The Bison Industry

The Bison Industry

                  Moth – or flame?

We’ve all heard the saying, ‘Like a moth to a flame’. While discussing the need for multiple news sources about bison, my wife suggested calling a news letter ‘The Flame’. I thought it was a great concept, but as it occurs quite often: my mind went to about three interpretations, metaphors and uses simultaneously and I couldn’t help thinking that it might be a good way to possibly incept a quandary.

This piece might be considered ‘a-musing’ by some and by others maybe a way of examining the behavior of the bison industry as a whole. To attempt breaking cycles that have at least the potential to impact the species and the industry negatively and its rightful claim to unprecedented restoration-stewardship, is at least an aim not devoid of merit.  We celebrate and we espouse, we defend and we promote, we are ‘the flame’ that others ‘like us’ are drawn to. But we become so busy talking to each other that we have missed out on managing the inevitable evolution of other flames. The ‘other flames’ seem to be drawing the attention of exponentially more moths, including many that have previously been drawn solely to a single and common-sense flame: the bison industry.

Today, the compartmentalization of the modern bison reality is clear and present. It’s firmly established and contains many flames and many moths of all kinds being drawn for reasons of paradigmatic favor and ideological prejudice. All the while, our shaggy friends out there remain unaware as we ‘cry havoc and let slip the ‘dogmas’ of war’ J While the latter is a bit over the top, and I admit not being able to resist, the former is very much the current state of affairs. Our shaggy friends may be out there and unaware, but they most certainly can be affected by flames fueled for any purpose that disregards the value of Meta population growth or the premise of letting time teach us what matters.

Science tells us, this week_: that we have genetic remnants of domestic cattle in about .0042% of the species population at a level of less than 1%.  Science also tells us that this is problematic, but with less than 7% of the species actually tested and without the benefit of a completed gene sequencing project. The moths attracted to the ‘purity flame’ paraphrase and report good-science badly by stating in the news, as a matter of fact, that ‘all or most’ private commercial bison contain cattle genes and/or, are_ hybrids. Please re-read this again just to hear how ridiculous the conclusion sounds when 4th grade math is applied. So, what’s the big deal right? I propose that this flame has gained the attention of a thousand times more moths because of simple packaging and promotion. When shoppers buy bison, they want bison they can trust. When they trust and buy bison, they sustain the herds and participate in species restoration. If the industry would only allow the consumer to actively participate in commerce-based conservation of American bison, to the benefit of their health and the health of the environment, our flame would grow and attract all moths, of all kinds – all the time.  Instead, our flame is considered less attractive because we produce instead of preserve. Our flame is attacked because we sell instead of solicit for donations. Our paradigm is being framed as bad for the species because of management which includes vaccines and feeding, because of how it compares to a cinematic perception.  Once parks and conservation models reach a stocking rates allowed, they must become livestock operations and required to manage in order to conscientiously steward, no differently than the bison rancher.  Some do that now, while others become immersed in virtual reality and deny the herd, the land and the entire model sustainability in the name of wild. Wild is fast evolving into another bison paradox with the potential to ‘buffalo our consumers’, law makers and neighbors into believing in a virtual world as opposed to the real one.  In this economy, parks and conservation models should be writing business plans more now than ever that values the bison as a dual purpose animal to the benefit of the ecology, native land-use strategy, fiscal responsibility and preservation for future generations – sustainably! But they are not. Furthermore, they become associated with attacks on the 95%, which is actively engaged in commerce and restoration simultaneously. The ‘wild card’ or flame, is also cause for cultural clash that results in re-opening myth and misperception wounds that are clearly antagonistic to the restoration of both the ecology and the species-population.

What are we doing about it? We’re out there where the buffalo roam, counting and caring, selling and promoting, buying and leasing land, working on wildlife plans and business plans and while we rest, or between break-downs, wondering what the hell to do about it. This is the modern reality of the 95% minority. That’s right: minority! The folks that historically and currently restore and care for the species by a margin of 95%. We have become the minority because we are too busy working, while altruism in the virtual world rampantly communicates with our consumers with inceptive paraphrasing, half-truths and forked tongues. This sometimes causes a behavior among bison ranchers known as; well… let’s just call it ‘moth mutiny’. Jumping from flame to flame, disenfranchising the abandoned and capitalizing whatever we can to the benefit of our herds. Not unlike our animal, we migrate as needed, for reasons of and to: the promise of sustenance. Imagine the confusion among our consumers as they consider bison, bison ranching or just plain learning about the animal. The fracture is deep and we might consider talking about it in venues that get to the masses, from the perspective of the 95% minority.

All we have to do is tell the truth. No spin, no hype, just the truth. It’s all there in the bodies of scientific research. It’s all there in the history of bison and its all there in the increasingly unveiled ecological-restoration that bison, as a native grazer, represents. We don’t have to preach grievous statements or insensitivities. When we speak to our consumers, we need only hope to include them, as partners, in the most effective wildlife species restoration accomplishment in the history of the planet simply by participating in the economy of it. Our consumers are the type to read all about it, including the fine print. We just need to give them some reading material on close intervals and in venues that result in viral regurgitation by the press.

We can say things like: Save the buffalo – buy bison, or use words like commerce-based conservation because when sales are steady and strong the herds grow and bison are truly conserved on the American landscape. Invest in ‘wild America’ when you shop, is another truthful marketing concept and consumers of food today are looking for plausible truth in nutrition without dubious distinction because of scientific bureaucracy. Consumers are having more and more trouble trusting science when it comes to food. We should shutter at the thought of excessively-scientific bison. We should refrain from methods and analysis that places this trustable native red meat in the scientifically over analyzed and bureaucratically managed category with commodities. The latter may also task the conventional bison communities on the value of showing bison for status or higher prices with regard to what that mechanism simply has to set in motion, potentially affecting the species. Or not, and just work to keep it simple, all about a genetic exchange and a diversity vehicle. With regard to purity, why not tell it from the perspective of science and say that we don’t know what that is, nobody does, and science tells us we may never know. Follow that with the concept clearly stated by the ‘minds of our time’ in conservation communities with: the real objective is more bison on more land, period! That brings you right back to ecological restoration and how bison fit in to it, as well as how the consumer can help. That’s a flame that every moth can, and will come to, and it’s the truth.

We just have to decide to be a moth, or be the flame. I also believe that we embrace the fracturing of our own community over ideological prejudice without realizing how it must cloud the reality with our consumers. We’ve seen this in the grass vs. grain, the pure vs. ‘what’s-pure?’, humane vs. ‘don’t go there’, conservation vs. production and the good vs. evil discussions, debates and straight-up wars that have occurred in our industry. Having the strong debates and controversy only means that we put the ‘GO’ in NGO for bison, which makes us the most positive restoration vehicle, so long as we pull together and refrain from fracture. Identifying our strengths and timely messages that have the potential to yield participation from our consumers, is a necessary course of action and a matter of due diligence. We have taste, ethics and health benefits, but the halo of restoration, conservation and preservation is being stolen in broad daylight, right before us, and it at least seems as if we choose not to act, but rather only to react in hopes of further explanation and/or retractions.

We have the ability to become ‘The’ flame to which moths of every kind are attracted for the simple reason that we are the best, the biggest, the brightest and most trustable flame of all.