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‘Wolf-friendly beef’ idea patronizing to ranchers

A "wolf friendly" beef marketing label is not a substitute for a viable wolf management plan that includes a host of control options, including lethal measures for problem wolves.

Published on October 8, 2015 12:18PM

Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press

Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press

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There isn’t anyone who hasn’t said something that sounded better in their head than it did when they said it out loud.

That’s what we thought when we heard that conservation groups in Washington participating on the state’s wolf advisory panel suggested helping ranchers by creating a premium label for “wolf-friendly beef” for producers who employ Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf protection measures.

Dan Paul, state director of The Humane Society of the United States, said as with cage-free eggs, some consumers would be willing to pay more for beef raised with wolf protection measures.

Really?

First, we’d point out that all beef raised on grazing land in wolf country is “wolf-friendly.” It all can fall prey. Ranchers in Washington and Oregon can’t legally shoot a wolf, as they are protected either by state or federal law. In fact, we would argue beef protected by extensive measures championed by the panel is less friendly to wolves. If the measures work — and producers say the results are mixed at best — wolves have to work harder for their meal.

Second, we think the number of people who would pay more for beef in order to somehow help wolves would be small.

Though we don’t necessarily think it’s true, people who buy cage-free eggs believe they’re getting a better quality product because of the way hens are treated. The reasoning goes that cage-free hens are exposed to less disease and stress, therefore their eggs are better.

But there is no corresponding perceived quality enhancement for “wolf-friendly” beef. The benefits from such measures go exclusively to the wolves and their champions.

Ranchers are quick to point out that to recoup the cost of the suggested counter-measures, “wolf-friendly” products would have to be priced 50 percent more than comparable conventional (wolf hostile?) products.

We’ll give the wolf advocates the benefit of the doubt that they are sincere in their desire to help ranchers cope with wolves on the range. But a new marketing ploy is not a substitute for a viable management plan that includes a full range of control options, including lethal measures for problem wolves.

And this is why ranchers are frustrated with efforts they find, at best, patronizing.

The Cattle Producers of Washington has withdrawn from the Wolf Advisory Group, calling it “inept and pointless” and saying it has prevented any action by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife in dealing with wolves that kill livestock.

Though there are some with more strident views, most ranchers at least grudgingly accept that the reintroduction of wolves into the West is a fait accompli. They know they’ll have to find a way to survive in a new paradigm that includes another predator.

Conversely, wolf advocates and government wildlife agencies must also accept that ranchers can’t be expected to provide wolves an unlimited buffet. The tab must be paid, or the losses be stopped.

State-sponsored elimination of ranchers is no more palatable than the wholesale extermination of wolves.



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