Happy Mother’s Day, Montana style: Mom and newborn wild bison hazed mercilessly

BFC photo

The tiny calf pictured was only four hours old and caught up in a hazing operation when the Montana livestock industry flexed its muscle. Mom hadn’t even shed the afterbirth before the harassment began. Regarding the photo, Buffalo Field Campaign reports:

Buffalo Field Campaign, based in West Yellowstone, MT, has been on the front lines of bison advocacy and activism for over a decade. Sometimes I wonder if wild Yellowstone bison would even exist anymore had it not been for BFC’s constant vigilance and dedication.

Yellowstone’s boundaries were drawn with politics, not ecosystems, in mind, leaving migratory animals without the lower elevation habitat so desperately needed as the park’s high elevation winter drags on. Most ungulates roam freely; most, except for bison–considered a threat by the Montana livestock oligarchy. Aided by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Yellowstone National Park, and the Gallatin National Forest (USDA-APHIS is also involved in bison mismanagement, and yes, our tax dollars fuel this travesty), the powers that be currently have incarcerated nearly 800 wild bison in holding pens at the park’s north entrance (Gardiner, MT), and have begun hazing operations at the West Yellowstone entrance to put bison “back in their place.”

What’s a pregnant bison to do? Her age-old wisdom tells her to head to lower ground where she’ll find less snow and greening grass, to migrate to traditional birthing grounds on sunny slopes. Here a calf can be born and nurtured.

But then the cattle empire strikes back, as it does every spring.

What can you do to help wild bison moms and babies this Mother’s Day? First, click here to read BFC’s full report with additional pictures. You’ll also find suggestions for actions you can take. Then read a letter from 17 members of the U.S. Congress to National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis asking him to scrap the flawed Interagency Bison Management Plan, the document that has guided bison mismanagement since 2000. (Since its adoption, over 3500 of America’s last wild, migratory, and genetically pure wild bison have been slaughtered in management actions.)

Finally, a shameless pitch for donations to Buffalo Field Campaign. I guarantee you, they are out there right now, monitoring, documenting, sending out news releases, presenting testimony to government officials, intervening through the courts–even directing traffic! Yes, some of the first grass to green up is at the edges of busy highways near West Yellowstone, and bison leaving the park through the Madison River valley are drawn to it. BFC personnel spend long days and dark, cold nights slowing traffic to prevent vehicle/bison collisions.

Because I’ve served on the BFC board of directors, I know for a fact how grassroots this organization really is, and that the handful of paid staff draws nothing close to a “living wage”–they do what they do out of love and respect for this most amazing animal, and volunteers from around the world join them. But activism isn’t free, even when most of the labor is donated. They need gas for patrols, video and camera equipment for documentation, ski equipment for winter patrols, computers for informing the world, and much more.

This Mother’s Day, if you’d like to give a gift to a wild bison mom–a gift that will work toward justice for the new generation of calves being born right now–channel a donation through Buffalo Field Campaign. They’ll see to it that your gift is delivered.

Update: For the sad outcome to this Mother’s Day story, clickhere.

This post first appeared on animal law blog, Animal Blawg, where comments are accepted.

Valentine’s Day: Nothing says “I want you (and the pig) dead” like bacon roses

Say “I love you” with bacon – click image for details

As Valentine’s Day approaches, the question on many a mind–or maybe just mine–is, Where’s the dissonance in “cognitive dissonance”? According to About.com Psychology,

An apt example of cognitive dissonance is the human propensity to love animals and to loathe seeing them suffer–nonetheless, to consider them tasty and edible even while suspecting (if not downright knowing) that the journey from lovable to edible requires suffering. If you’re one of those people, hang in there–we’ll talk you through it. Just relax and allow yourself to cognitively embrace the dissonance…

Arnold, pre-bacon (click image)

What set me off on this unharmonious path was a post I stumbled across at “pork, knife & spoon,” the official blog of the National Pork Board. (My motto: I troll meat industry websites so you don’t have to.) A February 7, 2012 post (update: link has gone dead) entitled “Valentine’s Day Gifts for Pork Lovers” shamelessly features cute pig gifts–as if cute pigs are entirely divorced from the horrors of meat production. You’ll find Beanie Baby piglets, pig figurines, pig-shaped cookies, pig jewelry, Arnold the Snoring Pig (a plush pig who wiggles and snores!), and more–and all offered without the least hint of irony. People love pigs in all their permutations, and the pork industry–and pig paraphernalia purveyors–know it. Compartmentalization is key here, people.

But notice how quickly things take an ominous turn from the cute and cuddly to the cured and crispy. This is where the cognitive dissonance comes in–or, more’s the pity, doesn’t come in. Here’s another plush pig that wiggles and oinks, but his name–Mr. Bacon–spells certain doom. Here’s one that enters the realm of the surreal, given that it’s at a site called Bacon Freak: The Sooo-weet Heart Plush Piggy:

Do these people really think we don’t know that the living, sentient stand-ins for the huggable, plush piggies are getting their adorable piglet tails and testicles cut off without anesthesia in factory farms this very moment? (Graphic photo: scroll down here.) Then again, given the secrecy surrounding industrial animal production, and the current surge by the industry–aided and abetted by willing state legislatures–to pass ag-gag laws criminalizing the ability to secretly record these atrocities, maybe we actually don’t know. Maybe we can have our piggies…and eat them, too.

photo credit & more-click image

While this doesn’t involve Valentine’s Day, it is a jaw-dropping, forehead-slapping example of cognitive dissonance at work: The Iowa Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival, held a few days ago. Yep, it’s in Iowa, the state that far outranks any other for factory farmed pig misery (according to the Factory Farm Map) with 17,938,431 suffering animals.

