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February 23, 2006

REAL ID for Animals

A REAL ID ACT FOR GOATS?

Laura Haggarty sends us information on another government boondoggle that seems almost purposely designed to harass and bankrupt small farmers. It is called the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Its alleged purpose is to “safeguard animal health,” – in other words, to exploit public fears of mad cow disease and the bird flu to give more power to the government. The Department of Agriculture’s NAIS website says that “NAIS is currently a voluntary program,” but its clear intention is to soon make it mandatory.

According to the NAIS site, the NAIS will be implemented in three phases

:1. Identify and register “premises that house animals. Such premises would include locations where livestock and poultry are managed, marketed, or exhibited.” However, according to NoNAIS.org, homes that keep livestock such as horses and goats as pets would also be registered, with fees and paperwork imposed on these pet owners. Homesteaders who raise animals for personal consumption will also be flooded with paperwork and fees.

2. Assign animal identification numbers (AINs) “to individually identified premises. In the case of animals that move in groups through the production chain—such as swine and poultry—the group will be identified through a group/lot identification number (Group/Lot IDs).” Talk about unfair competition! As Ms. Haggarty informs us, “The [identification] tags (which may contain RFIDs [Radio Frequency Identification]) will cost about $2-4 each, and for someone who has a number of chickens, like I do, they will destroy what little profit margin we have … The only exceptions are big agribusiness corporations, (like the Tyson chicken farms) who will be able to give large lots of animals a Group Identification Number.”

3. “[B]egin collecting information about animal movements from one premises to another.” This will apply even to members of 4-H and Future Farmers of America who send their animals to country fairs.

Much of what has remained of the personal and economic freedom of our farmers will be gone. This is George Orwell times 2: the totalitarian state of Orwell’s famous novel 1984 with the line “Big Brother is watching you” is being imposed on the setting of Orwell’s other famous novel of communist control: Animal Farm. Indeed, I can’t help but wonder that if they’re going to track every animal’s movement in the interest of “protecting” us from disease, is not tracking every human being to “protect” us from crime and terrorism the next step?

But won’t animals at least be tracked, so that we can trace diseases to their source? NoNAIS.org says “No:”

It proposes to trace back to the farm of origin within 48 hours of the detection of a problem, which could be weeks or months after it occurred;
Most contamination occurs long after the animal has left the farm, such as at the meat cutting factory;
USDA inspectors already inspects meat at the slaughterhouse. The NAIS does not prevent faulty inspection or otherwise prevent disease. NoNAIS.org says, “NAIS is being used by the USDA as a diversion to hide from the fact that they aren’t up to snuff.”
The practice of grinding up old cows and feeding them back to cows, believed to be the cause of BSE, or Mad Cow disease, has already been banned.
The Avian Flu is spread by wild birds. The NAIS does not protect either poultry livestock or consumers from this.

The NAIS website proclaims, “If USDA decides to make all or parts of the NAIS mandatory, APHIS [the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service] will follow the normal rulemaking process. The public will have the opportunity to comment upon any proposed regulations.” Excuse me, but isn’t it up to our elected legislators in Congress to make a program mandatory? Isn’t it Congress that should makes the rules, not un-elected bureaucrats?

The good news is that there is opposition to the NAIS at the grassroots level. For more information,

click here to visit NoNAIS.org.

click here to visit stopanimalid.org.

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