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Hi, my name is Jim Macdonald, and I have an odd assortment of interests. In no particular order, I love Yellowstone, I am an anti-authoritarian activist and organizer, and I have a background in philosophy, having taught at the college level. My blog has a lot more links to my writing and my other Web sites. In Jim's Eclectic World, I try to give a holistic view of my many interests. Often, all three passions show themselves interweaving in the very same blog. Anyhow, I think it's a little different. But, that's me. I'm not so much out there, but taken together, I'm a little unusual.

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    Thursday, June 19, 2008

    Newspaper article misrepresents Buffalo Allies position on brucellosis and bison management

    Appearing in today's Missoulian and Billings Gazette, Lee Newspapers reporter Jennifer McKee misrepresented the press release of Buffalo Allies of Bozeman.

    I wrote the following letter to McKee in response.

    Ms. McKee,

    I am writing on behalf of myself and not the group I am a member of - Buffalo Allies of Bozeman - regarding your article today that appeared in some newspapers on the brucellosis issue as it relates to corriente roping cattle. Though I am writing for myself alone, I am quoted in the press release that we sent out, and I helped edit and distribute the release.

    I believe there is a severe misrepresentation of what's said in the release, and I hope to set the record straight - hoping that the papers will correct the mistake or at the very least that you will give written acknowledgment of the error.

    You write about Bozeman Allies of Buffalo:

    "Another wildlife group, Buffalo Allies of Bozeman, put out a statement calling for Gov. Brian Schweitzer to pull out of the current brucellosis management plan because Corriente, not bison, were behind the outbreak."

    In fact, this is wrong on two counts.

    What we say in our press release regarding corriente is the following:

    “The current rhetoric from state officials refuses to consider that diseased Mexican Corriente roping cattle may have been the source of the outbreak in Pray. Let’s stop pouring tax dollars into a failed plan, where we spend more than what Montana’s economy will suffer for losing its brucellosis-free status.”

    First of all, we don't say that corriente were involved; we say that they may have been the source of the outbreak. Secondly, and more importantly, we never say anywhere in the release that Schweitzer should pull out of the management plan because of corriente, especially since we don't identify corriente as the cause. What we say here and elsewhere in the press release is that bison weren't involved since they have not been in the Paradise Valley near that ranch in a long time, that the continued slaughter and hazing of bison did not prevent brucellosis, and that the IBMP has cost more over time to implement than it will cost Montana for losing its class free status (especially absurd given that buffalo were certainly not the cause - and note that we do not identify the cause and merely tangentially suggest what might have been the cause).

    So, we never say that corrientes "were behind the outbreak"; we never call on Schweitzer to pull out of the plan "because Corriente" were behind it. All that's correct is that we have called on Schweitzer to pull out of the plan and that we believe it's not possible that bison were behind the outbreak.

    As a new grassroots group in Bozeman, this is the first mention of our relatively new group in the newspapers that this appeared in; it's not helpful to our group to have our press release and therefore our group misrepresented. I ask again that you would correct this for us.

    Thank you for your research on corrientes; I'm not sure that what you've written proves definitively that the cattle was not involved; however, I did find the piece informative. If anything, it only deepens the mystery of the source. However, no matter what, what's been happening with cattle and brucellosis in Montana only further is exposing the absurdities of the Interagency Bison Management Plan.

    Most Sincerely,
    Jim Macdonald

    Update: McKee wrote me back saying that she believes her report is "essentially accurate" but failing to elucidate what is essentially accurate. about it.

    2 Comments:

    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Well, this is an interesting "CYA" response, now that everyone knows Corrientes aren't the cause. Poor "Buffalo Allies of Bozeman" - another group who doesn't have a clue. How do you know bison didn't cause this? - the investigation isn't complete! Are you aware of the 1983 US Animal Health Association report showing free ranging bison infecting cattle with brucellosis? I doubt it. Do your research. Learn the real story. The GYA bison are up to 50% seropositive. Don't believe the "exposure" malarky to explain that. The antibodies are antigen driven - meaning there must be bacteria present in the animal's body to cause a positive blood test. A positive animal is NOT immune - quite the contrary!The brucella antibody half-life is about 3 weeks - meaning if the animal was able to fight off the disease (which a few do), they would be test negative very quickly. If they test positive, they are likely infected. Bison and elk swap the disease back and forth and it spills over into cattle when the populations get to record levels, as they were earlier this year. The incubation period is perfect for it to show up now. Learn about the disease before you try to take a stance. I'm a vet - been dealing with this for years. These outbreaks were predictable, when you know the epidemiology of the disease. Too bad all those on the chats don't take the time to learn before they express opinions.

