5 Cruel Things We Do to Animals That Are Still Legal

by Orietta C. Estrada
January 14, 2014
It’s hard to believe that in the year 2014 that abuses and atrocities toward animals are still being committed. Even more difficult to accept is that these acts are legal. We think of ourselves in this country as innovators on the cutting edge of solving societal woes such as hunger, pollution, climate change and health problems, but all too often we allow greed and excess to lead where ethics and commonsense should.

At what point will these abuses stop? How far off the path of rightness will we need to go before we hit the dead end of wrong? It isn’t too late. Changes are happening now, but we have a long way to go and we must keep the momentum going! Speak up! Let your voice be heard through the megaphone of social change and soon these five cruel things may not be legal as they are today!

1. Trophy Hunting

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Trophy hunting is a type of hunting where body parts of the dead animal e.g., antlers or paws, are kept as mementos, or trophies. It differs from traditional hunting because the animal is killed for fun and not killed for food. It is often mistaken as a sport, but really it’s an event for hunters who like to kill for fun.

Proponents of trophy hunting try to pass it off as a conservation effort, but the truth is, a very small portion of any money raised from organizing a hunt goes toward conservation. Typically, it goes to the middlemen.

2. Captivity

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The keeping of animals in captivity is a highly unregulated practice in the United States. Only 10 percent of the 2,000 captivity operations in the U.S. are accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). What is more disturbing is who made it onto the accredited list (SeaWorld is on it, if you didn’t already know).

A sanctuary or rescue that breeds animals, does not release animals into the wild (where possible), or keeps animals as an attraction for profit (eh hem, SeaWorld) is a disgrace to the meaning of conservation and should be boycotted. The public will survive without animals being held in menageries. After all, Costa Rica seems to be doing just fine.

There are a number of humane alternatives to viewing animals in captivity, such as bird watching, visiting a national park, or visiting an accredited sanctuary. Capitalism has no place in conservation, unless the money is actually flowing to conservation efforts and not into the pockets of investors.

3. Animal Testing

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Animals are fed diapers and weed-killers are sprayed into the eyes of rabbits? Why would an animal need to be fed diapers? Clearly, people eat food, not diapers. Why would weed-killer need to be sprayed into the eyes of rabbits? Nobody is planning to use weed-killer in place of eye drops. This makes no sense, especially when alternatives are available. Non-human animals are not the best alternative to testing. Simply put, our physiology is different.

With the advances in science that our society is witnessing, it seems as though testing on animals will soon be a thing of the past. It is already being phased out in China, and is partially banned in India and the EU. Are we next?

4. Equestrian Three-Day Eventing

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The physical demands are so extreme for horses on a cross-country course that rules have been put into place to keep horses from being ridden to death (severe injuries and death are routine).

Christopher Reeve, the actor made famous by his part in the 1980s Superman franchise, was permanently paralyzed in a three-day event. Also, in a Rolex sponsored event, a horse named Frodo Baggins (made famous by his role in the first “Lord of The Rings” trilogy) suffered a fractured skull and was euthanized on the course, as was another horse the same day.

A source, formerly associated with this tight knit culture of riders, said, “I witnessed a skewed reality in which horses are referred to [by their owners and onlookers] as enthusiastic participants of this so-called sport.” This is tragic because it is clear to those of us outside of this portion of society that it is the so-called sportsmen’s hunger for danger that leads these horses to injury and death.

5. Factory Farming

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WeAnimals.org

This list wouldn’t be complete without a proper mention of factory farming. It all started with chickens, pre-WWII, when farmers strived to meet the supply and demand of city dwellers and developed cruel ways of keeping up. They laced feed with chemicals and vitamins to fatten up chickens, raised them in environments unsuitable for any living being, burned off their beaks to thwart cannibalism, and crammed them into wire cages, in order to mass produce them.

Images of factory-farmed animals conjure up, in most people, intense emotions. For this reason, factory farms are kept tucked away in the countryside outside of major cities — out of sight and out of the mind.

Enough
It is time to stop and accept that we are cohabitants of this planet and not the masters of it. There is only so much abuse that the land, air, water, animals, and humans can take before the planet is permanently destroyed.

