Bison Association Angered by Misleading Media Report
Private Producers Dedicated to Protecting Integrity of the Species
Westminster, CO (April 20, 2012) – The National Bison Association this week expressed anger at untrue statements on two recent national media outlets concerning the crossbreeding of bison and cattle.
“A couple of national stories recently that were otherwise very positive on bison contained untrue statements regarding the mixing of bison and cattle in commercial herds. That is simply untrue. Bison ranchers are dedicated to the integrity of the animal, and the quality of the meat. Our customers expect nothing less,” said Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association.
In a report aired on Fox News last week, journalist Dan Springer noted that there are hundreds of thousands of bison in commercial herds, then added, “But nearly all of the buffalo are bred with cattle and raised as livestock for their meat.” A similar statement was made recently on NBC News. Both statements were made during stories covering the reintroduction of bison from Yellowstone to the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana.
Carter noted that the Code of Ethics of the National Bison Association explicitly prohibit members’ from crossbreeding bison with other species.
“Our members consider themselves as stewards of a species that was nearly lost to extinction 120 years ago. The restoration of bison on private lands is one of the brightest chapters in the remarkable restoration of this species.” Carter said.
Following the inaccurate news report last week, Carter contacted the Tribal Chair of the Fort Peck Reservation to ask for his support in making sure that journalists receive accurate information about the integrity of animals in private, public and tribal herds.
The issue of cattle genetics in bison stretches back to the “bottleneck” period when the species stood on the precipice of extinction. The bison in private and public herds today are descendents of the buffalo that were gathered by a few individuals who helped save the species from extinction at the end of the 19th century. Some of those individuals experimented briefly with crossbreeding bison and cattle. The resulting offspring did not display any “hybrid vigor,” so those individuals quickly abandoned the practice. Many bison today still care small traces of cattle genetics from that period in history.
While many ranchers today are testing their herds to selectively remove those traces, they are also careful not to eliminate important bison genetics that survived the bottleneck of near-extinction in the late 1800’s.
Carter noted that private, public and tribal herds are all important elements of the restoration of bison over the past century. The National Bison Association is currently working with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Intertribal Buffalo Council on new initiatives to highlight the success of those restoration efforts.