(EnviroNews California) — Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, California — Nearly 300 “elktivists” made their voices heard on September 27, 2020 at a large demonstration inside the Point Reyes National Seashore at the gates of Clover Dairy. The crowd gathered to support tule elk (Cervus canadensis nannodes) and to protest the National Park Service’s (NPS) plan to hand out more grazing permits and to kill some of the animals that live on the federal land. The tule elk is a distinct subspecies and represents the smallest of elk species. They live only in California.
The Trump Administration favors allowing cattle ranching and dairy farmers that operate on the property to continue for up to the next 20 years. Ranchers are upset the elk are eating grass inside the San Francisco Bay Area national park, leaving less of it for cattle. The NPS is proposing curbing the elk population in certain areas by using lethal force.
“The NPS is going to shoot elk and allow more cows in Point Reyes National Seashore to prop up private, for-profit ranches and dairies that were paid millions of dollars and supposed to vacate the park years ago,” Jack Gescheidt from The TreeSpirit Project said. “The Seashore has a charter to favor wildlife over commercial enterprises, not the other way around.”
Protestors fear the clock is ticking on the tule elk’s lives and conservation groups are urging people to let the federal government know how they feel about the NPS plan prior to October 18th. The plan, called “Alternative B,” is the polar opposite of what the public told the NPS it favored during the agency’s open comment period. 91 percent of 7,624 respondents wanted the elk protected and cattle removed from Point Reyes completely.
Miyoko Schinner, a vegan celebrity chef who started what her website calls, “a vegan cheese revolution” garnered rounds of applause speaking at the rally. She founded Miyoko’s Creamery in Sonoma and told the crowd how she grew her plant-based business to be twice as profitable than the dairies. And not only does Schinner forgo the use any dairy, she also rescues farm animals. Her nonprofit sanctuary, Rancho Compasión, located in west Marin is a safe haven for more than 70 goats, cows, pigs, donkeys, chickens, ducks, geese and other creatures.
The transcript to Shinner’s speech at the rally reads as follows:
Hey everyone, I’m Miyoko Schinner, I’m the Founder of Rancho Compasión, (audience cheers) which is a farm animal sanctuary not far from here in Nicasio where we rescue cows and goat and pigs and sheep and other animals taken out of the food system. I’m also the Founder of Miyoko’s Creamery — a company that’s reinventing the dairy industry.
And I want to let Mr. McClure and the ranchers know here that we are not the enemy of dairy; we are the solution, because, as we’ve seen since the 1970’s, dairy has been on the decline. Last year we saw the bankruptcy of two large dairy companies Dean Foods and Borden’s (Borden’s Dairy Co.). We see ranchers across the country folding up, filing bankruptcy, committing suicide. So, I understand the economic turmoil that is affecting the industry now, and what they must be feeling. So, I understand that.
And it’s just like when the horse and buggy was replaced by the automobile. There is a new future for food and it is not making dairy products out of cows. (audience applause) There is a new future of food and you can participate in that. And at Miyoko’s we are actually going to be helping a dairy farm convert to growing crops. We’re going to be subsidizing them, instead of the government subsidizing them.
Let’s talk about the economic impact that we are talking about at Point Reyes National Seashore. It’s not just the activists here; the whole community here believes that these dairies are necessary for a thriving agricultural economy for Marin County and the surrounding areas. The questions we have to ask [are]: how much are they actually contributing? And how much of that is offset by government subsidies?
There are no government subsidies for plant-based companies. I had to do it on my own. And I can tell you that I have three times as many employees as all of the dairies here in Point Reyes National Seashore. I contribute at least twice as much to the economy and we provide everybody a living wage, full benefits including all meals, health insurance, 401K, and even a tuition reimbursement program. This is the industry that is growing, and I invite dairy farmers to join this industry.
I also ask the Park Service if I put my zero carbon emission business out here in Point Reyes National Seashore. Would you allow that? We did a lifecycle analysis and found that our products were up to 98 percent lower in greenhouse gas emissions than their dairy counterparts.
Instead, we’re going to spend millions of dollars helping these dairies become, supposedly carbon neutral, by [financing] methane digesters. Why are we doing that? Why is the State of California going to be financing methane digesters to solve a problem that is being created by a private industry on Park lands? I’m not getting a handout. So, why are we supporting a dying industry?
I also want to point out that of all the mammals on planet Earth, 96 percent of them are humans or livestock; only 4 percent are wildlife. We have seen a 60 percent decline in wildlife in the last 60 years. Are we now going to see the beginning of that decline even more? Are we going to push those numbers down to three percent or two percent? This is what’s happening right now.
And the actions of the National Park Services and the [USDA’s Wildlife Services], which is another organization that exists solely to exterminate wildlife that either threatens or competes with cattle ranching, across the entire country, at the tune of 100 million [taxpayer dollars per year] to fund the decimation of wildlife. That is “bullshit” as that sign says. (pointing to one of the protestor’s signs)
Don’t get me wrong: I love cows — I have cows — and they’re not a herd. What about humane farming? Let’s talk about humane ranching, because everyone in Marin and Sonoma [believes]: we practice humane ranching.
Is it humane to rip a calf away from a mom, and place them in isolation in these little hutches? Would you say these are a room of ones’ own, or are they solitary confinement? (acknowledging the calf hutches behind the crowd of protestors)
I rescued a cow that was in one of those. And I can tell you when she saw the green grass at Rancho Compasión, and ran and experienced liberty and freedom for the first time at the age of three months, she was overjoyed. And when she met her first substitute mom, she was overjoyed. I’ve seen the joy in individual animals.
How can we tolerate so-called green-washed humane farming? Or, humane-washed practices that do not respect the liberty and individuality of these beautiful creatures? (applause from audience)
Humankind must evolve to a point where we do become truly humane, and that is my hope. I hope that we can not only go beyond the activist here but reach our communities to tell them about… to give them the economic argument… [and to sit down and] have dinner with dairy farmers to convert them to plant-based industry. We’ll pay them, perhaps more than… The average dairy farmer in the United States makes 30,000 dollars a year – and most of that comes from government subsidies. So, it’s not a lucrative lifestyle. Do you want a better lifestyle? Let us help you. Thank you.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This transcript was corrected Oct. 11, 2020 to reflect Schinner said “Borden’s, meaning Borden’s Dairy Co., not “Gorden’s.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: A correction was issued to this article on Oct. 22, 2020, removing the word “only” in reference to San Francisco Bay Area national parks.