This list was limited to just five cruel things that we expect animals to endure in this country, yet there are many more that can be added. But while it’s important to acknowledge and understand the cruel things we still do to so many animals, we should not allow these facts to push us into a depression; instead we should take these realities as a call to action. We have seen many victories for animals in just the last year alone — but we must keep up the fight to do better for additional victories to be won and to ensure that all of the world’s creatures have a voice. So always remember, Green Monsters: never give up!

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If you consume (dairy) milk, cheese, butter then you are responsible for this CRUELTY

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source~lachelle julie
“Trembling inside each one of these plastic crates is a bewildered, bitterly cold and lonely calf whose grieving mother is hooked up to a milking machine. These calves have never known the warmth and love of their dear enslaved mothers. They desperately try to suckle on anything that resembles an udder.

Calves not only bake in hutches in the noon-day sun in California, they freeze after winter calving in Maryland. These hutches are for heifer calves on St Brigid’s Dairy in Maryland US, orphans who face the same miserable lives of deprivation and mourning as the mothers from whom they were stolen. Photos taken after a blizzard in 2010.

If you are not vegan you are participating directly in this abuse. The dairy industry IS the veal industry. It exploits the reproductive systems of mothers and engages in male infant genocide.

Vegan Tofu and Vegetable Pot Pie

Crust

I am you, only different

~source PETA & Jo-Anne McArthur

People

Human beings create temporary and arbitrary boundaries to exclude beings who aren’t like them. Human beings have justified wars, slavery, sexual violence, and military conquests through the mistaken belief that those who are “different” do not experience suffering and are not worthy of moral consideration.

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These boundaries change throughout history, and we’re horrified now to recall the abuse inflicted on others once classified as outsiders: the extermination of Jewish people by the Nazis, the enslavement of African people by American plantation owners, and the slaughter of Christian people for entertainment by Roman centurions. Laws now forbid discrimination based on gender, race, religion, ability, age, and sexual orientation. Yet just a century ago, human beings who were seen as different by those with power faced torture, exploitation, and death.

2

Sometimes those in power claimed that juvenile or dark-skinned human beings couldn’t feel pain. Sometimes the powerful claimed that their superiority was granted by God. Our society no longer believes that any human being has the right to rape, torture, or enslave another human being for any reason. We accept that all human beings share a fundamental value and celebrate our differences.

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Ethical

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

4

We are taught the Golden Rule as young children, and all major religions teach principles of nonviolence and kindness. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Ethical treatment—the Golden Rule—must be extended to all living beings: reptiles, mammals, fish, insects, birds, amphibians, and crustaceans.

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Would we imprison our children in cages too small for them to move? Would we violate our sisters and steal their babies? Would we deliberately infect our friends with diseases and leave them untreated? Of course not—so why would we do the same to other beings? We must abandon the archaic and incorrect boundary of “human,” which we use to justify the ongoing massacre of billions of beings.

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More than a century ago, Charles Darwin showed that all beings had the same common ancestor. All beings share the desire to live. We all feel pain, joy, grief, and pleasure. We all have worth.

Treatment

Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.

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All beings desire freedom to live a natural life, according to their inherent desires and instincts. While the lives of all beings necessarily involve some amount of suffering, human beings must stop deliberately inflicting suffering on all beings for our own selfish desires. We lose nothing in replacing a cheeseburger with a veggie burger or a leather purse with a fabric one. But beings we exploit lose their lives just for our fleeting fancy.

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We are taught from a young age to discriminate among beings. We are fooled into eating the flesh of some beings, ignoring the cries of hunted beings, and cuddling with furry baby beings. We grow up confused—as adults, most of us feel sick and sad when we see living beings tortured and killed, yet we purchase and consume the flesh, fur, secretions, and skin of living beings every day. We work hard to deceive ourselves and each other in order to maintain the illusion of a real boundary around “human.”

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The threats of economic collapse, the defiant claims of inherent rights, and the stubborn refusal to change behavior—these tired arguments have been heard and overcome many times in the past. Every time a boundary shifts, the suffragists or the abolitionists or the emancipators are at first ridiculed and belittled for their stance of equal consideration. Eventually, the lies are exposed, and freedom is won—for women, blacks, Christians, gays, Asians, the Irish, Catholics, Jews. Let freedom now include all beings.  

Animals

We are all animals.

