There was more here than profaned the eye or ear or nose or heart. There was more here than mere destruction. The American soul itself was involved, its anthropology.

This quote from Chapter 11 alludes to the role of the buffalo as a national symbol and as a symbol of the American West in particular. Years ago the buffalo had roamed freely in the West, and had more thickly populated the land. The annual tradition of slaughter, instituted by the government in order to thin out the herd, undermined this ancestry and this symbol. Above and beyond the cruelty implicated in both the act and method of killing, Swarthout takes issue with the carelessness with which the government treats these beasts.