Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wolves and Bison and Bears, Oh My!

First it was the grizzly bear. Once protected under the Endangered Species Act, grizzly bears are disappearing thanks in no small part to the Bush Administration. In early 2007, President Bush authorized to take the grizzly bear off the Endangered Species List, making them easy targets for game managers who kill grizzlies if they threaten domestic livestock, specifically cattle.

Then it was the gray wolf. To no one's surprise, the Bush Administration, yet again, sided with politically powerful cattle ranchers in Wyoming (Dick Cheney's home state), Idaho and Montana, and stripped endangered species protection from gray wolves in Greater Yellowstone and the Northern Rockies. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), state and federal officials could quickly decimate three decades of endangered species protection that has allowed the gray wolf to replenish its population to roughly 1,500 strong. Idaho alone intends to kill up to 85 percent of its 780 gray wolves, even wolf pups.

Now, it's Yellowstone's bison - better known as American buffalo - who are being slaughtered with taxpayer money under the guise of protecting cattle. According to the NRDC, the park service and the Montana Department of Livestock are claiming that the vicious execution of bison is crucial to preventing cattle from contracting brucellosis, which causes spontaneous abortion in cattle. Since last winter, more than 1,600 bison have been slaughtered, almost half their population. However, according to the Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC), there has never been a documented spread of brucellosis from wild bison to livestock. Even if buffalo were capable of spreading the disease, there aren't any cattle on these lands from mid-October to mid-June, making brucellosis transmission impossible. In fact, all the bison captured and slaughtered this past winter have been bulls, which are incapable of transmitting the disease. Many contend that the fear of brucellosis is just a political myth generated in an attempt to keep areas of land strictly for cattle ranching only.

Which brings me to my point: the beef industry has such a calamitous influence that anything and everything that gets in its way is eradicated in favor of cattle rearing. (Does anyone remember when Oprah was sued by Texas cattle producers in 1998 for saying she would never eat another hamburger?) According to an IBISWorld Industry Report, the U.S. beef industry saw $37.5 billion in revenue last year, that is a 5 percent increase in revenue from the year before. That is a lot of money to lose.

The irony here is that the "golden calf" or cow, though so fiercely cosseted from other animals, falls victim to the biggest predator of all- man. Though cattle are "protected" for the omnipotent beef industry, cattle are actually unprotected because they fall victim to slaughter in the end like every other animal deemed fit for human consumption. Therefore, those who eat beef are not only responsible for the murder of cows, they're also accountable for the increased extinction of wolves, bison, bears and others. Bon app├ętit!

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