Yellowstone bison: The road to slaughter starts at home

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A young wild bison, separated from family, forlorn and frightened, is confined in a sorting pen at Yellowstone National Park’s capture facility. Click for photo credit & info.

The specter of death hovers over the world’s first national park. Approximately 150 wild bison have been rounded up within the boundaries of their ostensible refuge, Yellowstone National Park, and are being held in a capture facility–also located within park boundaries. They number among those who will be killed and those already killed this season–as many as 900–and they’re slated for shipment to slaughter–perhaps as soon as the week of March 7th. However, before they make that final migration, they’ll be further terrorized. Watch what transpires (see video) when these massive, wild animals of wide open spaces are confined in small capture pens and squeeze chutes: witness their terror; see how they injure themselves and their herd mates–observe the gaping wounds and the indignities endured before they’re crammed into livestock carriers for the terrifying ride to industrialized death.

It’s been impossible to get current footage of these atrocities–the national park has restricted access to the capture facility (a ‘safety’ issue), locking out citizen-taxpayer witnesses and the media. A lawsuit filed at the end of January by a journalist and an activist “argues that the First Amendment guarantees citizens and journalists reasonable, non-disruptive access to the publicly funded national park” (Animal Legal Defense Fund news release). The park subsequently announced that “media tours” will be given next week. Activists from Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) will be present to serve as eyes and ears for the rest of us who pay the park’s bills and love and respect the wildlife: “It is going to be extremely difficult for us to see what these buffalo suffer as they are run through this gauntlet of torture, but it is critical that the public know what Yellowstone is doing — on behalf of livestock interests — to the buffalo whom they are mandated to protect” (BFC update from the field). (UPDATE: Here’s what they saw.)

“Yellowstone’s slaughter of wild bison is as lacking in scientific reason as it is in public support,” asserts Buffalo Field Campaign in a March 3rd news release. The grassroots activist organization has been fighting state and federal persecution of wild bison on the ground and on the policy front for nearly two decades–a testament to both BFC’s staying power and the political power of Montana’s livestock industry. In fact, the Montana statute (MCA 81-2-120) enabling a management scheme that favors a for-profit special interest over national park wildlife “is almost entirely funded by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to back Department of Livestock management of wild buffalo. Without American taxpayer funding, Montana and Yellowstone National Park would have to change their ways” (news release, 3/3/16).

Annual culling operations by the national park and its management partners occur in addition to the hunting debacles carried out in Montana by state and tribal hunters. Just this winter, “hunters”–who wait outside park boundaries to slaughter bison as they cross into the death zone–have killed the disproportionate majority of 420 individuals dead so far in the 2015-2016 season. What effect are annual slaughters having on the unique genetics of the treasured animals in Yellowstone–the only place in the world where a wild bison herd has survived continuously since prehistoric times? Will we know when it’s too late?

What can you and I do? Thus far,Yellowstone has ignored the massive public outcry orchestrated by BFC. The group now suggests calling the White House. I did just that last Friday–it took under two minutes. I’m a taxpayer calling from Montana, I told the voice on the other end, to ask that the president intervene in the slaughter of Yellowstone’s native, wild bison. “Bison. OK. I’ll relay your message,” replied the volunteer operator. You don’t get to deliver a treatise (I wasn’t even asked my name), so plan on getting your point across in just a few words. The number is 202-456-1111.

Sure, it’s a long-shot, but what else have we got? Well, we’ve got this, from BFC:

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LEARN MORE:

  • “150 bison in Yellowstone’s…trap are about to be ‘processed’” – Examiner
  • Animal Legal Defense Fundlawsuit articles
  • “Wild Bison in the American West,” a post written in June 2013 for Britannica’s Advocacy for Animals (offers background info)
  • Those who are able might consider making a donation to Buffalo Field Campaign. They operate on the thinnest of shoestrings.

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