Animals and Government

I am always amazed how, as society becomes more complex, it inevitably seems to want to control not only your life but your animals. Various reasons may be given– animal welfare, neighbors complaints, disease (“Mad Cow”, SARS, Avian Flu). But the end result is virtually always to confiscate, prohibit, even kill “uncontrolled” and unpopular animals,. (The late Vicki Hearne, poet, animal trainer, and philosopher, used to say sourly of seeing roadkill dogs in the South that at least they hadn’t gotten around to eliminating them all for humane reasons– yet. She also said that animal rights people saw animals only as “cute” or victims, which may or may not be another point.)

Paranoid? You bet! In my own experience: when Libby was living in Bozeman– Montana!– we had three dogs. The ordinance said you could only have more than two if all the neighbors didn’t object. One neighbor hated dogs. A town cop came and told us just to have one put down! We eventually took it to court. Luckily, lawyer friends took us on for free, because the case, which we won, cost $27,000, which the city had to pay.

They came to me that day and said, “OK, you beat us on the dogs. Next, we’ll go after your pigeons. And if that doesn’t work, your hawks”. Luckily, we were already Magdalena bound. Now, both bird species are SPECIFICALLY banned in Bozeman.

The feed store guy said to us sadly, “This used to be Montana”.

Then, in Magdalena, a newcomer on the City Council introduced an ordinance that would have banned all “exotic and farm” animals and birds (the town is full of chickens, goats, sheep, and horses, being in rural New Mexico), plus as in Bozeman limit us to two dogs. She also wanted to have anyone pay $150 for any animal born, INCLUDING EVERY EGG LAID. Absurd? Keep reading! At least in Magdalena she was voted down, for the time being.

Recently Will Brown of Blue Ridge Biological, a scientist, artist, and keeper of pigeons, sent me an article that was originally published in The Poultry Press.. By Mary Zanoni, a Yale and Cornell PhD who heads up a new organization called Farm for Life (no link yet, but a PDF of the paper, which contains addresses and a place to sign up for a newsletter, can be downloaded here) “Why You Should Oppose the USDA’s Mandatory Property and Animal Surveillance Program” is nothing less than frightening. And remember, nobody has voted on this– it is entirely administrative, within the USDA.

She begins: “For several years, the USDA has been working with the largest-scale animal industry organizations (for example, the National Pork Producers, Monsanto Company, and Cargill Meat) to develop a mandatory “National Animal Identification System” (“NAIS”).
(Snip)

“By January 1, 2008, the NAIS will be mandatory. Every person who owns even one horse, cow, pig, chicken, sheep, pigeon, or virtually any livestock animal, will be forced to register their home, including owner’s name, address, and telephone number, and keyed to Global Positioning System coordinates for satellite monitoring, in a giant federal database under a 7-digit “premises ID number.”

”Every animal will have to be assigned a 15-digit ID number, also to be kept in a giant federal database. The form of ID will most likely be a tag or microchip containing a Radio Frequency Identification Device, designed to be read from a distance. The plan may also include collecting the DNA of every animal and/or a retinal scan of every animal.

“The owner will be required to report: the birthdate of an animal, the application of every animal’s ID tag, every time an animal leaves or enters the property, every time an animal loses a tag, every time a tag is replaced, the slaughter or death of an animal, or if any animal is missing. Such events must be reported within 24 hours.

“Third parties, such as veterinarians, will be required to report “sightings” of animals. In other words, if you call a vet to your property to treat your horse, cow, or any other animal, and the vet finds any animal without the mandatory 15-digit computer-readable ID, the vet may be required to report you.
(Snip)

“If you think the description [above] sounds too bizarre to be true, please go to usda.gov/nais, read the Standards and Plan, and check the citations.”

I think her conclusion below is realistic, not paranoid, as it would be virtually impossible for most small breeders to comply with, never mind the civil liberties implications. And such simple pleasures as pigeon racing and State Fair animal shows would become illegal.

“The NAIS will drive small producers out of the market, will make people abandon raising animals for their own food, will invade Americans’ personal privacy to a degree never before tolerated, will violate the religious freedom of Americans whose beliefs make it impossible for them to comply, and will erase the last vestiges of animal welfare from the production of animal foods.”

Weird historical note: such things have happened. I am a great fan of the ancient and grotesque “Thief Pouter” pigeon breeds of Spain (I wrote about them in Aloft– see books to the left). They flew fom their home lofts to “seduce” your competitors’ birds to your home.

The dicator Franco, from a combination of dislike of the rebellious southern countrymen and a fear that they could use the birds to communicate, simply banned their flying, and in some cases just banned whole breeds (from the Thirties until his death). I quote from the “Clandestino” pouter site “Franco only sanctioned the Suelta sport [ a modern sport with no homing involved] and the “Modern” Spanish thief pouters used therein, and banned all other thief pouter breeds from ever flying. The breeders of the various traditional, working type Spanish thief pouter breeds were forced to make a decision: give up their birds to the Suelta sport or organize a club to promote their once working birds as show birds only, so that they would no longer be persecuted by the dictator and the many avid followers of the Suelta sport. Most thief pouter breeders caved in to the pressure and began breeding their birds to fit the newly created show standards for each breed; but a handful of people refused to put their working birds into the show pen and continued to secretly breed and fly their birds as thieves (the original purpose of all Spanish thief pouters).”

One more thing: the USDA program is getting a lot of support from those who fear Mad Cow. The way to stop that is to stop feeding animals to cows, period. Wouldn’t that be a better rule? Similarly, on Avian Flu: easy: don’t allow your birds access to other birds when it is about. SARS? It’s a Chinese bat– more on that coming, next post….