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Human beings have few, if any, unique capabilities—many beings can learn languages, enjoy complex social bonds, sacrifice pleasure for the good of others, use tools, imagine, and dream. Many beings remember information, play with friends, enjoy intimacy, gossip, and mourn their deceased. Some beings have enormous capabilities beyond our own—in navigation, endurance, communication, and detection of natural phenomena. We don’t yet fully understand how all beings think—or what they think—but dismissing their mental world as less developed, rational, moral, or intelligent than our own is clearly a mistake.

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Regardless of their capabilities, no living being deserves to be abused. We believe that it’s wrong to torture infant and disabled human beings who don’t have the same abilities as adults. In the same way, all beings deserve liberty and respect not because they share the characteristics we admire in ourselves but because they are living beings. We share the same evolutionary origins, we inhabit the same Earth, and we are ruled by the same laws of nature. We are all the same.

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all photos: © Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

 

 

 

 

 

#siegfriedandroysuck

Live Animal Acts and Exhibits:

Ivan, a 500-pound gorilla, spent more than 26 years on display in a concrete cell in a shopping mall in Tacoma, Washington. In addition to being gawked at by crowds and denied sunlight and fresh air, Ivan was deprived of mental stimulation and contact with his own species.(1) After years of protests by people who were appalled by his living conditions, Ivan was finally moved to a spacious home. For the first time, he was able to venture outside, smell flowers, and join a gorilla family. Unfortunately, the life stories of most captive animals on display do not end so favorably.

Captives of Cruelty

There is a wide and deplorable range of animal acts and exhibits, including diving horses at theme parks, performing primates, caged bears at ice cream stands, bingo-playing chickens, parrots caged in hotel lobbies, cats forced to jump through flaming hoops, and giant turtles forced to give rides to children.

Animals used in these spectacles are often subjected to abuse in order to provide “entertainment” to patrons. Even under the best of circumstances and without forced performances, captivity can be hell for animals, who are meant to roam free. Kept in small, barren cages, with nothing to sleep on but concrete slabs, and imprisoned behind iron bars, captive animals often suffer from malnutrition, loneliness, deprivation of any opportunity to engage in natural behavior, loss of freedom and independence, lack of veterinary care, and filthy quarters. Attracting customers is their captors’ first priority, and the animals’ welfare is often the last.

Animals forced to perform are subjected to frightening and abusive training methods in order to coerce them into doing stressful, confusing, uncomfortable, and even painful acts. Training methods can include beatings, the use of electric prods, food deprivation, and drugging. Even though tigers, bears, lions, and primates shun contact with humans, babies are torn away from their mothers and forced to interact in public settings, such as photo ops and petting zoos.

Hauled in tractor-trailers from one venue to the next and confined to tiny cages, captive animals endure constant stress. Many suffer as a result of irregular feeding and watering as well as exposure to temperature extremes. Without exercise, they become listless, their immune systems weaken, and they become prone to sickness. Many resort to self-mutilation and other neurotic behavior in reaction to stress or relentless boredom. Torn away from their families, captive animals are deprived of all dignity as handlers control every aspect of their lives.

Animals Fight Back

It is not uncommon for frustrated captive animals to snap and rebel. The owner of a roadside zoo in Pine County, Minnesota, was killed by a 400-pound tiger when she entered the animal’s cage. She died of crushing injuries to her throat as well as blood loss after the tiger bit off her right foot and portions of both arms.(2)

Roy Horn of the Siegfried & Roy nightclub act was left with debilitating injuries after being attacked by a tiger named Montecore during a Las Vegas performance. Montecore bit Horn’s arm—prompting Horn to beat Montecore’s head with a microphone—and then lunged at his neck and dragged him off the stage “like a rag doll.”(3) Horn’s coworkers beat Montecore, who held onto Horn until he was blasted with a fire extinguisher. The incident could have been even worse had Montecore chosen to jump off the stage and attack members of the audience.

Countless people have been seriously injured, many fatally, as a result of attacks by captive big cats, bears, elephants, and primates. VisitPETA.org for more details.

Current Regulations Are Ineffective

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) enforces the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which sets minimum housing and maintenance standards for confined animals. Not all animals are afforded protection: Horses, birds, reptiles, fish, and other cold-blooded animals are specifically excluded from the AWA.

