I Only Eat Grass-Fed Bison (Part II)

April 29, 2014

bison slaughter

Three years ago, I wrote about the unseen world one participates in when one switches from eating cows to bison, since their meat was then a new trend amongst people "going green." Like I always say, whenever and wherever animals are exchanged for money, you can bet you'll find dirty business.

Though it has happened for many years, it is hardly known that significant numbers of the remaining wild bison in Yellowstone National Park are hazed, penned, and slaughtered every year due to commercial interests, especially those of adjacent cattle ranchers who fear potential brucellosis infection of their herds. In 2004, 264 wild bison were rounded up and slaughtered in order to protect 180 cows grazing on land nearby. Another 198 were corralled until the following season, but for lack of space in the pen, 57 were killed without even testing for brucellosis. In 2008, 1,616 bison were driven from park borders and slaughtered.

Last month, a man named Comfrey Jacobs (I have a feeling he's one of us) stalled Yellowstone's Interagency Bison Management Plan by chaining himself to a blockade against the entrance to the bison trap. I was excited to hear that he drew enough public attention for Yellowstone to announce the end the cull for the season—but upon further research, I realize it was hardly a win, after hunting allowances had been given as the primary method for removing bison; after 258 bison were consigned to tribal partners for "nutritional and cultural purposes," and after 60 bison were transfered to the UDSA "for an ongoing research project."

Nevertheless, I love James for his efforts and for brining attention to these practices (hear his message and witness his ridiculous arrest here). Jacobs was arraigned earlier this month and did not accept the plea bargain. He's now awaiting further legal council. 

As hunting surely brings in money, and pressure from cattle ranchers will certainly not relent, Yellowstone's policies will likely proceed next season. North America used to be home to 50 million bison. Now, the last free-roaming, genetically pure herd—allegedly descendents of 23 wild bison that survived mass slaughter—exists only in Yellowstone National Park, and now number just a few thousand, though Yellowstone has the capacity for more. 

Whose side of history are we taking when we eat meat? What long chain of deplorable practices do we link ourselves to when we purchase grass-fed animals? The depths of the decision can never be known standing in front of a romantically bucolic farmer's market booth. The damage is done by then, completely invisible and forgotten, while the buyer's conscience is at ease. 

For those of you who come up against grass-fed-meat-eaters, remember this, too. Greenhouse gas intensities can be 50% higher with grass-fed cattle than with those finished on grain. It is understood that grass-fed animals use up more resources—land, water, and crops—than factory-farmed animals do, as they are fattened more slowly and kept alive longer. For cattle, that's around a year-and-a-half's worth of extra life support, to end up in the same place that factory-farmed animals do.

Never an isolated matter, there can be no such thing as "humane" slaughter, and especially at this time in history, there can be no environmental gains won by going "grass-fed."

The illusion is a grand one, though.

Too keep up with Comfrey Jacobs' story and to help stop the Yellowstone slaughter, please visit Buffalo Field Campaign, their site is incredibly rich with information. 

Sources: 1, 2