Got irony?Watch as children rush to get close to Bonnie, the precious piglet who served as the festival mascot. “Be gentle!” admonishes a parent (oh, if she only knew what lurks in Bonnie’s future…). Then, in an act of phony magnanimity, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (the very same governor who signed the nation’s first ag-gag bill into law last March) “pardons” Bonnie by proudly proclaiming her “free from the sizzle of the frying pan for this year’s festival.”

Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up. If Bonnie becomes a breeding sow, she’ll have 3-5 years before the sizzle catches up with her. In the meantime, cruelly confined, she’ll endure repeated cycles of impregnation, gestation, and birth. She’ll be robbed of her piglets before they’re weaned, and the cycle will begin anew until she’s just plain worn-out. The trip to slaughter will be its own special nightmare for the pig who once served as the darling of the festival.

But Bonnie, Shmonnie…forget about Bonnie! Back to Valentine’s Day! If red roses proclaim one’s love and passion, what do bacon roses say? Considering what the 2010 Harvard meat study revealed about cured, processed meats, they might be saying, “Happy Valentine’s Day! Let’s update your life insurance policy, dear!”

Now that you’ve confronted your dissonance, cognitively-speaking, here are just a couple of suggestions for Valentine’s Day observances. I know, I know, it’s beyond the last minute, but these gifts take just a couple of mouse clicks, and one of them doesn’t even require money. First, make a donation to your local farmed animal sanctuary (for example) in honor of someone special. Small sanctuaries are almost always looking for help with feed and electricity costs, especially at this time of year. In each and every one of those sanctuaries–guaranteed–are animals with stories as compelling as Bonnie’s. Next, announce your gift with a valentine e-card from Vegan Peace. Finally–and this is simply a suggested gift to give to yourself and the animals–if you’re still eating the Bonnies of the world, consider cutting back, going vegetarian, or going whole hog (couldn’t resist) by going vegan.

And you’re done, you compassionate devil, you!

Comment on this post at animal law blog Animal Blawg.

Golden eagles die from “snares upon theirs”

Montana Raptor Conservation Ctr.-click image

Yesterday we awoke to the news that three golden eagles had been caught in trappers’ snares set in Montana east of the Divide. Two are dead; one requires surgery to remove the cable now embedded in her wing and shoulder. Whoever came upon the bird was carrying cable-cutters (likely the trapper, but this is unknown); that individual cut the cable but provided no assistance to the severely-injured bird. Thankfully, she’s now in the care of the Montana Raptor Conservation Center in Bozeman (visit their Facebook page, which is the source of the accompanying photo).

There is no defense for the use of snares. They are designed for one thing only: to provide animals with a cruel, terrifying, and gruesome death, the wire cable cutting deeper into their bodies as the noose tightens the more they struggle. Often it’s the windpipe that’s crushed or cut; other times, as in the case with this eagle, the snare tightens around bodies, wings, or legs (graphic photo: what a snare does to a coyote; graphic video: a raccoon snared around the body, finished off with bullets). A Minnesota dog survived four days on the run with her mouth wired shut by a snare embedding itself in her flesh (video here) prior to being rescued and rehabbed; other dogs haven’t been as fortunate. And at least one human reports being snared by the foot. Snares are cheap and sold by the dozen…and by the hundred.

Missouri gov. coyote snaring guide – click image

Because snaring (and all trapping to kill) is indefensible regardless of whether the victim is targeted or incidental, enthusiasts tend to divert blame elsewhere. (We’ve seen the same thing happen in the gun debate. Outlaw guns because they kill people? Then you’d better also outlaw cars.) Check out the comments at the news story that opens this piece and you’ll find an entire school of red herrings on the deadliness of wind turbines, as if this somehow exonerates trapping. But in fact, bird deaths (in general) from turbines are rare when compared to bird deaths caused by collisions with windows, according to Clean Technica. Furthermore, bird-safe wind turbine technology is in the works. So while science and technology evolve to safeguard wildlife, trappers remain firmly rooted in the primitive past, wielding archaic devices of torture to kill for money, for fun, sometimes for food, and to rid their world of “nuisances.”

While wind turbines are indeed responsible for raptor deaths, they aren’t the only threat that eagles must face:

Our human-constructed world constitutes a deadly obstacle course for eagles and, frankly, for most wild animals (coyotes attempting to attend a Cubs game notwithstanding). But snares, unlike wind turbines, have but one express purpose and one desired outcome: the intentional death–cheap and easy–of a living being. That snares are of inherent, barbaric cruelty is of little consequence:

Addendum: This morning we awoke to news of a mountain lion caught in a wolf trap set just outside the boundary of Glacier National Park. The trap was illegally baited. A park employee, returning to the site later, unintentionally sprang another trap with his foot. News story here.

Update on eagle’s surgery–MT Raptor Conservation Center’s Facebook page.

Comment on this piece at animal law blog Animal Blawg.