Michigan Orders Slaughter Of All Heritage Breed Pigs

In a brazen power grab threatening small farmers, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is using the state Invasive Species Act to expand its jurisdiction beyond hunting and fishing to farming operations. Their controversial Invasive Species Order (ISO) prohibits certain pigs the agency deems “feral.” Based on the way the state is enforcing the rule, even domesticated pigs under human husbandry are suspect. Farmers, ranchers and game preserves with successful small businesses are now threatened with economic and criminal sanctions, based on the physical characteristics of their swine.

Implementation of the ISO, as of April 1st, not only takes private property without compensation it also denies farmers of fundamental private property rights and the right to make a living. It will reduce or eliminate customer access to heritage breed pork, a product that has become increasingly popular with health conscious consumers and restaurants across the state.

The ISO allows DNR to seize and destroy pigs raised by Michigan farmers; Michigan DNR has publicly stated they will not compensate farmers whose pigs are destroyed. Possession of prohibited swine after April 1, 2012 is a felony with penalties of up to two years in jail and $20,000 in fines.

Attorney Joseph O’Leary is suing the DNR on behalf of four of the aggrieved business owners. He explains, “Wildlife is owned by the state; it is the role of the DNR to regulate and control state property. Livestock on farms is privately owned and properly belongs in the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture. When a governmental agency blurs these lines, people had better wake up and take notice because at that point we are all in a lot of trouble.”

Game preserve owner, Greg Johnson, reports that these special interest groups find it easier to get their way by pressuring state employees, rather than representatives elected by the people. “The DNR is waging a propaganda campaign of outright lies, which has already driven many farmers out of business. We are not swimming in feral swine–there is no feral hog problem in Michigan.” Johnson reports his business has already dropped in half as a result of the state led smear effort, and the three dozen or so private hunting preserves have dwindled down to a handful.

The Michigan Pork Producers Association and other large agribusiness interests, as well as conservation groups have worked together with the DNR to push for the ruling to be implemented. For the factory pork breeders, this is about eliminating the competition. The ISO ensures consumers will only have the choice of pork raised in confinement, known as confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

For more than a decade, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has worked politically to drive private hunting preserves out of business. However, the Michigan state legislature repeatedly rebuffed their attempts. Elected officials recognize how important private property rights are, and they were unwilling to prohibit landowners to raise and harvest animals in open areas. Now, backed by large Agribusiness interests in the state, DNR has done an end run around participatory democracy and declared swine with certain characteristics “feral” which not only includes animals raised at hunting preserves but thousands of other small farms across the state.

“The DNR has strayed into the unfamiliar territory of agriculture regulation. Given the nebulous and open ended description by which pigs are targeted, farmers fear for their futures,” says Pete Kennedy, Esq., President of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

Watch This Video

In it, you’ll hear from one of the many small farms affected by this new rule:

Isn’t it interesting that according to the state of Michigan, the very pigs that are now outlawed are also the only pigs that could actually survive being raised outdoors in a free-range environment?

In other words, the state now only supports the raising of pigs in captivity!

What Can You Do?

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has the power to rescind the order. People need to call, fax or email the governor demanding that he immediately rescind this unconstitutional ISO. Below are suggested talking point.

Governor Rick Snyder, State Capitol
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, MI 48909
[email protected]

PHONE: (517) 335-7858
FAX: (517) 335-6863

TALKING POINTS

1. DNR needs to stay off farms
2. DNR needs to repeal the Invasive Species Order to not include ALL swine that are under the husbandry of humans no matter how they are raised.
3. The order denies consumers their rights to access foods of their choice.
4. The order violates farmers’ property rights and the right to make a living.

The text of this post is derived from a press release issued by an agency I wholeheartedly support (and of which I am a member), the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. The Fund defends the rights and broadens the freedoms of family farms and protects consumer access to raw milk and nutrient-dense foods. Concerned citizens can support the FTCLDF, a U.S. based 501(c)(4) nonprofit, by joining or donating online at www.farmtoconsumer.org or by calling 703-208-FARM (3276).

