerated air killed the gators so he would stack them in a freezer for a while and then skin them. It was later that he realized that the air wasn’t killing the alligators, it was merely slowing down their metabolism and he had been skinning them alive. He has now converted to a more socially acceptable form of slaughter which is to bash the gator in the head with a baseball bat or hammer until its death can be confirmed. The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida has stated that it is not uncommon for alligators to be skinned while alive and fully conscious.
The government claims that making alligators a cash crop was the only way to protect the species from extinction and while that may be debated, it’s clear that no one is looking out for the welfare of these animals that are being so cruelly and inhumanely slaughtered for their meat and hides each year.
Dear Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
It’s clear that alligator “conservation” has become big business for Louisiana alligator farmers and the treatment of these animals is of very little concern. To date, there have been no restrictions set upon the means by which alligators are killed for their meat and hides in Louisiana and ranchers are not shy to boast about the cruel and tortuous methods that are used to end the lives of these animals.
Some of the more common means of subduing alligators for slaughter include clubbing them in the head with hammers and bats, using axes to cut their spinal cords to immobilize them, and shooting them repeatedly with bang sticks. In many cases, alligators are skinned while they are fully conscious. To think that this type of practice is occurring within the borders of the United States is shameful and abhorrent.
You list the inspection of live alligators and alligator hides for shipment as part of your responsibilities under the alligator farming/ranching program but nowhere to do cite any regulations or inspection processes for the slaughter of the animals and this is a gross oversight on your part. If you are incapable of insuring that these animals are humanely euthanized prior to slaughter, their slaughter should simply not be allowed.
The state of Louisiana sees enormous financial gains from the slaughter of alligators. Please do the responsible thing and ensure that this profit no longer comes in such an inhumane way by educating famers and developing humane standards for the slaughter of alligators in your state.
[Your Name Here]