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Free Rangers Can’t Have It Both Ways



“You can’t have your cake and eat it, too” was something I heard my mother say a lot. Frankly, most of the time I had no idea what she meant. Later I learned that the proverb literally means “you cannot both possess your cake and eat it,” “you cannot eat the cake and keep it,” or “you can’t eat the cake and have it still.” It can be used to say that one cannot or should not try to have two incompatible things. The proverb’s meaning is similar to the phrase “you can’t have it both ways,” something else my mother said a lot. This phrase came to mind as I watched the coverage of and reaction to the disaster in South Dakota.


An unusually early and massive winter storm slammed into South Dakota killing thousands of animals caught on the open plains. Estimates are that as many as 75,000 head of cattle have been killed. The storm which dumped several feet of snow also damaged crops just before harvest. Snow totals across the state averaged 30 inches, with some areas getting as much as 5 feet of snow. Livestock, still on summer pasture, were literally buried alive by the snow. The South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association warned that the effects would be felt for years afterward. Not only were tens of thousands of calves killed, but so were thousands more cows that would have delivered calves next year.


While the ranchers tried to cope with the devastation, the rest of the world ignored their plight. What little mainstream media coverage there was focused on how the situation was being made worse by the government shutdown.  In addition, groups, who claim to be all bout animal humanitarianism, did nothing to help those animals still alive but lost or starving in the aftermath of the storm; they just blamed the ranchers. 


One of my favorite quotes came from an obviously ill-informed animal lover who said, “Why didn’t they put them in the barn?”  Not only does this show the ignorance of those who are so quick to criticize livestock producers, but it points out a dilemma these folks have.  If you are an advocate of free range livestock, then this is the risk you take. If you want animals kept safe from summer heat or winter snow, then you must put them in confinement which most radical animal activists groups oppose.


Their impotent and inappropriate response to one of the greatest animal disasters to occur in the US is evidence of just how disingenuous and morally bankrupt the animal rights movement is. If you were to visit the HSUS or PETA web pages (which I do not advise you to do), you would not find any mention of the South Dakota disaster or calls for donations to help  ranchers find and save lost and stranded livestock.  There are no notices for emergency hay or feed donations being organized. There is not even a campaign to raise money to build a barn big enough to keep all the cattle in South Dakota safe during the next surprise storm.


So to those folks who advocate for free range but want to keep animals cozy and warm during winter storms, I say (in the words of my mother), “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.”


By Gary Truitt