For more information go to www.farmtoconsumer.org/michigan-swine-iso.htm

(photo by wiredwitch)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

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30 Responses to Michigan Orders Slaughter Of All Heritage Breed Pigs
  1. Rana Sabeh
    April 10, 2012 | 1:12 pm

    Or you could sign this petition. Each signature is sent directly to Governor Synder’s email. http://www.change.org/petitions/governor-state-of-michigan-stop-the-imminent-slaughter-of-heritage-pigs-on-small-farms-in-michigan

    • KristenM
      April 10, 2012 | 6:07 pm

      I’m not too convinced of the efficacy of email or online petitions. It’s too easily ignored. Real mail and phone calls seem like they pack more punch. I’m not knockin’ the petition, just encouraging people who want to take action to go one small step further and actually make a phone call.

  2. Karly
    April 10, 2012 | 2:17 pm

    Thanks for the link to sign the petition!! Posting it to fb!

  3. Candice
    April 10, 2012 | 2:23 pm

    The term “invasive” has a very specific biological meaning. It means very simply that release of such an animal or organism can harm the environment (ex: reduce natural vegetation, negative impacts on other animals, etc.). These farmers that are being targeted keep their animals under wonderful conditions so that they do not have any negative impact on the surrounding environment or natural resources. If they aren’t having an affect on the natural resources, then they should not be dubbed invasive species and the label “feral” is just a way to get around the fact that they aren’t really invasive. You can ask any biologist whether they think these heritage pigs are invasive, and they’ll give you a flat “no.” As a biologist (and one in a PhD program in a college of natural resources), this is such an outrage at so many levels. These poor farmers. Dang politics!
    What is ironic is that standard practices of pig raising IS harmful to the environment.

    • KristenM
      April 10, 2012 | 6:10 pm

      You make an excellent point, and your voice needs to be heard! Please do call the governor’s office, if you haven’t already.

    • Libby
      May 6, 2012 | 12:19 pm

      Uh-oh. Our dogs and cats are invasive too. Come to think of it, my ancestors did not originate here. I’m pretty sure I am invasive…

  4. Be
    April 10, 2012 | 6:00 pm

    This was my email:

    Governor Snyder,

    You have the power to make a difference. I hope you will.

    Even if you don’t understand the power of Big AG I ask how can you expect to change a law that is enforced a short 3 months later. Even if this law made sense, and IT DOES NOT, how can you expect farmers (YOU call them felons) to change their production cycle so quickly? I know – you don’t understand farming – food is packaged prettily for you and you don’t have to look your food in the eye.

    PLEASE USE YOUR POWER FOR GOOD. Do you really believe that “All pigs are created equally, but some (C.A.F.O.) more than others”? Seems so to me if you won’t rescind this order if for no other reason but to make it clear that this will NEVER effect private enterprise and the independent sustainable farmers.

    If you don’t than I hope you are prepared for what CAFOs really do to our world – poor quality, monoculture farming that depletes limited top soil, relies on cheap petrol ( I guess $4 /gallon is still cheap), and will lead to an ever shortening lifespan of US citizens. If you think I am exaggerating you need to do some research.

    • KristenM
      April 10, 2012 | 6:10 pm

      Way to go, Be!

    • Hilary
      April 11, 2012 | 7:31 am

      Except that you should intro the email with what you are upset about. I’m sure he gets tons of emails a day. If you don’t open with your topic, he won’t know what you are talking about.

  5. Elizabeth
    April 10, 2012 | 9:06 pm

    Can you contact the governor even if you do not live in Michigan? Will it make any difference if you are not a resident?

    Thanks!

    • Be
      April 10, 2012 | 9:20 pm

      It’s not like he is reading every comment but we want to FLOOD his office with calls, faxes, emails and letters. He doesn’t care about any individual constituent (ask Farmer Baker), but he DOES care about LOTS of them.

      If you don’t speak now from out of state you may not have a voice my time they get to your state (and they will).

