Years of study has led us to the following rule: Whether it’s a feather hair extension or grass-fed bison you’re buying, whenever and wherever animals are exchanged for money, you can bet it’s dirty business.
Switching from factory-farmed meat to grass-fed bison, for example, doesn’t eliminate environmental degradation, water and energy waste, water-deprived truck rides to the butcher, slaughter, or lowlife politics. Switching meats often just changes the set of problems. For example:
•Many bison ranches are adjacent to natural parks where wild bison and wild elk roam. When wild animals carrying brucellosis (an infectious bacteria transmittable to humans and other animals) cross park boundaries during their winter migratory routes, they can infect ranched herds—the common consequences being that the rancher must kill his entire stable. So in the interest of cattle farmers, the state of Montana, under, for example, the Interagency Bison Management Plan, drives back its wild bison herds using helicopters, hazing, slaughter, and penning. In 2004 at Yellowstone National Park, 264 wild bison were rounded up and slaughtered in order to protect 180 cows grazing on land nearby. Another 198 were rather 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.
•North America used to be home to 50 million bison. Now, the last free-roaming, genetically pure herd—descendents of 23 wild bison that survived mass slaughter— exist in Yellowstone National Park, numbering 3,000. Wildlife advocates have been working to restore Yellowstone’s bison populations for relocation onto protected areas nationwide, but ranch lobbyists around the country stand in the way. Because of ranchers’ fear of brucellosis spreading to their cattle, wild bison may never be allowed to repopulate public land again, especially because the competition against livestock owners for cheap grazing land is fierce.
•Even if your grass-fed bison is “organic” today, it still may have been genetically modified and bred in the past. Being that the only pure herd exists in Montana, the many ranched bison across America are not as natural as a consumer might hope, but rather mixed with cattle genes.
So think about it: Are organic grassfed bison farmers the people you want to be giving your money to? What side of politics do you want to be on?