WHO WEARS THE PANTS IN MONTANA? Wild bison and the Orwellian state

Raise your hand if you’ve had measles.

OK, those of you with your hands up? We’re going to permanently remove you from the population—just as a safeguard—in the name of disease risk management. What, you’re objecting? Well, yes, that’s true—evidence of past exposure doesn’t mean you’re actively infected now or that you can transmit the disease, but that’s a minor detail, isn’t it?… and better safe than sorry, right? So off you go, the line forms here.

Buffalo Field Campaign photo

Culling humans for measles exposure makes no more sense than culling Yellowstone’s wild bison for brucellosis exposure. In Orwell’s 1984, the Ministry of Truth kept propaganda flowing to protect the ruling class much as the livestock industry and state veterinarian Marty Zaluski (Big Brother?) function in Montana: they pump out misinformation until proven wrong, and then continue to insist on it anyhow.

According to Zaluski, the heavy-handed “brucellosis containment efforts” (Orwellian “Newspeak” for hazing, capture, and slaughter) are not likely to change in the short term, even though no wild bison has ever—in over 90 years—transmitted brucellosis to domestic cattle, from whence the disease originated. The brucellosis red herring stinks to high heaven by now; we all know the zero-tolerance policy for wild bison in Montana is meant to preserve livestock supremacy–who controls the land, who gets the grass. Who wears the pants.

In livestock industry Newspeak, America’s last free-roaming bison are not wildlife, but “animals in need of disease control.” And in 21st century Montana, even those who test negative often go to slaughter, proving that “disease control” is just so much doublethink. Even the National Park Service plays along; in another jaw-dropping Orwellian twist, the agency charged with protecting America’s native wildlife has asserted its right to capture for slaughter nearly half the herd of 3700 animals. This comes in the face of an emergency injunction filed by Buffalo Field Campaign and others to stop the slaughter, and at a time when genetics experts are warning that the indiscriminate culling could spell doom for the population’s survival. It has already wreaked havoc with their intricate family and herd social structure.

Nonetheless, a judge has cleared the way for slaughter of a living national treasure–based on antibodies in their blood and the “time honored” tool of lethal removal, calling it necessary to “…protect the species, the habitat, and the public.” Kill them to save them…do you sense Orwell smiling? But wait, the governor then stopped shipment to slaughter. While this is a good development for bison, the governor has based his order on…you guessed it…the threat of brucellosis to Montana livestock even as the poor beasts are en route to slaughter! Stay tuned for the next political skirmish in the Buffalo Wars.

Bison need to migrate out of Yellowstone at this time of year, when deep snow buries their forage on the high elevation plateaus. Had Yellowstone’s boundaries been drawn with ecosystems rather than politics in mind, there’d be no problem. Now that we know better, we need to accommodate bison on adjacent public land in Montana where they belong. But fearing that wild bison restored to Montana will cut into livestock grazing, the Cattle Empire strikes back again and again, and the entire nation pays the price. Imagine a Yellowstone National Park without buffalo!

According to Big Brother Zaluski, the need for additional bison habitat is “…like buying another pair of pants because you keep getting fatter. At some point you’ll grow out of those pants too.”

Well, that works only if you’re buying and wearing your own pants. But a handful of Yellowstone-area ranchers continues to grab the citizens’ pants—the public lands bordering the park—for their own. Meanwhile, the lives of over 500 wild bison, currently suffering in crowded capture pens, hang in the balance.

Montana is called “the last best place,” but for native wild bison, it’s all too often simply the last place before the slaughterhouse. The Montana livestock oligarchy, bloated with entitlement, has outgrown its own pants. It’s high time they get the hell out of ours.

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