      As Niemöller said about Nazi Germany in hiw famous poem:

      “First they came for the communists,
      and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

      Then they came for the trade unionists,and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

      Then they came for the Jews,
      and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

      Then they came for me
      and there was no one left to speak out for me”.

      PLEASE WRITE/FAX/MAIL/EMAIL!

  6. Grace
    April 11, 2012 | 9:47 am

    I sent him a nice long e-mail listing my concerns point by point. I doubt he will read it, but if he gets enough of them, he will still get the message.

    • KristenM
      April 11, 2012 | 12:03 pm

      Thank you, Grace!

  7. holly may
    April 11, 2012 | 11:43 am

    This is absurd. And what funny timing, as I just finished reading “Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood. I definitely recommend it and if you have heard about it or read it already, you will understand the connection.

  8. Walter Jeffries
    April 11, 2012 | 3:27 pm

    This is all about greed. The Big Ag CAFOs are afraid of loosing market share, even a tiny amount, to small farmers.

    • ZZMike
      April 18, 2012 | 1:04 pm

      It may be about greed, but I think it’s really about power. They’re showing us who’s in charge: they are. They can and will do anything they damn well please.

      Unless we stop them. Set up a phone network – call the governor, senators &c 24 hours a day, non-stop.

      When the next election rolls around, make sure this story gets front-page coverage.

  9. Hanna
    April 12, 2012 | 4:44 am

    Reading things like this make me soo angery, how dare they!

  10. Walter Jeffries
    April 12, 2012 | 2:37 pm

    They dare because they can. Big Ag has the money to hire the lobbyists. Fight back. Fight hard.

    On a related note… (hay, it’s pigs who eat hay.)

    As part of our Kickstarting the Butcher Shop at Sugar Mountain Farm we’re giving away free T-shirts, a coffee mug and some other things. Check out this blog post:

    http://SugarMtnFarm.com/three-great-kicking-contests/

    There’s three contests on Kickstarter (that’s national and even international) and then seven more at stores and restaurants in Vermont who carry our meat.

    A little fun and a great shirt! Spread the word about our Kickstarter project, take a guess at the guessing game and maybe enter to win T-shirts. It’s cool.

    Oh, and there are also mega-cool big boar tusks. See:

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sugarmtnfarm/building-a-butcher-shop-on-sugarmountainfarm

    Cheers,

    -Walter
    Sugar Mountain Farm

  11. marjorum
    April 12, 2012 | 9:54 pm

    ALL hogs are an invasive species. They are not native to North America, nor are cows. They were all brought in by early settlers as were the species they are trying to irradicate. The nearest relative in North America to hogs is the javalina found in the desert southwest, but according to biologists, even the javalina is remotely related to hogs. So who is kidding who here? Sounds to me like their law has doomed all hogs in Michigan.

  12. Michael
    April 13, 2012 | 9:39 am

    Years ago, European wild boar were imported to my area in SE Saskatchewan to be raised as farmed livestock. They were very adept at escaping the best of fencing, and when the intended Japanese market collapsed, some herds “accidentally” escaped. They proved to be adaptable to our harsh prairie environment, are proficient breeders both summer and even winter in the wild, are extremely destructive feeders on farm land and expecially in native environments, and can actually be dangerous. They are indeed a destructive invasive species which in hindsight whould never have been allowed, and much effort and expense has been expended in trying to eliminate them. At best, they are probably only controlled. And they are neither a rare or heritage domestic breed, nor a threatened breed.

    The MI story lumped this breed with domesticated breeds, and then spent time defending the rights of hunting reserves to do as they pleased on private property. The pigs on hunting reserves will NOT be the domesticated breeds, but the feral invasive European species, and if the experience in my area is any indication, then wildlife officials are completely justified in taking preemptive action to protect the wild environment. I have little sympathy with the idea that private rights trump larger and longer social rights.

