Activists are busy sharpening another dart to throw at ranchers — now they’re accused of sending the wildlife we love to watch (on TV) into extinction. But guess who’s pushing back?
A new campaign from the Arizona-based activist group Center for Biological Diversity — “Take Extinction Off Your Plate” — aims to persuade Americans to cut back on meat consumption. Nothing new there, right?
The campaign’s message, though represents a new wrinkle: Eat less meat and help save wildlife.
According to the Center’s campaign, the livestock industry is responsible for the “near extinction of iconic species like the Mexican gray wolf and the California grizzly bear.” That, plus the good old standby — meat production causes climate change — is why it’s necessary to replace meat in the American diet with plant-based foods, the group stated.
The campaign attracted the attention of National Public Radio, which ran a story and an online report on the Center’s initiative.
Here’s a few bullet points from Take Extinction Off Your Plate:
- Animal agriculture has taken over nearly half the landmass of the lower 48 states;
- Livestock have polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and groundwater in 17 states;
- Grazing is a serious threat to wildlife and ecosystems; the ecological costs of livestock grazing exceed that of any other western land use.
The first two points are wildly exaggerated, but it’s that last statement with which some environmentalists are taking issue, and in fact, several prominent groups contacted NPR to dispute the Center’s contentions.
“These commenters noted [that] we’d completely overlooked the many partnerships between conservation groups and ranchers to conserve grasslands and protect wildlife,” NPR’s report stated. “It turns out, they're right.”
Pushback from eco-groups
Those groups include Defenders of Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy and others, and their spokespeople made the case that raising livestock and protecting wildlife can be mutually compatible. It’s true that there are plenty of examples where improper use of rangelands — such as allowing cattle unfettered access to riparian areas and open water sources — as well as overstocking have damaged the resource.
And in a number of western states there has been conflict between ranching activities and preservation of wildlife habitat. But that doesn’t have to be the norm.