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Will We Let Industrial Farming Interests Set Us Up for Long-Run Mass Starvation?

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feral hogAllowing only one color of pig (or cow, corn, wheat, tomato, etc.) is a very bad idea. You can help. Action alert!

As we reported in April, Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued an Invasive Species Order, or ISO, that was supposed to “help stop the spread of feral swine and the disease risk they pose,” not to mention their “potential for extensive agricultural and ecosystem damage.”
Quite intentionally, we believe, the ISO’s unnecessarily broad definition includes heritage or “old world” breeds and open-range pigs raised on small family farms. These are included because they do not have the uniform color and appearance of factory-raised pigs.
The order allows DNR to seize and destroy non-conforming animals—some farmers’ principal livelihood and what remains of porcine genetic diversity—and will not compensate farmers whose pigs are destroyed. Even pet pigs could be in danger.
Many observers believe that the Michigan Pork Producers Association is behind the order. The MPPA is a coalition of CAFOs or factory farming operations that would view the small pig farmers as undesirable competition. The ISO eliminates this competition and ensures that consumers have no choice but to purchase white pork from the confinement facilities, which are exempt from the ISO.
In addition, the order is also described by some farmers as “a brazen power grab” by the Michigan DNR to expand its jurisdiction beyond hunting and fishing to now include farming operations.
Since our earlier report, four lawsuits have been filed by small farmers against the DNR to overturn the ISO on the grounds that it is vague and contradictory. Two of the plaintiffs are heritage breed farmers who actually received an order for them to “depopulate.”
To say that the order is vague and contradictory is an understatement. We doubt that whoever wrote it ever saw a pig. One of the defining characteristics of a feral swine in the ISO is tail structure: “Sus scrofa exhibit straight tails. They contain the muscular structure to curl their tails if needed, but the tails are typically held straight. Hybrids of Sus scrofa exhibit either curly or straight tail structure.” So in plain English, a pig with either a straight tail or curly tail is either a feral or a non-feral swine! If it is the wrong one, eliminate it!
The lawsuits were consolidated into a single hearing to determine whether the ISO—and DNR’s Declaratory Ruling interpreting the ISO—could be voided. A ruling is expected next month.
At the same time, there is a campaign to petition the governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, to rescind the ISO. If the governor lets it stand, other states will take note, and we may get the same sort of order from other state agencies. The ISO is not only bad for Michigan local farmers. It would also leave us with only one kind of pig by destroying the genetic diversity of pig genes presently available.
If humanity goes down the road it seems to be on and discards its heritage seeds and animals so that powerful corporate interests, assisted by friends in government, can control our food supply, we shouldn’t be surprised if the eventual result is mass starvation.
If we stop this outrageous order in Michigan, we won’t just have stopped it there. We will have prevented its spread to other states.
Action Alert! If you’re a Michigan resident, please write to Gov. Snyder and ask him to rescind the ISO. Besides being terribly unfair to small farmers, heritage and “old world” breeds of pigs are important to provide genetic variety to an increasingly limited gene pool.

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