On 25th March 2024, a coalition of 75 US animal rights and wildlife protection organizations sent a letter to US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland asking her to scrap a federal government plan for hunters to kill thousands of barred owls in West Coast states to protect the rapidly declining northern spotted owl. The proposal is also intended to prevent the decline of the California spotted owl, which wildlife officials say is facing encroachment from the larger, more aggressive barred owl in the Sierra Nevada.

The letter, spearheaded by the Animal Wellness Action Group and the Center for a Humane Economy, says “Implementing a decades-long plan to unleash untold numbers of ‘hunters’ in sensitive forest ecosystems is a case of single-species myopia regarding wildlife control…The plan to kill barred owls is a colossally reckless action … it should be sidelined with all deliberate speed, and non-lethal management actions to protect spotted owls and their habitats should be made the priority actions.”

Barred owls (Strix varia) and northern spotted owls (Strix occidentalis caurina) are closely related and can interbreed, but the former, originally from the eastern US, is now competing with the latter, which is in decline. The northern spotted owl, listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1990, ranged from northwestern California to southwestern British Columbia, including western Oregon and Washington, and according to Smithsonian Magazine, the numbers have plummeted by about 75% over the last two decades.

The draft proposal would not result in the immediate mass culling of barred owls, but Instead remove the permitting burden to kill the birds, with public land managers, such as the federal Fish and Wildlife Service and Forest Service, as well as private landowners, being able to kill more barred owls more easily if the plan is implemented.

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.