The Environmental Protection Agency has realized that the use of so-called cyanide bombs may not fall within its supposed mission to protect the environment—but only after the public pointed it out.
The agency had temporarily authorized the use of cyanide bombs, which are officially called M-44s, to protect livestock from predators. The bombs are spring-loaded devices that kill their targets with a discharge of sodium cyanide, according to the Guardian. They are used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services and its state-based counterparts in Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming to ward off foxes and coyotes, the New York Times reports, and have been since the mid-1970s.
Critics point out that releasing cyanide into the environment is pretty much objectively bad, as it causes long-term pollution and can harm more than its intended target, even killing pets and injuring humans. For instance, a boy in Idaho was injured by a cyanide bomb last year, an explosion that killed his beloved yellow lab.
After the public caught wind of the EPA’s approval, an outcry ensued. In response, EPA administrator Andrew R. Wheeler said he was withdrawing an interim reauthorization for the use of the deadly devices and would reevaluate the highly criticized practice.
“This issue warrants further analysis and additional discussions by E.P.A. with the registrants of this predacide,” Wheeler said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing this dialogue to ensure U.S. livestock remain well protected from dangerous predators while simultaneously minimizing off-target impacts on both humans and nonpredatory animals.”
Seems like “minimizing off-target impacts” is both reasonable and well within the agency’s mission.