Yellowstone bison: The road to slaughter starts at home

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations


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.

(Please see 3/10/16 update in comments section.)

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).

“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:

It always bears repeating that the livestock industry’s intolerance is directly responsible for the buffalos’ current brush with extinction. We must put an end to livestock industry control over wild buffalo, and to do so we must repeal or amend the law…that places them in charge. … Please contact Governor Bullock today…and urge him to help repeal or amend MCA 81-2-120. With endless pressure, endlessly applied, we can end livestock industry control and help regain wild buffalo their rightful, ancestral place on the landscape.


  • “150 bison in Yellowstone’s…trap are about to be ‘processed'”Examiner
  • Animal Legal Defense Fund lawsuit 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.

16 Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I called and shared on three Facebook pages.

  2. You’re welcome, jpetullo. Thank you for spreading the word to save the herd!

  3. Reblogged this on "OUR WORLD".

  4. Looking at the individuals brutalizing the bison as shown in the video –their utter indifference to the experience of these living beings,
    their need to dominate, control, and inflict suffering, their total absence of any empathy or even awareness of the impact of their behavior–leaves me asking what were all the forces that created
    people who ended up in such a moral and emotional vacuum? How did they get there?

    If one wants to learn why there is so much violence in the world today,
    one can start by looking at the behavior of these people in Yellowstone.

  5. this is to f*cking depressing to read. i hope those rounding up bison fall off their horses and are trampled to death by bison. now i will never visit yellowstone.

  6. Nancy, thank you for reblogging & spreading the word to save the herd. Irene, yes, it’s the ‘cowboy way’ that’s so prevalent out here in the West. Animals are commodities to be (as you say) dominated and controlled. I think we can also look beyond the behavior of the people in YNP to all the consumers who keep the livestock industry in business with their dollars and their diets–they too have a hand in the violence against “livestock” animals and the wildlife who suffer because of ranching. Nancy, consider letting the park super know why Yellowstone has been crossed off your vacation list: Superintendent Dan Wenk: / / 307-344-2002. Thanks for your comments.

  7. I could not agree more, Kathleen, that the heart of the violence is
    animal agriculture. We now know — from the critical thinking on this
    issue as well as the tons of undercover videos of local farms, backyard farms, family farms, and factory farms–that all animal agriculture is based on violence. People can no longer pat themselves on the back and view themselves as “virtuous” by stating they only buy
    products that are falsely labeled as “Humane,” There is –no –such thing
    as humane animal agriculture. All these animals –without exception–
    are brutalized, mutilated, separated from their families and friends,
    and slaughtered.

    If people are upset by what happens to the animals at Yellowstone or in the wild, it is important to recognize that animal agriculture is the
    force behind these cruelties. Animal agriculture is a direct response to
    consumer demand for dairy, eggs, and meat. Every consumer has the power to help eliminate
    this industry by becoming a vegan.

  8. Irene: And yet, animal ag people dispute that what they do is *violent*. Don’t know if you happened to see this post–it really gets into it.
    “Save a hog, eat a teacher: Challenging animal ag”

  9. Kathleen: I did read your post when it came out and just reread it.
    It is a terrific piece–as all your writing is–and it took courage to
    write the letter in the newspaper to which these people responded–
    with verbal violence. Their comments parallel in language the physical and emotional violence that defines the industry they defend.

    Their responses also reflect the jumps and loops people will go through–the very wide range of mental gymnastics–in order to avoid looking at themselves–at their behaviors–brutalizing and slaughtering
    animals or paying someone else to brutalize and slaughter
    animals. At all costs, they need to avoid looking at the implications
    of their behavior and food choices and what it says about them.

    Most people have strong needs to see themselves in a positive way–
    i.e. as compassionate, kind, an animal lover, etc. Your article
    threatened their positive self image.

    Take it–unpleasant as it must have been to be verbally attacked–
    as a compliment. You got to them.

  10. […] Our thanks to Animal Blawg, where this post was originally published on March 6, […]

  11. Please leave these wonderful creations of god alone they need to free so the children can See them its amazing to See them free and wild so let’s find a way to let them be free

  12. From BFC’s 3/10 update from the field: “Thirty of the country’s last wild buffalo were loaded into livestock trailers inside Yellowstone and shipped to slaughter on Wednesday (3/9) morning by the InterTribal Buffalo Council. Approximately seventy more will suffer the same fate this morning (3/10). …The noise in the trap was deafening. Buffalo were slamming against the walls, ramming into each other, and bellowing in fear or to find family members. The sounds they made with their voices and their bodies took over everything. They were crammed into the trap’s “bull pen,” where park wranglers on catwalks — silent for the media tour, but normally “yipping” and hollering — jabbed and prodded them from above, forcing them to move to desired locations and where pushed into “the Silencer.” This squeeze chute is Yellowstone’s new machine which they claim to be more humane, but tell that to the wee calf we saw who had both of her horns broken off in that “kinder, gentler” apparatus. Every buffalo put up the fight of their lives, like the warriors they are. The little calves gave extra effort to escape with tenacious determination. They would jump, buck, thrust, kick and rear up, trying everything they could to break free. But they can’t. Sometimes they would jump too far, too fast, and the squeeze chute would close on their mid section, or their horns. They were so scared and tried so hard to get out. Their tails were curled into “nines” — the most unmistakable sign that a buffalo is in serious distress.”

