Friday, March 4, 2016

What is Cliven Bundy?

Over several years in the 1990s, I reported on the operations of Perreira Ranch on Maui, and in the end most of it was shut down. The story is closely parallel to that of the so-called Bundy ranch in Nevada.

Perreira leased thousands of acres of sere, nearly rainless, nearly grassless land from the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands in Kahikinui and from the Department of Land and Natural Resources along the pali. Desperate cattle broke into state forests seeking food, and untold numbers that could not find forage or water died of starvation, thirst or neglect.

It had gone on for years until a persistent and courageous veterinarian, Dr. Diane Shepherd, started schooling me in what was going on. So I made it my business to publicize the situation in The Maui News. (My editors were not enthusiastic but published the stories, which was the key point: what Perreira was doing was known among those who knew but there was no public opinion formed.)

Testifying in one of several trials, Shepherd described what the Perreiras were doing as survival-of-the-fittest ranching. Cattle roamed and reproduced in the wild, and from time to time, the Perreiras would round up a few and sell them. There was no effort to supply water or feed, or to manage, care for, and provide veterinary services to the animals.

It was, therefore, extremely profitable, a near pefect capitalist enterprise. The leases cost next to nothing and there were no other costs either. My guess was that they took in over $100,000 a year, all profit.

Eventually ranch manager Annette Niles was convicted of animal cruelty and sent to prison. It was the first time in Hawaii anyone had ever gone behind bars for animal cruelty. Her father escaped prosecution because of his allegedly decrepit condition, which I thought was phony.

It was not possible to keep them from abusing animals on their private land. However, thanks to Dr. Shepherd, some improvement came about. (One consequence was that the state finally increased funding of DHHL.)

Here is what the government said in its petition to keep Cliven Bundy in custody:

While Bundy claims he is a cattle rancher, his ranching operation – to the extent it can be called that – is unconventional if not bizarre. Rather than manage and control his cattle, he lets them run wild on the public lands with little, if any, human interaction until such time when he traps them and hauls them off to be sold or slaughtered for his own consumption.

He does not vaccinate or treat his cattle for disease; does not employ cowboys to control and herd them; does not manage or control breeding; has no knowledge of where all the cattle are located at any given time; rarely brands them before he captures them; and has to bait them into traps in order to gather them.
Nor does he bring his cattle off the public lands in the off-season
to feed them when the already sparse food supply in the desert is even scarcer.

Raised in the wild, Bundy’s cattle are left to fend for themselves year-round, fighting off predators and scrounging for the meager amounts of food and water available in the difficult and arid terrain that comprises the public lands in that area of the country. Bereft of human interaction, his cattle that manage to survive are wild, mean and ornery.

At the time of the events giving rise to the charges, Bundy’s cattle numbered over 1,000 head, straying as far as 50 miles from his ranch and into the Lake Mead National Recreation Area (“LMNRA”), getting stuck in mud, wandering onto golf courses, straying onto the freeway (causing accidents on occasion) – foraging aimlessly and wildly, roaming in small groups over hundreds of thousands of acres.

So, rightwingers, there's your hero. Despite what newspapers call him, he is not a rancher or a cattleman.

He is a thoroughly disgusting, cruel, greedy and despicable person. I am pleased to say that, in part because of my reporting, you cannot do that in Hawaii any more. You go to prison, and it really does not matter whether you are also a political and religious kook, too.

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