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Judge Dismisses Suit Vs. Ranchers

Mon Oct 21, 2002 

WACO, Texas (AP) - A judge has dismissed a lawsuit that sought the release of names, addresses and other information for farmers and ranchers who use protective livestock collars that are lethal to predators. 

U.S. District Judge Walter Smith said giving out such information would violate the federal Freedom of Information Act, which exempts the release of people's personal information. 

The suit pitted several ranchers, the Texas Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation against the Animal Protection Institute, a Sacramento, Calif-based animal rights group. 

The federal Agriculture Department sided with the activist group, which filed an open records request in 
1998, arguing the public had a right to know who gets protection collars since they are provided by the government and paid for by taxpayers. 

The collars contain bladders filled with sodium fluoroacetate and are attached around the necks of cattle and other livestock. A coyote or other predator who bites the collar will die if it swallows a lethal dose. According to API's Web site, the collars killed 
27 coyotes in 2000. 

The Agriculture Department keeps a database tracking who uses the chemical collars, how many were dispersed and other details including the name and address of recipients. 

Smith dismissed the case Sept. 30 after several years of legal wrangling. The judge said farmers and ranchers could be at risk from attack and harassment from extremists if the information was released. 

API attorney Nicole Paquette dismissed that notion and called the ruling disappointing. 

"We are paying for this and we are subsidizing ranchers to kill predators. It's ludicrous how many animals are being killed out there under the guise of protecting livestock," she said. 

She said an appeal was planned. 

Joe Maley, of the Waco-based Texas Farm Bureau, hailed the decision: "We're hoping that issue has been laid to rest. We've never felt like FOIA was intended to provide personal information."

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