The USDA employs approximately 100 inspectors who are responsible for overseeing more than 9,200 licensed facilities nationwide that house animals.(4) In 2005, the USDA’s inspector general issued a scathing report stating that animal welfare officials in the department’s Eastern region (which covers all licensees east of the Mississippi River) were “lax” in punishing zoos and other facilities where people or animals had been endangered. The report detailed one case in which the government failed to act against a zoo that had a history of violations, even after a child was hurt by a jaguar. In another instance, inspectors did not charge an unlicensed exhibitor whose monkey bit two preschool students.(5)

What You Can Do

Never patronize any exhibit that includes animal acts. Instead, enjoy innovative acts, such as Cirque du Soleil or the Pickle Family Circus, or observe animals without interference in their natural environments.

If a local mall, hotel, or other establishment features an animal act or exhibit or allows one to set up in its parking lot, voice your concerns to the manager or store owner. Explain the facts about behind-the-scenes abuse and neglect, and explain the risk of injury to spectators. Have your friends and neighbors do the same, and make it clear that you will boycott the establishment until a “no animal displays” policy is implemented.

Inspect the exhibit for violations of state and federal laws. Watch for signs of poor health, such as listlessness, sores, lameness, missing hair, or self-mutilation. Note sanitation, food and water availability, and cage size (cages must be large enough for the animals to move around normally). Take photographs or video footage of the animals and their cages. If you see possible violations, try to get a sympathetic veterinarian to verify your findings. Then, contact your local humane officer or animal warden and the sector office of the USDA, which enforces the AWA. (Call the USDA at 202-720-3668 to find out the location and phone number of the sector office nearest you.) Insist that the animals be examined and that the conditions be improved.

Contact PETA for a supply of fliers and an “animal display ban” pack for tips on getting animal acts banned in your community. Organize demonstrations. See PETA’s factsheets on zoosand traveling animal acts for more information.

References

1) “A Gorilla Sulks in a Mall as His Future Is Debated,” The New York Times 17 Oct. 1993.

2) Kevin Giles, “Tiger That Killed Woman Was 100 Lbs. Underweight,” Star Tribune 11 Apr. 2006.

3) Adam Goldman, “Tiger Attacks Vegas Illusionist Roy Horn During ‘Siegfried and Roy’ Show,” Associated Press, 4 Oct. 2003.                                                                                                                                         4) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, “Animal Care Annual Report of Activities: Fiscal Year 2007,” U.S. Department of Agriculture, Sept. 2008.

5) Libby Quaid, “Audit Says Animal Welfare Officials More Lax,” Associated Press, 20 Oct. 2005.

~source PETA

Speciesism

source~ http://www.animalequality.net/speciesism-antispeciesism

Throughout history, people have suffered discrimination and violence as a result of views such as racism or sexism. These beliefs have led to slavery and violence against women in the home, which are now seen as abhorrent by the vast majority of society but this wasn’t true in the past. Amazingly, they were once thought natural and right in the belief that some humans were inferior. Discrimination such as sexism and racism have not disappeared but they are now being questioned and rejected by large sections of society.

 

“I received another dozen lashes, on the part of my back which was immediately above the bleeding and burning gashes of the former whipping… until I had received ninety-six lashes, and my back was cut and scalded from end to end. Every stroke of the whip had drawn blood; many of the gashes were three inches long; my back burned as if it had been covered by a coat of hot embers, mixed with living coals; and I felt my flesh quiver like that of animals that have been slaughtered by the butcher and are flayed whilst yet half alive.” An American Slave, 1859

Today, most people regard non-human animals as inferior. But studies show that they too experience emotions and sensations that humans do such as anxiety, pleasure, intense pain, fear of dying or boredom and these feelings matter to them just as much as ours do to us. Despite this, other sentient beings are confined and killed for ‘food’, their bodies are used in experiments, their skins for clothing, their appearance or behaviour for entertainment. Our desire to use them for our benefit is considered more important than their right to their own bodies, and unable to defend themselves, they suffer and die in their billions.

 

“The cow was unable to stand, so they twisted her tail painfully and dragged her to the kill floor by a rope. She was hit on the forehead with a cattle stunner, and hoisted upside down by a chain around her back leg. When a worker stuck a knife in her throat, she regained consciousness. Pouring blood and fluid from her throat, mouth and nostrils, she struggled to breathe and to free herself, hanging from one leg, for a further minute and a half before the worker returned and slit her from her throat down through her mouth. He then proceeded to hack her face clean away as she writhed and kicked.” Animal Equality activist, 2009.

