Campus Wild

Day 1: Meatless Monday

 

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#WildlifeWeek, Moose by Autumn Hostetler

Featured Wildlife: American Bison

#WildlifeWeek Day 1: Meatless Monday

“Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam”... Bison, nicknamed buffalo by early settlers, are an American icon, entrenched in the history of the West. But their North American habitat is now less than 1 percent of their historic range. They once roamed North America by the millions but were driven to the brink of extinction by wholesale slaughter and habitat destruction in the 19th century. Today they are reduced to a tiny fraction of their former range in small conservation herds, where they are continually threatened by genetic contamination by cattle, disease, domestication, ongoing habitat destruction and federal herd-management programs. Most bison herds are so small their populations aren’t even considered “minimally viable” by scientists, meaning they’re unlikely to survive challenges like disease or natural disaster. Despite this the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refuses to protect bison under the Endangered Species Act (2). Because of this bison that stray outside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park are often culled in order to “protect” livestock raised outside the park by commercial ranchers (3). Almost the entirety of bison’s historic range is now used by the livestock industry or urban development.


In 2008 nearly 2,000 migrating bison, or about a quarter of Yellowstone’s bison population, were killed by hunters and shipped to slaughterhouses by government agents (4). In 2015 the National Park Service proposed that 900 bison should be removed from the park and shipped to meat-processing facilities to “reduce population growth and the potential for a mass migration of bison into Montana” (5). The killing was officially defended with the claim that “mass migrations of many hundreds of bison out of the park have, at times, upset state and local governments and many private landowners and cattle operators” (6). It’s clear that dealing with the commercial interests of animal agriculture are paramount to protecting wildlife like bison.


Threats:

  • Habitat loss
  • Government killing programs
  • Disease from domesticated cattle

 

Key Threat From Meat Production: Habitat Loss

Wildlife face devastating loss on a daily basis, as human development encroaches on the land they call home. Habitat loss is a prominent factor in many endangered species’ decline. Agricultural and urban development have destroyed habitat; roads and houses have fragmented wildlife homes into tiny segments; pollution and invasive species have degraded remaining land (7). Habitat loss is a result of a wide variety of human activities; however, meat production consumes a shocking amount of land in the United States and degrades massive amounts of wildlife habitat. Almost half of the landmass of the lower 48 states is dedicated to raising and producing feed for agricultural animals that become beef, chicken and pork (8). Grazing cattle have destroyed vegetation, trampled land, damaged soils, contaminated waterways with fecal waste and disrupted natural ecosystem processes.


Protecting habitat is essential for wildlife conservation, and you can help by eating one less burger, chicken nugget or hot dog at a time.


For more information see the Center’s work to protect the Plains bison.