Cliven Bundy wants to continue raising cattle like his homesteading ancestors, back in the 1870's. He disagrees with the BLM's policy to protect the rangeland he  is using--against their regulations--and refuses to pay their established fees.

Cliven Bundy wants to continue raising cattle like his homesteading ancestors, back in the 1870’s. He disagrees with the BLM’s policy to protect the rangeland he is using–against their regulations–and refuses to pay their established fees.

Dunno where you are on the controversies surrounding Cliven Bundy’s stand against the Federal Government; there are arguments on each side that echo the same issues that Hamilton and Jefferson wrangled with, back in the day. But this controversy obscures an arguably more important issue: how sustainable is the production of meat?

Amid the swirling accusations of free range freeloading, federal overreach, and Harry Reid’s private interests, here was one thing that Bundy said to the press that caught my attention: 

“My cattle are the kind of cattle people look for at Whole Foods”

Now we’re more inclined to buy a tenderloin at Costco and carve it up at home for $10.99 a pound rather than to buy petit filets at Whole Paycheck for twice as much, but you get the point–whether or not we agree with Cliven, or even whether you’re a vegan or a carnivore, the meat he produces makes our mouth water.

First Creek

First Creek, which runs through the Red Rock Canyon National Preservation Area, 80 miles west of Bundy’s homestead. This is the type of ecosystem that the BLM is striving to protect from cattle. [photo by Alan Abrams]

And although I am a thoroughly urbanized city rat, I came of age adjacent to BLM country in Rio Arriba County, NM. I’ve had the pleasure of hiking in Cliven’s back yard, so to speak, in Red Rock Canyon, on the yonder side of Las Vegas from Cliven’s range. So I know a little about the environment that is at the root of the issue (see the second photo)

So I’m not going to pick sides with the Gummint vs The Cowboy. As Rheinhold Niebuhr says, “democracy is finding proximate solutions to insoluble problems.” I  do disagree, however, that self styled militias are the best way of achieving proximate solutions.

Rather I’ll say that our predilection for beef has serious impact on the environment. For the time being, I’m going to vote with my knife and fork–that is, I’m going to forswear beef unless I know it came from an environment that can sustainably support its production.