I got this email and it’s short and sweet.
Subject: Isn’t It Ironic?
The Food Stamp program, part of the Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing the greatest amount of Food Stamps EVER.
Meanwhile, the Park Service, also part of the Department of Agriculture, asks us to “please do not feed the animals” because the animals may grow dependent and NOT learn to take care of themselves!!
Here, we’ll analyze three facets of this simple and to the point email.
1.) Are food stamps being used now more than ever? Yes. Nearly 15% of the U.S. uses food stamps. (If you’re interested, here are the eligibility requirements). In the past few years, some food stamp users qualify for them due to disaster assistance. However, even if disaster assistance did not count towards the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) it would likely still be at the highest level ever due to a.) the economic downturn and b.) rising food prices.
Here’s a chart:
2.) Is the Park Service part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture? No. The National Park Service is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
3.) Does the National Park Service encourage us “not to feed the animals” because they may grow dependent? Yes. Numerous NPS websites encourage visitors not to feed the animals because first and foremost, it’s something that will probably result in you getting a ticket if you get caught. But, simply put, the NPS does in fact urge us not to feed animals because it can make them dependent.
What are some of the other reasons?
“If animals are fed human food, they won’t “harvest” natural seeds and the tree population will decline.” (source)
“Never allow your children to feed any animal. On occasion, javelina have been known to bite children who get too close.” (source)
“Feeding wildlife interferes with their natural diet and is harmful to their health.Please don’t feed the animals.” (source)
“Human food is harmful to wild animals” (source)
“The problem is one of human behavior–people feeding wildlife, people not disposing of trash properly, people leaving food unattended at campgrounds and rest stops, and people leaving food scraps behind. Food reward that animals associate with humans can result in their loss of fear of humans. This change in behavior may lead to property damage and human injury. For the animals involved it may mean negative health effects or overpopulation resulting from unnatural food sources, dependence on a seasonably unreliable food source, and greater susceptibility to predators and vehicle collisions.” (source)
I give this email a “Mostly True” because it got the simple fact wrong that NPS is part of Department of Interior, not the Department of Agriculture. It is important to get all of your facts correct, and failing to do so can undermine the credibility of an email that is forwarded on to strangers.
But, when it comes to food stamp usage and animal dependency, those points are both facts.
For further related reading, check out this post at SNOPES.