I don’t like bullies. Few people do. Yet, it seems like we live in a world where all of the rules are written by (and for) the bullies. Whether corporations seeking to absolve themselves of their responsibility to be good global citizens, governments seeking to secure natural resources (usually for corporate gain) or special interests striving to maintain the status quo, it’s the bully’s way or the highway.
So it is that we find ourselves, now more than 30 years into the effort to weave wolves back into their rightful place in the West, with wolves still only represented across less than 5% of their historic range; this despite the fact that we’ve got plenty of prey, land and public support to ensure the survival of wolves in the region for the foreseeable future. Clearly, 5% is better than nothing, and the government has managed to keep the species from going extinct. Were it not for the bullies, however, we’d be much further along the road to a restored wolf population.
Bullies with guns drove wolves (and grizzly bears) to extinction throughout much of North America, and the lobbies and legal firms that defend the legacy of those bullies continue to bully decision-makers into “keeping America wolf-free” (no doubt a patriotic act on par with fighting terrorism). Amazingly, these neo-bullies act as if every rancher (and hunter) in America hates wolves, when the truth is a few shades different. Amazingly, these neo-bullies represent a tiny fraction of our population and economy, yet their voice rivals that of The Mouse That Roared. Amazingly, most people are not aware of how disproportionately powerful these neo-bullies are.
Consider this: according to the Center for Responsive Politics, between 1990 and 2004, the livestock industry contributed an average of $3,310,896 to political campaigns and candidates for each two-year national election cycle (that’s right, every two years). Notably, these numbers do not include contributions for state-level offices.
During that same period, Sinapu’s annual budget has never breached the $250,000 mark. Money is muscle, and the livestock industry had enough muscle left over to give a hefty chunk away to politicians every couple of years, while groups like Sinapu struggle just to stay in the fight.
If the story of David and Goliath is starting to seep into your subconscious mind by now, it’s because you’re paying attention. Wild carnivores don’t have political action committees throwing down thousand-dollar checks for their favorite sons (oh, what a different world it would be!). In short, we have got to get stronger (and bigger) in order to successfully rein in the legacy of these bullies. I’m more confident than ever that we can do it though, because we have you and a growing legion of good citizens like you who dream of a wilder tomorrow.
So, herewith, I offer a challenge to all who want their children to inherit an America that once again has a writhing, howling, tail-wagging, elk-chasing, wild heart: for every dollar you spend on meat (especially beef and lamb), set aside a dollar to contribute to organizations that work to defend and restore wild America. How’s that for poking a finger in the eye of those wolf-hating bullies! If the scrappy tack doesn’t do it for you, then think of it as tithing for wildlife. Whatever works—just be disciplined about it.
At the end of the day, we will beat these bullies, and the wolves will sing up the moon. The more money we have coming in the door, the more staff we can hire to help us counter the political influence bought by industry lobbyists. Indeed, the more successful we are, the wilder America becomes.