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Excerpt from The Myth of Human Supremacy

Old Bulls (p. 284)

From chapter "The Sociopocene"

Another bison story, another story of the failure of management. A few decades ago an Indian nation in Montana wanted to conduct a traditional bison hunt. They were mandated to consult with federal managers, who came up with a plan: the Indians were to kill the old bulls, those who were past their sexual prime, and as such, useless in terms of passing on genetic material. Everybody wins: the Indians get their food and hides, the bison herd doesn’t lose any necessary genetic materials (because the old bulls were too old to have sex ever again, the bison were, from a strict genetic perspective, already dead bulls walking), the federal managers get to kill some wild nature and file paperwork showing tangible actions leading to increased appropriations possibilities in the next fiscal year, and the human supremacists get to feel superior. Nonetheless, the Indians said that this is not what their teachings suggested. They insisted that the bulls had a role as elders in the bison community. The managers were unswayed by this non-scientific argument. In a fight between “teachings” and the tools of scientific management (backed by the full power of the state) scientific management nearly always wins, and the world generally loses. The only way the Indians could have their traditional hunt is if they killed the animals the managers told them to. So they did.

That winter the remaining bison starved. Life is way more complex than managers think it is. It is more complex than any of us think it is. It is more complex than we are capable of thinking. Montana winters are cold and the snow can be deep. Bison need to eat. How do they get through the snow to the vegetation beneath? It ends up that the old bulls are the only ones whose necks are strong enough to sweep away the heavy snow. They do this for their whole community.

As usual, the managers make the decisions, and others pay the consequences.