Captive Labor (about sheepherders, at least some of them)

We hear a lot about ranchers, cattle and sheep. They are given aide and comfort by many politicians. The life of a cow hand (cowboy) and the sheepherder are ignored (except in cultural celebration).

It my writint about the subsidies given sheep operators, both direct and indirect from the government, plus the environmental subsidies (uncompensated negative externalities), I have neglected the subsidy through the frequent exploitation of human labor.

This article is gives a more clear-eyed view. Captive Labor: The plight of Peruvian sheepherders illuminates broader exploitation of immigrant workers in U.S. agriculture. By Alvaro Bedoya. Dollars and Sense.





  1. Buffaloed Avatar

    This is like a Milton Freidman wet dream and I think this is why ranchers like to talk about the free-market so often.

  2. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Those of us who have long experience with the livestock industry read this with both understanding and grief. But this is the fundamental nature of agriculture–slavery, oppression, and brutality, not to mention tax breaks.

    Collaboration, anyone?.

  3. kt Avatar

    Ralph, have you seen the “Recitals” that accompany the Draft Butch Otter Idaho Fish and Game and Ag Department Bighorn Sheep Plan? What is being developed is really a Plan to eradicate bighorn sheep in areas where they are causing “problems” for the two dozen or so brutal and megalomaniac Woolgrowers in all of Idaho.

    The Idaho Woolgrowers, and lobbyist Stan Boyd, are so puffed up with themselves and the Power of domination that they have long held – over predators ranging from wolves to badgers, BLM and Forest Service enablers, and politicians like Butch Otter and Larry Craig – that they think they can go unchallenged in all of this. Their domination and brutality of land, wildlife and poor people just feeds on itself.

    They make outrageous claims like the business about domestic sheep being “economically valuable” to Idaho, when in fact it is a huge drain – on lands, waters, wildlife – and is costing us all money to support their destruction.


    Whereas, bighorn sheep are native to Idaho and have been restored on public lands in partnership with federal land management agencies;

    Whereas, as indigenous wildlife, bighorn sheep are historically, culturally and economically valuable to the citizens of the State of Idaho;

    Whereas, the domestic sheep industry is historically, culturally and economically valuable to the citizens of the State of Idaho;

    Whereas, it is in the public interest to maintain and restore bighorn populations, where appropriate;

    Whereas, it is in the public interest to maintain and restore access to public lands for grazing by domestic sheep, where appropriate;

    Maintain and RESTORE ACCESS for sheep grazing? And the glories of dying bighorns, streambanks torn to pieces, wolf eradication and human rights abuses and modern-day slavery?

  4. Monte Avatar

    Yes the wool industry deserves blame, but so does everyone who advocates unfettered immigration and these types of work visas. What you do when you allow this type of thing is you create an underclass in our country that is ripe for abuse when they fall into the wrong hands. Blaming agriculture entirely lets the fedreral government off the hook for it’s lack of responsibility on immigration and work visa issues.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan