Yellowstone National Park made headlines when it announced the end of its bison slaughtering. Comfrey Jacobs, a young American fighting for a cause that he was passionate about (sound familiar Care2 members?), stepped in to save the animal. While the plight of the buffalo is an animal welfare struggle, the story of Comfrey Jacobs illustrates how there are also American civic and ancestral freedom struggles at play.
This year, Yellowstone slaughtered 600 bison. Originally, between 300 to 600 animals were expected to be killed.
As reported in the Yellowstone Insider, hunters killed 100 in the north and 64 from the west boundary of the Park. The bulk of the animals, 258 bison, were shipped to nearby “tribal partners for nutritional and cultural purposes,” while 60 bison were shipped to the UDSA-APHIS for research purposes. There are approximately 4,000 bison left, in the park.
Who is Behind the Slaughter?
As expected, there is no one overriding entity. Let’s just say that it is very bureaucratic. Here are some of the players involved in the bison slaughter:
- National Park Service
- U.S. Forest Service
- Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
- Montana Department of Livestock
- Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks
- InterTribal Buffalo Council
- Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes
- Nez Perce Tribe
As reported in EcoWatch, the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) has set an “arbitrary” number of keeping the bison target population at 3,000-3,500. Yet a spokesperson for the Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) explained, “‘The IBMP’s population target is totally driven by politics with no basis in science.’” Some believe that the 3,000-3,500 target population is very conservative because the carrying capacity of the “Park can sustain upwards of 6,200 wild bison.”
Fighting for a Cause
You can thank Comfrey Jacobs for the end of the bison slaughter. Jacobs is a passionate individual committed to making an impact and fighting injustices. He turned to civil disobedience when he handcuffed himself to an orange 55-gallon barrel full of concrete in order to stop the buffalo from being loaded to trailers destined for slaughter facilities.
One concerned citizen taking action resulted in a huge amount of media attention; attention that Yellowstone National Park didn’t want. The day following Jacob’s demonstration of American civic duty, the National Park Service issued a press release informing that the bison slaughter had ended.
While this was great news for the bison, it wasn’t great for Comfrey Jacobs. In his attempt to protect a ‘national treasure’ like the bison, his civil disobedience could have serious legal consequences. As reported in EcoWatch, Jacobs was charged with “disorderly conduct, breaking a closure and interfering with a government operation.”
Despite these legal sacrifices, Jacobs doesn’t seem to have any regrets. Like he stated in the BFC press release: ”‘The National Park Service has neglected their duty as stewards, to respect public interests and preserve and protect the entirety of the Yellowstone ecosystem. I’m giving up some of my freedoms in hopes of re-establishing a free-roaming herd of buffalo in their traditional habitat.’”
Which Freedoms Matter Most?
Jacobs was willing to give up his freedom in order to reinstate free-roaming wild buffalo. Yet certain American Indian tribes do also have the freedom to hunt, use and eat the wild buffalo; a freedom rooted in historical injustices and cultural traditions. However, this doesn’t mean that there’s a consensus within and between the tribes.
As reported in Helena Independent Record, Jim Stone, the Tribal Buffalo Council’s chairman, explained that the group would prefer young and healthy bison shipped to existing herds and older animals used for slaughter. Stone said that the current process is not respectful to the animals, and the problem lies “‘with indiscriminate killing of buffalo.’”
Some tribal elders have even asked tribal leaders to request a hunt moratorium. In a BFC letter, James St. Goddard, “one of the ancient Blackfeet,” asked for a moratorium because, “We need to send a message to the whites, we need to send a message to the white Governments: to let this ancient buffalo herd regenerate itself.” Goddard also explained that standing for traditional freedoms would only strengthen treaty rights.
While the bison slaughter might have ended, the bison situation is still precarious; three Yellowstone Bison were already illegally hunted after the slaughter. All of the other freedoms interweaved in the animal’s struggle are also precarious. The buffalo embodies the spirit of our nation (the U.S. Army was even called in to protect the last band of purebred bison), and it deserves more respect. Please sign and share this petition demanding an end to the bison slaughter and help save an American treasure.
Photo Credit: David Hepworth