Update: Matt Mullenix has sent these sites where you can go to check the government’s own info/ propaganda: http://www.usaip.info/ — and : http://animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais/index.shtml

11 thoughts on “Animals and Government”

  1. From the (GPS-tracked) horse’s mouth:

    “USDA is developing the standards for collecting and reporting information, but industry will determine which type of identification method works best for each species. These methods could include radio frequency identification tags, retinal scans, DNA, or others. As long as the necessary data are sent to USDA’s information repositories in a standardized form, it will be accepted.

    USDA will build upon existing identification systems and allow for a transition period from systems currently defined in the Code of Federal Regulations before requiring AINs or Group/Lot IDs. Working with States and industry, USDA will also evaluate various animal identification technologies to determine how the collection of animal movement records can best be automated.

    As premises are registered and animals or groups of animals are identified based on the standard protocols, USDA will begin collecting information about animal movements from one premises to another. With an efficient, effective animal tracking system in place, USDA will be able to perform rapid tracebacks in case of an animal disease outbreak. As envisioned, only Federal, State, and Tribal animal health authorities would have direct access to the national premises and animal identification information repositories. They need this information to accomplish their job of safeguarding animal health.

    USDA is investigating various options to protect the confidentiality of the information. It is important to note that the national repositories will include information only for animal and disease tracking purposes. Proprietary production data will remain in private databases.

    If USDA decides to make all or parts of the NAIS mandatory, APHIS will follow the normal rulemaking process. The public will have the opportunity to comment upon any proposed regulations.”

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  2. That is one very scary city person! Why do people like that feel they must control other people’s lives? This National Animal ID stuff is really got my hackles up. NAIS is just an excuse to gain more control over people and with it we will see a loss of freedoms and an increase in the cost of foods. Once they have us register our animals then they’ll start taxing them and controlling it so people can not grow their own food.

    Even if the stated purpose of disease tracking was really the purpose of NAISE the problem is the government is implementing NAIS to cover a lot more than the above needs. There is no need for NAIS to track food people raise for themselves, direct farm to consumer sales and pets.

    The National Animal Identification System is totally unnecessary for the homestead. If you are growing food for your own consumption you already have 100% trace back. You know where your animals came from, where they went. The government does not need to be involved.

    NAIS is also not needed for direct farm to consumer sales. Again there is already 100% trace back available. I breed and raise most of my own livestock which I sell directly to the consumer. I know exactly where it has been. My customer knows where they got it. The government does not need to be involved.

    NAIS is not needed for pets either for the same reasons. In fact, this is the most absurd aspect of the whole thing that points out just how flimsy the government’s excuse that NAIS is for tracking disease or contamination in the food chain. If NAIS were really for that purpose then they should be tracking every food, from beets to broccoli to beef. The most likely source of threat to our food chain is at the processor and distribution levels.

    NAIS is to benefit government (think taxes), big businesses (eliminates small business competition) and the consumers (feels good because food supply is ‘safe’) who buy from the big businesses and pay taxes to the government. It is harmful to small farmers and individuals who raise their own food. The government is offering us paper work, snooping, threatening huge fines and confiscation of our property. Next they will be taxing what they require us to register. Their goal is to make everyone dependent on them.

    There is another threat in all of this. The information collected under NAIS is not secure – it can be gotten by people like Pee; Ee, Tee .Ah under the Freedom Of Information Act. That is very scary. Do we want those freaks knowing where we are and exactly what we have for livestock so they can come vandalize our farms, destroy our property, burn our home and kill our family?!? No.

    NAIS as written is a horrible idea and it should NOT be implemented. NAIS will not make our food supply or our nation more secure but rather just the opposite by centralizing production and control. NAIS is big government gone way, way overboard and horribly wrong. I hope that people will write their congressional representatives, local newspapers and the USDA. We must act now while we still have the right to keep livestock. Once NAIS passes it will be much harder to get rid of and it will be followed by further trashing of our rights.

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  3. Hello Blogger, I was surfing blogs and paused at your title Animals and Government. Thats what really caught my eye. I am promoting a horse care related website and need to find more information to offer some of my internet friends. Not exactly what I was looking for but you have givin me some good ideas about what could be done with my horse care related site that I will book mark and come back to hopefully get some more education from your site, you have some good stuff maybe you could visit my website and let me know what you think in my contact page. Just click on the link horse care. Thank you and I wish you well .

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  4. Hello Blogger, I was surfing blogs and paused at your title Animals and Government. Thats what really caught my eye. I am promoting a collector plates related website and need to find more information to offer some of my internet friends. Not exactly what I was looking for but you have givin me some good ideas about what could be done with my collector plates related site that I will book mark and come back to hopefully get some more education from your site, you have some good stuff maybe you could visit my website and let me know what you think in my contact page. Just click on the link collector plates. Thank you and I wish you well .

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  5. I have setup a site NoNAIS.org to track NAIS and fight it. I’ll be posting alerts, action items, news and articles there about NAIS as well as linking to additional resources, sites and blogs fighting NAIS. Please spread the word about NAIS so that people know just how bad it is and can fight it. NAIS may be good for the big producers as it will give them more export markets but it is horrible for small farmers, homesteaders and pet horse owners.

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  6. Hi, I was out blogging and found your site. It certainly got my attention and interest. I was looking for Medications information and even though this isn’t a perfect match I enjoyed your site. Thanks for the read!

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