Thinking that animals are inferior and we can use them solely because they were born with features such as fur or feathers instead of human skin is an irrational and unfair prejudice towards other species, known as speciesism. Speciesism overlooks our sameness – sentience – and as with racism and sexism, those without power suffer so that someone else can gain.

Most of society is blind to speciesism but as more and more people realise that non-human animals are not our property, and deserve to live free from exploitation by humans, they are deciding to go vegan. By choosing a varied plant-based diet free from animal products, wearing animal-friendly footwear and clothing, using vegan cosmetics and household products and entertaining ourselves without the use of animals we all move one step closer to a more peaceful and just society for all.

Got Milk? Might Not Be Doing You Much Good

NOVEMBER 17, 2014

Aaron E. Carroll

Almost no one will dispute that when a baby is born, breast milk is the best nutrition a mother can provide. All mammals nurse their young, and breast milk benefits a newborn infant in ways above and beyond nutrition. In fact, until 1 to 2 years of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, the Institute of Medicine and more promote breast-feeding as optimal.

Unfortunately, breast-feeding until that age is often difficult, if not impossible, because mothers have to return to work, and children go off to preschool or day care. So we often replace human milk with the milk of cows or other animals. But at a certain point, we have to acknowledge that we are the only mammals on the planet that continue to consume milk after childhood, often in great amounts.

More and more evidence is surfacing, however, that milk consumption may not only be unhelpful, it might also be detrimental. This is in spite of the fact that the United States Department of Agriculture and other organizations advocate that even adults should drink at least three cups a day.

More than 10,000 years ago, when human beings began to domesticate animals, no adults or older children consumed milk. Many people don’t drink it today because they are lactose intolerant. They do just fine.

NELLIE DONEVA / ABILENE REPORTER-NEWS, VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

But if you believe the advertising of the dairy industry, and the recommendations of many scientific bodies, they are missing out on some fantastic benefits to milk consumption: that milk is good for bones, contains calcium and vitamin D, and “does a body good.”

There’s not a lot of evidence for these types of claims. In 2011, The Journal of Bone and Mineral Research published a meta-analysis examining whether milk consumption might protect against hip fracture in middle-aged and older adults. Six studies containing almost 200,000 women could find no association between drinking milk and lower rates of fractures.

More recent research confirms these findings. A study published in JAMA Pediatrics this year followed almost 100,000 men and women for more than two decades. Subjects were asked to report on how much milk they had consumed as teenagers, and then they were followed to see if that was associated with a reduced chance of hip fractures later in life. It wasn’t.

A just-released study in The BMJ that followed more than 45,000 men and 61,000 women in Sweden age 39 and older had similar results. Milk consumption as adults was associated with no protection for men, and an increased risk of fractures in women. It was also associated with an increased risk of death in both sexes.

This wasn’t a randomized controlled trial, and no one should assume causality here. But there’s no association with benefits, and a significant association with harms.

Even studies that examine the nutrients in milk, trying to look for protective effects, often come up short. A 2007 meta-analysisin the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined high-quality studies of how calcium intake was related to fractures. The many studies of more than 200,000 people age 34 to 79 could find no link between total calcium intake and the risk of bone fractures.

This meta-analysis also reviewed randomized controlled trials that examined if calcium supplements could lower the risk of fracture. More than 6,000 middle-aged and older adults participated in these studies, where subjects were randomly assigned to get extra calcium or a placebo. Not only did the extra calcium not reduce the rate of fractures, the researchers were concerned that it may have increased the risk of hip fractures.

In the United States, milk is often fortified with vitamin D, which many believe also lends the drink bone-friendly properties. But the evidence behind this assumption is sketchy as well. It is true that vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption, and for bone health, but that doesn’t mean that most people need to consume more. A meta-analysis published this year in The Lancet examined the effect of vitamin D supplementation on bone mineral density in middle-aged and older adults. It found that, for the most part, consuming extra vitamin D did not improve the bones of the spine, hip or forearm. It did result in a statistically significant, but less clinically meaningful, increase in bone density at the top of the thighbone. Taken as a whole, however, vitamin D had no effect on overall total body bone mineral density.

