Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"They Actually Eat That:" Bouffalant.

OK, no, people don't really eat Pokemon. We do, however, eat buffalo (Bison bison).

Since man first found buffalo (or bison, take your pick), man has known that the animal was good for eating. The Native Americans used every part of the bison from meat to coats to eyeballs. The eyeballs were a treat for the young'uns. We said every part and we meant it.

The first settlers on the plains also discovered that bison were good eating. Instead of trying to economize the bison and make sure some still lived, however,  the settlers proceeded to ravage the native population. There were only a few hundred left by the mid-1880's. Whether this was because they came in droves, because they didn't know a thing about the environment they had entered, or because bison meat was just that damn good is not certain. There was also a huge demand for anything bison in Europe, further spurring the animal toward extinction.

The bison were not amused.

Of all the things the European settlers did, nearly annihilating the bison was the second worst. (The first was the collection of anti-Native events, obviously.) Bison were the only creatures the plains had that kept the prairie grasses at a manageable level. If you mess with tier 1 of the food pyramid, the whole thing collapses. Way to go, free market.

There were exactly four herds of bison that managed to survive to this day. The most famous was a herd started from exactly five wild calves caught by James "Scotty" Philip in South Dakota. Another was brought by boat to Antelope Island, Utah, and is today one of the largest publicly-owned herds in North America. A third breeder in Texas bottle-fed a few bison calves and now has the third captive herd. The only truly wild bison herd is the one in Yellowstone, Wyoming. To summarize: Responsible captive breeding was just about the only thing saving North America from severe ecological damage.

So, after this little fiasco, you'd think we'd have learned our lesson and stopped hunting bison, right? Nope. Hunting is still legal, albeit tightly controlled, in Utah. Eating buffalo is still a thing. We just know what we're doing, now. The bison we eat are all (or, mostly) farmed. Hell, we've even been able to hybridize them with cows. They're called "beefalo." They were bred solely to be eaten, so don't look so shocked when you see buffalo on the menu.

1 comment:

  1. They are JUST THAT TASTY! But that's not why they kiled them, it was basically a plan to completely eliminate the Native Americans since most treatise with plains indians stipulated they could only maintain their freedom as long as they could survive by hunting Buffalo as was their tradition. So they killed off the buffalo. Just like they did in the pacific NW with the Salmon dependent tribes. Make a treaty giving them the right to survive on their ancestral lands by fishing salmon, then ten years later dam the river. At least eating Bison will probably end up saving this species from extinction the Salmon are a hell of a lot harder.