Domestic Elk in Pen in IdahoFascism takes on many forms some of which are difficult to spot. I see far too many groups and individuals attempting to force ideals onto others. When this happens an assortment of tactics are employed in order to manipulate the system and sway public opinion to achieve an end result.

Take for example the state of Idaho. Idaho is home to one of the best run domestic elk industries in the United States, in my opinion. It is well run, clean, disease free and brings a substantial economic contribution to the people of that state as well. Some people don’t like to see elk trapped behind fences even though elk have been domesticated world wide for centuries.

These people who have the problem, in some cases have organized and attempts have been made within the Idaho Legislature to shut down the domestic elk industry. Threats of running a campaign for a ballot initiative looms over the family’s heads who own elk ranches.

One of the tactics used, mostly to scare people, is the threat of disease. Elk can contract several diseases one of which seems to get the most attention, is chronic wasting disease. CWD is similar to mad cow disease but has never been found to be of the same threat to humans. In Idaho, the sale or importation of elk is strictly regulated. Animals are well cared for and tested for disease. Currently there is no live animal test for chronic wasting disease so every elk that is killed on a ranch must be tested for disease. No chronic wasting disease has ever been detected in any elk on any ranches in that state.

In North Dakota, a group calling themselves sportsmen, are in the process of gathering signatures for a citizen’s initiative to end all cervidae ranching in that state. Once again those wanting to shut down the industry spend a substantial amount of time trying to convince the public that disease from these ranches will infect the wild populations.

There is currently legislation being considered in Colorado that would create similar restrictions and a handful of other states have already passed legislation banning the industry in part or in whole.

Truth be known, no one is certain where the disease originated. Some studies suggest the disease is a “natural” occurrence that has been around perhaps since day one and goes through cycles. Some believe it originates on these ranches. Studies have indicated that the disease more easily is spread when animals, such as deer and elk, are congregated in large numbers. It is believed the disease is passed from animal to animal via bodily fluids but recent studies show that may not be the only way. Prions, which carry the disease, has been found in the soil and in some cases it is believed that it has been there a long time. Studies on the disease continue.

What some people don’t quite understand is that nobody seems to know which came first – the disease from inside out or from outside in. Because most all animals trapped behind fences are tested regularly for disease and testing of wild ungulates is spotty at best in some locations, wouldn’t it make sense that the disease would be discovered first on a ranch or a laboratory?

In states like Idaho, the fish and game there are dead set against the elk industry and would like to see it shut down. They too espouse the notion that the domestic elk industry poses a threat to the wild deer, elk and moose populations through the spread of disease.

What if the table is turned? What if the government agencies became the ranchers? What if local, state or federal governments owned elk or deer ranches? Would they then be as concerned about their own animals infecting wild animals on the outside of their fences? Or would their focus turn to protecting their animals inside the fences?

Oregon is another state where groups are trying to put an end to the elk ranching industry. These groups along with state officials lament over the idea that these ranches, like in Idaho and North Dakota, will spread disease. No cases of chronic wasting disease have been discovered in Oregon or Idaho for that matter, whether on a ranch or in the wild.

So, here we have a state claiming that fencing in elk will cause disease and that it can be spread to animals outside the fences. The thought process behind this is that animals can touch nose to nose through the fence or that in some cases, deer will be able to jump fences and get in.

Yet, in Eastern Oregon, near La Grande, the government runs a substantial elk ranch there. What is there concern? Disease getting in or disease getting out? Perhaps they don’t really have any concern at all about disease.

Thanks to reader Mark, he sent me an article he found in the Express-Times out of Pennsylvania. I chuckled when I read the first two paragraphs.

The elk herd at Trexler Game Preserve will get a higher fence meant to keep out company under a proposal that was expected to gain Lehigh County Commissioners’ approval Wednesday night.

Specifically unwanted are white-tailed deer that can transmit the fatal chronic-wasting disease to elk at the county-owned preserve.

The Trexler Game Preserve is owned and operated by the county. Their concerns are that deer FROM THE OUTSIDE, will jump the fence and get in threatening their herd of elk with chronic wasting and other diseases. How bizarre! Yet intelligent enough to consider protection one’s investment.

Are we to conclude that the government can run disease-free preserves and a private rancher can’t while under the regulations of the same governmental agency?

When I spoke with elk ranchers in Idaho about this same scenario, I discovered that many ranchers were quite concerned about their investment in elk being threatened by disease contracted from outside their fences. As I said before, Idaho has no known cases of CWD in the wild or on ranches. Should CWD show up in wild deer, elk and moose, this certainly will raise the fear factor considerably with the elk ranchers.

At the Trexler Game Preserve in Pennsylvania, officials there are putting funds together to raise the fence around the elk herd to 10 feet at an estimated cost of nearly $50,000. This will prevent the deer from jumping the fence but does very little in terms of keeping the animals from touching through the fence – an event that little is known as to how often if any it actually takes place and how real a threat it is.

So, now I have to wonder. In what direction would officials be focusing their concerns about disease if this involved a private game preserve? Would their concerns be about disease getting out or disease getting in?

Tom Remington