Sunday, July 8, 2018

Counting the carnage.

If you had $75 million and neighbors took nearly all of it leaving you merely 325 bucks -- how would you feel about them?

What if you had been given 75 million food producing plants to farm and someone came and uprooted and sold all but 325 of them, what would you do?

When explorers Louis and Clark arrived in America's West back in 1806, as many as 75 million wild buffalo or bison roamed the plains. Low estimates place the count at 30 million. That's a lot of beef! How many folks could that have fed for how many years?

The adventurers Louis and Clark encountered massive herds at South Dakota's White River and described the sight as "the moving multitude that darkened the whole plains."

By 1830, Americans began to systematically reduce the herds. Seventy-eight years after Louis and Clark first spied the beasts, the species had been decimated. There were only 325 wild bison left in the U.S. by 1884, with 25 in Yellowstone National Park. 

You'd think 74 million would be enough to bag and they could have left a million or so. Nope. 

According to a timeline from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, in 1870, two million bison were hunted and killed in the southern plains. German tanners had developed a method to process hides creating fine leathers. In 1872, as America prepared to celebrate its centennial in a few years, 5,000 bison were killed each day, every day of the year! Ten thousand hunters poured into the plains and one railroad shipped over a million pounds of bison bones. Manufacturers used them in refining sugar, making fertilizer and fine bone china. Hunting bison also became a popular sport among the wealthy. 

Conservation efforts by the turn of the century helped to salvage the devastated species. By 1990, there were about 20 to 25 thousand bison in public American herds, while another quarter million lived in private herds, kept for eventual slaughter and tender, lean meat sales. 

As America debates the second amendment and the right to bear arms, we often hear about our nation's hunting tradition as justification for no gun regulation. But the tale of North America's bison makes a strong, real-world case for common sense versus absolutes. Here's some haunting perspective from scripture: "For mine are all the animals of the forests, beasts by the thousands on my mountains. I know all the birds of the air, and whatever stirs in the plains, belongs to me." (Psalm 50:10-11)

And then Jesus added this vital detail, "... yet not one (sparrow) falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. Even all the hairs on your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (Matthew 10:29-31)

Eventually, cooler heads and clearer minds found a way to stop the shameful, massacre and carnage of bison. But it was too late. It should be easy for us to see the truth -- that greed is making it easy to kill people, just as it did in the 19th century slaughter of beasts. Guns didn't kill the buffalo, but they did make the job easier.

We need to conserve the human heard, unborn and born. Our creator is watching and counting. 

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