    If the MI regulations have indeed lumped true heritage breeds of domesticated pigs with the European wild boar situation, then they should be adjusted, and efforts towards change should be based on separating the wild and domesticated breeds. To criticize or oppose the regulations without this distinction, in my opinion, will exhibit a lack of background understanding, and be subject to being discredited. My experience, even with uninformed officials, is that honey (a soft answer and cooperative spirit) is much more likely to be successful than is vinegar.

    • Robert
      June 29, 2013 | 9:59 am

      Yes, I agree completely with your comment. I reside in Michigan, and I have a background in wildlife management. Feral invasive European hogs have already escaped from several hunting preserves here, and are starting to spread and cause great damage to both agriculture and to habitat for native wildlife. So, the effort to eliminate these feral hogs from private preserves is completely justified, folks. If you read the Michigan law, it DOES distinguish between European invasive feral hogs and the heritage pig breeds, so there is no cause for alarm here for farmers who are truly raising heritage breeds of pigs. People need to get their facts straight on this before writing letters to the Governor and others to complain. All you need to do is look at how bad the situation is in the Southern States with European feral hogs to know that Michigan is justified in NOT wanting something similar to happen here (and it’s already starting).

  13. donnyO
    April 17, 2012 | 12:44 pm

    This is insane, the DNR thinks it rules the world, first they take away baiting, they didn’t care in a horrible economy that they were ruining decades of livelihood, they just wanted to. Now this? This has GOT to stop people need to stand up and fight!

  14. Alannah
    April 17, 2012 | 12:51 pm
  15. Prepare To Physically Fight For Freedom
    April 17, 2012 | 1:07 pm

    Were at a tipping point where physical enforcement of our freedom birth rights is necessary. Voting is no longer a solution. Everyone needs to stand with their neighbor a defend their neighbors freedom with their life if necessary. The enemies are domestic and not foreign. Enslavement is not an option for most of us freemen, women, and our children. Rise up against the domestic enemies. Enemies who took an oath to defend the Constitution need to be brought to justice and tried for treason with a death penalty attached. Those who swing from a noose will be a warning. It’s time for a revolution with violence my friend and fellow citizen. Passive activity will only enslave. We are the majority. A small number of US citizens created the American Revolution while most remained sidelined afraid to join. Fight fire with fire KKK style. Mid night visits. Houses burned. High hats left naked in the streets. Justice for all. If you will gather in numbers, 100 or 1,000 people can prevent this and send enforcement packing stripped naked with flat tired vehicles burning in the driveway destroyed to send a message to the world we ain’t going to take it from the domestic enemy enforcers. Neighbor fighting for neighbor. The chance to rise up will only come once before all freedom is lost. Look for the oportunity and join in. Eye for eye.

  16. william lynd
    April 17, 2012 | 3:10 pm

    well i have had pips and plain on getting more so i dear you all to show up on my prop. and shot my yes i said my dam pips.all i can say is that my pips will shot back i hope you r up for that kind of stuff to happen to u.so now the dnr thank thay r god the last time i checked the dnr worked for us we the people pay you checks.so thank about it.

  17. william lynd
    April 17, 2012 | 3:13 pm

    and one more thing for all the dnr to thank about what if a group of people showed up at your houses and shot all your animals you would have them in jail in a drop of a hat.so why should u be above the law.YOU ARE NOT.

  18. Kevin
    July 20, 2012 | 4:38 pm

    I am not sure if these are the same feral hogs we have in the south but if they are you DO NOT want them to get a foothold in the wild. These species are incredibly destructive to the environment and breed faster than you can kill them.

    No matter how nicely you have them contained on your property violent storms can take a fence down or damage one enough where they can get loose and once they do if they get a foothold you will never catch up with them.

    I am not defending the DNR’s methods but wish we had a way to eliminate them down here.

  19. Loren
    July 2, 2013 | 12:37 pm

    Time to stop fooling around with this and confront this cruel government. It’s our life. Time to show them they can’t push us around any more

  20. Larry Lee
    July 9, 2013 | 11:48 am

    Kevin These are heritage breed hogs and not the feral critters you are dealing with. Even if they were the growers must, at the very least be compensated financially and not threatened with fines and jail time!

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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