None of this should be taken to mean that people with actual vitamin D or calcium deficiencies shouldn’t be treated by supplementation. They absolutely should. But the majority of people in the United States are not clinically deficient in these nutrients, and that’s whom milk is pitched to.

In addition, milk is not a low-calorie beverage. Even if people drink nonfat milk, three cups a day can mean an additional 250 calories consumed. Low-fat or whole milk has even more calories. In an era when every other caloric beverage is being marginalized because of obesity concerns, it’s odd that milk continues to get a pass.

Yes, it’s full of protein. Most Americans aren’t protein deficient, though. Even people who avoid animal milk are worried they’re missing something. Rather than acknowledge that they get along just fine without it, many seek out “milk” substitutes, like soy milk, around which whole industries have been built.

Politics are certainly at play here. Organizations like Dairy Management Inc., a nonprofit organization created by the United States government in 1994, exist to “increase dairy consumption.” Dairy Management created the popular “Got Milk?” campaign. Today, the vast majority of Dairy Management’s funding for its marketing strategies comes from the producers themselves. The U.S.D.A.’s role in promoting dairy was firmly established in the 1983 Dairy Production and Stabilization Act, which made it the business of the government to carry out a “coordinated program of promotion designed to strengthen thevgè dairy industry’s position in the marketplace and to maintain and expand domestic and foreign markets and uses for fluid milk and dairy products.”

As I tell patients, almost everything is perfectly good in moderation, milk included. What else would you put on cereal? Cookies without milk would be unthinkable. There’s nothing wrong with a periodic glass because you like it. But there’s very little evidence that most adults need it. There’s also very little evidence that it’s doing them much good.

US Government to Murder 1000 Bison

Bloodbath in Yellowstone: the Plan to Slaughter 1000 Bison

Recently Yellowstone National Park announced the intentions of culling (read kill) as many as a thousand of the park’s genetically unique and only continuously wild herd of bison. The annual slaughter has no basis in science, and is ethically bankrupt and corrupted management precipitated by ranching interests.

The slaying of bison is an annual event. Since 1985 some 8634 Yellowstone bison have been sacrificed to the livestock industry.

The main justification given for this carnage is the fear of brucellosis transmission to domestic livestock. The Montana Dept. of Livestock and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) have worked together to perpetrate the idea that brucellosis poses a threat to the livestock industry. As a consequence the state and federal agencies, including the National Park Service, more or less restrict bison to Yellowstone Park (although there is a small area where bison are permitted outside of the park for a short period of time—but they are then killed by Native Americans and Montana hunters).

 A Bison Wall Exists

Unfortunately for the bison, the urge to migrate in winter to find accessible food under shallow snow cover puts them in the cross hairs of the Montana livestock industry. A “bison wall” (analogous to the Berlin Wall) effectively confines them to Yellowstone National Park.

The main justification given by the livestock industry for its continued support of slaughter or hazing of wild bison is a disease known as brucellosis. There are reasons to believe that brucellosis is a Trojan Horse.

First, only infected pregnant bison cows  can potentially transmit brucellosis during the last trimester of pregnancy (February – April), bison bulls and calves are regularly slaughtered, so the killing of these animals demonstrates that brucellosis is not the primary reason for the containment of buffalo in the park.

Also keep in mind that other animals also carry brucellosis. Some elk in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) are also infected with brucellosis. Predators and scavengers, such as coyotes, crows, vultures, and bears, are rarely infected as well, though they are not at high risk for shedding the bacteria.

Though there has never been a single documented case of brucellosis transmission to cattle from wild bison, all the instances of cattle infection seem to be the result of elk transmission.  Despite these well-known facts, bison are still singled out for control and death.

Yellowstone Bison are Unique and Threatened

The wild bison in Yellowstone are not just any old bison herd. They are the only continuously wild bison left in the United States. They are the most significant bison herd free of cattle genes. They are a national and international heritage.

Most of the bison in the US are managed as commercial livestock and selection is for traits favorable to domestication.

Both the Buffalo Field Campaign and Western Watersheds Project have petitioned to have Yellowstone’s bison declared a threatened distinct population segment under the Endangered Species Act. An earlier attempt to get the bison listed in 1999 resulted in the Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to consider the listing, however, they did acknowledge that the Yellowstone population may be discrete and may meet the criteria for Distinct Population Segment.