    6/19/08, 6:16 PM  
    Blogger Jim Macdonald said...

    Well, this is an interesting "CYA" response, now that everyone knows Corrientes aren't the cause.

    The article doesn’t prove that Corrientes aren’t the cause; the article simply asserts the claims of the livestock industry. I frankly couldn’t give a crap whether Corrientes were involved. The point of bringing them up was to wonder out loud why other potential causes aren’t being investigated and why bison are always such an easy scapegoat for this “problem” of brucellosis.

    Poor "Buffalo Allies of Bozeman" - another group who doesn't have a clue. How do you know bison didn't cause this? - the investigation isn't complete!

    Bison could not have been the cause because there are no bison in the Paradise Valley and have not been bison in the Paradise Valley. Five bison almost made it into Tim Miner Basin this winter and were promptly shot before they could make it to a wildlife friendly rancher and the Dome Mountain wildlife area. All the buffalo were being killed by the National Park Service way south in the Gardiner Basin.

    Are you aware of the 1983 US Animal Health Association report showing free ranging bison infecting cattle with brucellosis? I doubt it.

    As has been noted by several others, this is not the same thing as the claim that wild bison have not transmitted brucellosis. But, if you want me to claim that it’s not possible, I’m not going to make that claim. There are others, like Robert Hoskins, who have taken a stronger view than I would and would even go so far as to say that elk that are wild (not the feedlot elk) can’t even transmit the disease. Personally, I would never go that far because I don’t think that argument matters. Brucellosis is not at all what the issue is about. The cost of brucellosis is essentially meaningless compared to the cost of prevention against it. But, if you really want to see my radical stripes, I personally (this is NOT the view of my group) don’t believe that anyone has the right to cattle ranch anywhere. As I’m sure you’ve noticed – since you are big on research and have researched me and what I believe before posting on my site – I don’t believe in capitalism – certainly not using animals as capital.

    One anomaly that has to be explained, though, if we are to take the views who take the Hoskins view is why it is that cattle and bison in Grand Teton, who graze on the same land inside the park – where bison have brucellosis – have never transmitted the disease.


    Do your research. Learn the real story. The GYA bison are up to 50% seropositive. Don't believe the "exposure" malarky to explain that. The antibodies are antigen driven - meaning there must be bacteria present in the animal's body to cause a positive blood test. A positive animal is NOT immune - quite the contrary!The brucella antibody half-life is about 3 weeks - meaning if the animal was able to fight off the disease (which a few do), they would be test negative very quickly. If they test positive, they are likely infecte

    Bison and elk swap the disease back and forth and it spills over into cattle when the populations get to record levels, as they were earlier this year.

    Elk were not at record levels; their levels have been much lower in recent years due to wolf predation and drought. Buffalo were almost at record levels; however, they were not permitted anywhere near Pray because they were killed. So, while that doesn’t disprove that elk were involved (I happen to think they probably were the cause, something that would not make my friends in the Gallatin Wildlife Association happy), it does make the point you are making here sketchy. There weren’t bison anywhere near the area, there weren’t elk at record levels.

    But, in the end, my attitude is so what? Is brucellosis a reason to provide artificial boundaries to wildlife – whether they are elk or buffalo? What is so important about a brucellosis free status? And, if it’s that important, then you’d be better off spending your time having APHIS change outdated penalties for brucellosis. As we’ve been told, the meat supply is safe no matter what. If livestock interests are so important to protect, then it’s up to them to keep their cattle separate from wildlife; if it’s so important, then this industry should change it’s rules.

    Or, is this about grass? Isn’t that the real story? Why are we running from the values discussion and engaged in this smokescreen about brucellosis year after year?


    The incubation period is perfect for it to show up now. Learn about the disease before you try to take a stance. I'm a vet - been dealing with this for years. These outbreaks were predictable, when you know the epidemiology of the disease. Too bad all those on the chats don't take the time to learn before they express opinions.

    You may be a vet, but this isn’t a question of science so much as it is a question of values assumptions masking itself in the guise of scientific discourse. Brucellosis is not the issue.

    6/20/08, 9:04 AM  

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