Silencing the Thunder presents audiences with the challenges facing bison (or buffalo) conservationists, and cattle ranchers in Montana and near Yellowstone National Park. Brucellosis, a disease that is carried by immune elk and buffalo, and has never been transmitted from bison to cattle in any reported cases, is public enemy number one for Montana cattle ranchers who believe the buffalo should be traumatically driven away, or worse, upon exiting Yellow Stone National Park.
Some ranchers, like the one featured in this documentary, site property destruction as another reason why the current methods, which are described early on in Silencing the Thunder, are the correct way of going about controlling the animal. However, residents of Yellowstone who are near enough to the park to have a valid opinion on the matter will say flat out that the real cause of damage is bison being horrified by the sounds of snow mobiles or helicopters used to chase them away.
Chasing buffalo away with the aid of the aforementioned machinery, shooting them on site, or herding them off and sending them to slaughter houses, as opposed to Yellow Stone National Park where they are protected, is the way the buffalo issue is handled in Montana. The largest part of that issue being the money it costs ranchers in the beef industry to have their livestock tested for brucellosis if bison mingle with them and the amount of grazing buffalo would do on public land if they were allowed to leave the park. Should free roaming animals be confined from public spaces quite possibly because the beef industry is opposed to free and public grass which then helps ranchers make money in the private sector? Silencing the Thunder opens your mind to questions like this and more.
Questions or dilemmas aren't the only thing this film has to offer, it also offers unique solutions to issues raised by ranchers that are being used in some places already. The solutions seem even more worth striving towards when you consider the bison as a conscious being rather than a threat to your bottom line.
While you may find yourself agreeing overwhelmingly with one side or the other, it is worth noting that people with seemingly true convictions who appear to believe in the accuracy of their statements are being interviewed here. Neither side of the discussion is represented by an obvious ignoramus and this directorial choice, although "these casting choices" may be a more accurate statement, says a lot for balance and a willingness to tell a story and present an issue without seeking to influence it in any way as a director or narrator.