To treat Yellowstone’s bison as political prisoners to promote the power control of the livestock industry is a national disgrace. The fact that this carnage has been on-going for decades without resolution is also a scandal.

Brucellosis

The goal of eradicating brucellosis began in the 1930s. Brucellosis causes cattle to abort their first fetus and is transmissible to humans as undulant fever.  Undulant fever causes flu-like symptoms in people. The brucellosis campaign was justified by health concerns and taxpayers have spent billions to eradicate the disease. However, since the major pathway for human infection was from drinking unpasteurized milk, once pasteurization became widespread, the human health threat was eliminated. Most cases today are due to people drinking unpasteurized milk and/or people who work with infected animals like veterinarians.

That hasn’t stopped the livestock industry from using the public health excuse to maintain federal funding to control brucellosis, even though it is now mostly an economic issue to the industry–i.e. the livestock industry loses calves when brucellosis infected cows abort them.

Today the last major reservoir of brucellosis in the United States is found in wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  Wild bison were infected on or before 1917 by domestic dairy cows that were once kept in Yellowstone to provide fresh milk to tourists.  Apparently, brucellosis has less serious effects on wild bison than domestic cattle because the population continues to grow in spite of infection.

The risk of brucellosis transmission from bison to domestic cattle is extremely low. Testing under controlled conditions by Texas A&M researchers demonstrated that, in theory, brucellosis from bison can be transmitted to cattle (cattle were swabbed with brucellosis bacteria obtained from an infected bison). However, there has never been a documented case of brucellosis transmission from wild bison to domestic livestock.

There are a number of reasons for this.

First, most wild bison pose no risk – bulls, calves, non-pregnant cows and cows with calves cannot transmit brucellosis to cattle. Only pregnant female bison can abort a fetus and this does not happen very often. If infected with brucellosis, the bison cow appears to reabsorb the fetus. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective because the risks and costs of calving are significant, and if the bison’s body is able to confirm the calf is infected, it makes sense to terminate the birth.

Second, an aborted bison calf would have to remain available for a domestic animal to find it and lick it. Given the abundance of natural scavengers including coyotes, ravens, magpies, and eagles found in the region, the chances that any infected bison fetus would remain on the ground more than a few days is extremely small.  Plus the bacteria is extremely sensitive to heat, drying out and so forth, and only remains viable outside of the body for short periods of time.

Third, the main time period for reabsorption and/or abortion of the fetus is in late winter (Feb-April), the chances this would occur on pastures in the Yellowstone area actively being grazed by domestic livestock is extremely small. All public grazing allotments are devoid of cattle, and even many of the private grazing lands are only stocked with cattle in the summer months.

Since the main way a domestic animal can contract the disease is by licking a brucellosis infected aborted bison fetus, the fact that this occurs very rarely limits the opportunity for transmission.

Other factors that also cut the chances of infection are vaccination/inoculation of cattle. A vaccine that protects cattle against infection exists, but it is not required in Montana except in the immediate area surrounding Yellowstone. While not considered 100% effective, the vaccine does significantly reduce the chance for brucellosis infection in domestic animals.

Finally even if an infected animal shows up in a rancher’s herd, it is not a total loss. The herd is quarantined while it is tested for the disease. Animals testing positive for brucellosis are removed (sold for meat), and the remainder of the herd can be  maintained.

To recap the probability of transmission of brucellosis to domestic livestock is extremely low. An infected bison cow must abort her fetus, something that apparently is very rare in wild bison, the bacteria must remain alive and the aborted fetus has to be missed by scavengers anxious to consume an easy meal. The aborted bison fetus has to occur where there is active grazing by domestic livestock—something rare in the colder regions where bison graze in winter months.  Finally a domestic animal has to find the infected fetus, lick it, consume an infective dose and be a domestic animal that was not effectively vaccinated.

As any statistical analysis would tell you, the chance of all these variables being met are almost zero. The threat of bison transmission to cattle is just a ruse to justify control of wild bison by the livestock industry who fear competition for forage from wild bison on public and private lands.

Because the brucellosis transmission scam is increasingly being questioned by scientists, and others, the latest excuse for killing bison is to “reduce” the population. You will hear people saying they are no longer shooting bison to prevent brucellosis transmission, but to “cull” the herd which has “grown too large.”

However, the only reason the herd is “too large” is that it’s bottled up in the park. The majority of wildlife winter range is located outside of the park borders, but unavailable to the bison because of the senseless demands of the livestock industry. If the vast amount of public land (and bison friendly private lands) outside of the park were available to bison, there would be no need for “culling” by any government agency.

Currently some bison that attempt to migrate from the park are killed by Indians and/or Montana licensed hunters in small confined zones close to the Park. All of this killing provides cover to the livestock industry. In addition, bison captured and slaughtered by the Department of Livestock or the National Park Service are given to tribes which also provides an easy way to put a happy face on what is in effect a totally unnecessary slaughter of unique and rare animals.

In effect, tribal members and Montana hunters are doing the dirty work for the livestock industry.

Room to Roam

At present there are almost no cattle that winter in the regions north and west of Yellowstone where bison migrate during harsh winters seeking food. Most of the public lands grazing allotments near West Yellowstone, as well as north of Gardiner, have been closed. Furthermore, many of the private land owners in both places actually support having wild bison on their properties.

In recent years seasonal “bison tolerance zones” have been established in the Gardiner Basin/Eagle Creek areas adjacent to Gardiner, and in the West Yellowstone area.  However, there is absolutely no reason we need “tolerance” zones in the first place.

Bison should be permitted to roam on public lands year round just like all other wildlife. There is no legitimate justification for the selective killing of bison. The brucellosis threat is nothing more than a subterfuge designed to garner control over our wildlife by livestock interests. Keep in mind that we do not automatically shoot wolves that leave Yellowstone. We do not automatically shoot grizzlies that leave Yellowstone. We don’t automatically shoot pronghorn, mule deer, or elk that leave Yellowstone.

Elk are among the major vectors for brucellosis transmission. Indeed, all 20 reported cases of brucellosis in GYE cattle were the result of elk transmission. In particular, elk concentrated on feed grounds as occurs in Wyoming are at a higher risk of contracting the disease from other infected elk. Estimates suggest that 35% of the elk on Wyoming feedgrounds are infected.  Thus one solution is to phase out and eventually close the feedgrounds in Wyoming to prevent disease transmission of brucellosis, as well as other threats to wildlife and livestock like Chronic Wasting Disease (better known as Mad Cow Disease), and give less reasons to the livestock industry to continue its brucellosis deception.

In addition to the above, the biggest factor that could change the game is if bison were listed under the ESA. If they were given the protection they deserve, the DOL would not be able to be so cavalier about killing these animals, and indeed, it would force the federal agencies like the Forest Service to work towards restoration of bison on federal lands. (Send donations to the Buffalo Field Campaign and Western Watersheds to help in this effort).

Currently all of Montana’s nearby state wildlife management areas including Dome Mountain, Gallatin, Bear Creek and Wall Creek are unavailable to bison. Also most of the Custer-Gallatin NF and all of the B-DNF and the Caribou-Targhee NF are off limits to bison. This needs to be changed. There is no justification for prohibiting wild bison from occupying public lands surrounding Yellowstone.

In addition to opening up adjacent federal lands on the Custer-Gallatin, Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests, and nearby state wildlife lands like Dome Mountain Wildlife Management Area, listing under the ESA could speed reintroduction to other suitable federal lands like the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge in Montana, on Bureau of Land Management lands in Wyoming’s Red Desert, and Idaho’s Craters of the Moon National Monument.

There are National Park Service employees who are strongly opposed to the annual capture and carnage of wild bison. Secretary of Interior Jewell could direct Yellowstone National Park to drop its cooperation in the bison slaughter and conserve bison under its natural regulation policy like it does for all other wildlife species. While this might not end the butchery occurring beyond the park borders, at the very least it would make the public aware of who is behind this slaughter—namely the livestock industry. At present, due to the participation of the Park Service, tribes, and even Montana hunters, the livestock industry is getting a pass in the public relations department. Most people assume that if the NPS is participating, than killing bison must be OK.

Keep in mind that livestock production harms many other species besides bison. . Everything from the killing of wolves/grizzlies to the destruction of sage grouse habitat to the dewatering of rivers critical to trout and even global climate change is a consequence of trying to raise beef for human consumption.  One of the easiest ways you can undermine the ranching industry is to eat less beef, and gets friends and neighbors to understand when they consume a hamburger, they are helping to kill wild bison, wolves, and other wildlife.

George Wuerthner has published 36 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy.