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SKEPTOID BLOG:

Natural Nonsense: Is Michigan Going Mad About Pigs?

by Josh DeWald

May 9, 2014

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Donate The Man himself at NaturalNews, Mike Adams, has written a number of stories stating that the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is ordering people to shoot the pigs on their farms for no good reason. Is the state of Michigan going on an evil rampage, or is there perhaps another explanation?

It all started in 2010 with the "Invasive Species Order" (ISO), which itself an addition to the broader 1994 "Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act", corresponding to the "Transgenic and Nonnative Organisms". The ISO is simply adding additional species to the list of those that are banned. The ISO did not confer any additional powers on the DNR. According to Mike Adams though it "suddenly declared traditional livestock to be an invasive species."

So what species did the order declare to be invasive on top of prior ones already in the law*:
  1. New Zealand mud snails

  2. Wild boar, wild hog, wild swine, feral pig, feral hog, feral swine, Old world swine, razorback, eurasian wild boar, Russian wild boar (Sus scrofa Linnaeus). But not sus domestica (domestic pigs).

Was the order and enforcement sudden? No. Adams starting reporting on these apparent horrors in March of 2012, but the order was issued in 2010 and didn't take effect until October 8, 2011 (see bottom of Invasive Order page). So farmers had a year to become compliant or seek exemptions.


Adams appears to have no beef with enforcement of removal of mud snails, so we need to discover if the various types of wild boar, hog, pig are "traditional" livestock that are being unfairly maligned.

Is this an attack on small farmers?


The bulk of the articles you will find about this Order essentially claim that the entire purpose is to restrict the practices of the small farmers so that Big Agriculture, who tend to use different pigs, can have some monopoly on pig production. This seems pretty absurd if you think about it, as the specific point of the "heritage pigs" is to have pigs that represent a more "pre-industrial" version of pork products, which aren't what most people prefer. And the small farms can obviously maintain the standard domestic breeds, which is all that would compete with "Big Ag."

And as one Russian boar rancher in Minnesota -- the last rancher with Russian boar in that state, due to similar laws throughout the midwest -- puts it: "'They're intelligent problem-solvers, they're very athletic -- they can leap over low fences -- and they're survivors. They'll eat anything.'" And the method they use to keep the boars from going feral: "a ring of tall concrete slabs, the kind usually associated with airport anti-terrorism defenses." It is this "eat anything" and desire to get out in the open that appears to be the impetus for the designation of "invasive" being applied to wild boars.

At least that's my understanding.

Over-zealous Handling of some Farmers?


But perhaps the part getting people mad is the claim that the DNR is forcing people to shoot their pigs.

Renegade Ranch Hunting Preserve


Let's start with the owners of Renegade Ranch Hunting Preserve. Adams fails to mention that "farmers" there are not raising livestock for purposes of people eating local. Rather they have pigs for purposes of hunting. The owner of the hunting ranch's argument for his pigs not being "invasive species"? "I buy them from a guy in the U.P. As I understand it, something that's raised in Michigan can't be an invasive species". Only after obtaining a court order through a lawsuit did the DNR enter the property which contained the hogs and then later filed a lawsuit to to compel the ranch to "depopulate". They did not go in an arrest them as felons, which keeps getting cited in the articles.

Deer Tracks Ranch in Fife Lake


Guess what Deer Tracks is? You guessed it. A hunting preserve (they use the term "enclosure", the single largest in Michigan apparently). Once again. These aren't some plucky local farmers being told to get rid of their pigs.

Baker's Green Acres


A group that is featured in Mike Adam's articles as being "forced" to shoot their Heritage pigs is that of Baker's Green Acres. That farm had a type of pig known as Mangalitsa, which is a type that descends directly from European wild boar. Mangalitsa by itself wouldn't have been a problem as they are somewhat protected "heritage" pigs. But, whoops, the Bakers were actually breeding them with Russian boars, and it was the ownership of the boars that put them within the purview of the ISO. The Bakers sued the DNR, but the case was dismissed in February of this year, as the Bakers no longer have any remaining boars (slaughtered) and so they are now in compliance. Though a blog entry on their site makes things a little more confusing, implying almost that they shouldn't be in compliance and that the ISO is being arbitrarily applied. It is somewhat confusing as the DNR site (linked below) says that a hybrid of a Russian boar would be a violation.

With respect to the slaughter itself, the DNR states (link below), the Bakers could have simply sold the Russian boars before the deadline expired (which is what most farmers did) rather than performing a mass slaughter. So the tear-jerking story of them being "forced" to kill the pigs they love is a bit much.

Penalties


In the NN article, the folks at Baker's Green Acres claimed they slaughtered their pigs so that they wouldn't be considered felons. However, in reading the statute I can find no evidence that possession of the pigs was anything other than a misdemeanor which would incur fines (not insignificant though, $1000 to $20000 per violation). Perhaps they heard different, but again I get the sense that they vastly overreacted in performing the unnecessary mass slaughter. Perhaps a reader has more information regarding the criminal penalties for possession of one of the banned species.

What does the Michigan DNR have to say?


For the record, the Michigan DNR also has a page responding to the claims where they lay out their reasoning. They note that there have never been "raids" and that all inspections (except for the 2 noted by NaturalNews) have been with the property owner's consent. For the Fife Lake residence no pigs were found (apparently because the owner shot them all before the DNR arrived).

Conclusion


It seems reasonable to me to accept the premise that the goal of the sections of the law, including the Invasive Species Order, are meant to protect existing crops, farms and other wildlife. It's also possible, as with any law, that the application of that law in specific cases may seem overkill. And perhaps enforcement of the law even for those farms that make guarantees about the containment of their pigs seems preemptive, invasive species are going to be much more difficult to control once they are in the wild (which nobody would argue is outside of the purview of the DNR I assume).

I'm curious what people closer to the issue have to say. Is there any actual hard evidence that the addition of wild boar was in any way tied to Big Ag?

* sidenote: I'm sure Adams has no problem whatsoever with provision 324.41305 which states that genetically engineered aquatic plants and animals may not be introduced without prior permission

by Josh DeWald

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