Monday, November 26, 2018

We Have More to Fear from Livestock than from Wolves

I often wonder why the drive to delist wolves never ceases. The livestock industry leads the charge with their claim that wolves killing livestock threatens ranchers' livelihoods. Their claim is not only wrong, it’s a smoke screen that hides the real problem: The livestock production that sustains ranchers harms the ecosystem that sustains the rest of us. 

Livestock production is the largest driver of worldwide habitat loss, according to a study in the journal Science for the Total Environment. The study finds that increasing livestock production in developing tropical countries harms our planet’s biodiversity, because tropical countries are where most biodiversity now survives.

The study analyzes meat consumption in sixteen countries and calculates that animal products make up almost half our nation's diet. We consume more animal products than all but one of the other countries.

The study’s authors, Brian Machovina, Kenneth J. Feeley, and William J. Ripple, conclude that livestock production is a leading cause of climate change, soil loss, water and nutrient pollution, and the decline in apex predators and wild herbivores.

Meanwhile, other studies show that wolves don’t have such harmful impact. Instead, these essential predators actually improve the ecosystems in which they are allowed to live. From giant aspen to tiny beetles, a life-improving benefit trickles down where wolves are allowed to live.

Denying how wolves benefit our world, the livestock industry in the US fabricates a wolf problem and then promotes a way to deal it: Strip away Endangered Species Act protection and allow wolves to be hunted. One bullet at a time, the fabricated wolf problem will disappear.

Delisting bills that pass do so because bill supporters frame the gray wolf as a violent predator and tell stories of the animals killing livestock or pets and wreaking havoc in other ways.

But what can the rest of us do about the real—and much bigger—problem: the trampling of habitat and biodiversity under the hooves of livestock? The study’s authors suggest solutions; here are two:

1. Reduce the demand for animal-based food products and increase the demand for plant-based foods.

2. Replace cattle, sheep, and goats with more efficient protein sources such as poultry, pigs, and integrated aquaculture.

Livestock producers, their hired guns, and their political allies know that solutions such as these will be more costly and cause more grief than wolves ever have or ever will. Reducing the demand for cattle, sheep, and goats will drive some ranchers out of business. Some survivors will have to struggle to raise livestock in a more ecosystem-friendly way. Some will have to finance the costly move to producing poultry or pigs. So to avoid all this, the livestock industry keeps beating the Big Bad Wolf drum.

But the rest of us must acknowledge the real problem: We have far more to fear from livestock than we do from wolves. We cannot sacrifice our country’s life-sustaining habitat and its irreplaceable biodiversity—which includes wolves—for the benefit of a good steak and the ranchers who produce it.  

This post based on a chapter from the bestselling In the Temple of Wolves.

In the Temple of Wolves; its sequel, Deep into Yellowstone; and its prequel, The Wilds of Aging are available signed

My books are also available unsigned or as eBook or audiobook on Amazon.


  1. As a livestock owner and a wolf lover I have to take issue with this blog as being unrealistic and much too simplistic. What we need is a complete change in the way we raise and consume livestock, especially beef. Most of the ecosystems in North America evolved with herbivores because only they can recycle the nutrients from plants. Here's my thoughts:
    1. Remove cattle from all public lands.
    2. Produce only grass-fed cattle. No grains.
    3. Convert most of the corn and soybean farms of the mid-west to grass for cattle.
    4. Close all CFAO of cattle, pigs and poultry (huge polluters) and instead create integrated livestock operations to build soil and healthy plants which are used to feed these livestock and people.
    5. Promote regenerative small farms and ranches.
    The solution proposed in the journal article you refer to does nothing for the long term health of the land or people.

    1. Homesteading with the Wild. I assume that we agree with livestock production as practiced today being a serious problem for the ecosystem. I like the solutions that you propose. I recommend that readers visit your blog for more on your ideas.