    Please read the full eye-witness account and view the photos–the young bison with the bloody horn is especially heartbreaking. Following the account you’ll find suggestions for action you can take.

  13. Is it possible to get the people involved in the film and exposure of
    Sea World access to these videos, descriptions, and reports of the buffalo at Yellowstone? That film has resulted in a major financial
    loss for Sea World.

    Also, what about contacting reporters who work for mainstream media–such as the individual who wrote that major expose
    of the farm animal research facility that was in The New York Times.

    How exactly is this information being offered to people beyond the state? Individuals from all over the world travel to Yellowstone.

  14. Hi Irene–all good points that you make. BFC has developed a pretty savvy PR protocol over the years and has a very good PR person–news releases are sent to major media sources and often result in articles. The New York Times has published many, this one on the opinion page (if you ready any, read THIS one):

    This one as recently as yesterday:

    Another recent one:

    Here’s The Guardian (UK):

    The AP has a MT reporter who routinely sends out stories that are picked up by media outlets everywhere;

    ABC News:

    The Australian:

    Mother Jones, Outside, Vice…the list goes on. Films–this one made for PBS:
    Another: and more.

    That’s just a small sample of what has been published on the issue. I do know what you mean–none of this has had the effect of “Blackfish.” The dynamics of the two situations are quite different, however–plus SeaWorld, being a for-profit corporation, can be brought to its knees by bad publicity whereas here we’re dealing with a popular, worldwide destination national park and the state of Montana’s Dept. of Livestock. I don’t know the answer, either, but I can appreciate the thought you put into it…thanks.

  15. Thank you, Kathleen, for sending all the links which I have just read
    and viewed. The film, “Silencing the Thunder” is powerful and the comments by the two people from BFC are very moving.

    I have letters published at on animals which you can read by typing in my name at that website’s Search box and did write a letter to this newspaper criticizing the language of an article it published on bison–
    “Wanted: Bison Herders for an Annual Roundup in Utah. Tenderfoots Welcome.” The language in that article included phrases that reflected a total lack of understanding of the bison’s experience,
    their inner world, their psychological, emotional, and social needs.
    Here are some examples–“Western romance, chasing hundreds of bison toward corrals, the auctioned animals later became burgers, steaks, and jerky, toting well-worn bullwhips, the task as entertainment, urban desk workers craving respite from the tyranny of the computer, I’m a surgeon–it’s very boring compared to this, it’s an
    adrenaline rush to be on a horse chasing a wild buffalo, shouts and skyward whip cracks were appropriate means of coercion, horses are occasionally gored, Tyra Canary, 46…called the ride “therapy.”
    The NY Times did not publish that letter but what I was struck with
    in the links you sent was that not a single one–not even the op-ed that
    spoke of the political reality behind the barbaric cruelty to these animals–discussed the terror, confusion, and all around havoc that these animals feel. The articles just stated what was happening without touching on the animals’ viewpoint.

    The only places one gets that viewpoint is directly from BFC’s website or from your writing. I don’t know if BFC communicates that internal reality to the reporters it informs along with the facts –and the reporters do not write about it — or if it only communicates the external
    realities of the hunt, slaughter, etc. Either way–without that powerful
    language of what the animals experience going out to the mainstream
    media–most people will not become connected to the issue. So the muchness of the coverage does not translate into people caring. Using language that describes mothers being separated from their babies, the panic, fear, sudden and unbearable confinement, etc.–
    thats what triggers empathy from people.

    I was also struck with the female rancher in one of the films speaking as if she was on the side of all that is holy and sacred and petting her dog while she spends her life raising animals for slaughter. Again,
    it is the issue of people not being able to look at their own behavior.
    Really nauseating.

    I understand that SeaWorld is not Yellowstone but I do feel there is
    an opening for a comparison. I just called Yellowstone and listened
    to their recording of the different fees they charge. Are you saying
    they would not find it problematic if people world wide recognized
    that Yellowstone was engaged in horrific cruelty to animals and decided not to pay and visit?

  16. Hi Irene…here’s BFC’s latest news release (yesterday) which touches on the brutality:

    I don’t know what else to say. Reaching over 4 million tourists to refrain from visiting YNP…reaching consumers to quit eating beef…it’s a hard sell. Maybe BFC’s latest approach–working politically to change the state law that gives livestock interests jurisdiction over bison–will be more productive.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: