The following is an email exchange between myself and the Governor of Michigan's office. No, I'm not a resident of Michigan, but I feel this issue is important enough for people outside of the state to chime in on.
My first email, dated April 17, 2012:
"I am not a resident of Michigan, but I feel I have to express my rage at the news that you signed the law allowing the Michigan DNR to destroy the personal property of small farmers. I understand the problem feral pigs raise, but there has to be a better way. Tell me that this law wasn't drafted to further the interests of commercial hog farms, because to the rest of the country this is exactly how it sounds. You have set a very scary and dangerous precedent that other states will likely now follow (under the pressure of the pork production associations of their own states...) and then what- we force heritage breeds of pigs into extinction in favor of the nutritionally and flavor inferior CAFO pig?I honestly didn't expect a response. I just had to get my opinion out there to someone who was involved in the decision. Imagine my surprise and, as I read, irritation when I recieved this response (bold is mine):
But here is my real question- what was in it for you? What did the MPPA give you? Because this law is in no one's best interest and I can't imagine how a Governor who supposedly values local food (as I've heard you do) could in good conscious allow this to happen. I am appalled and disgusted."
Dear Michigan resident, (Proof my original email wasn't even read)I kind of lost my cool in my reply:
Thank you for your recent correspondence sent to Governor Rick Snyder. I have been assigned to your correspondence and am responding on behalf of Governor Snyder.
On Sunday, April 1, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began active enforcement of an Invasive Species Order declaring certain types of swine illegal in Michigan.
As part of that effort on Tuesday, April 3 the department's Law Enforcement Division conducted inspections of six properties that in the past may have had prohibited swine. The inspections were conducted with permission of the landowners. Each of the properties was found to be free of prohibited swine and therefore in compliance with the Invasive Species Order. (this is so much crap... it is partly true, but I read first had accounts of at least one farmer who was forced by an inspector to destroy every pig on his property, from the oldest boar to the youngest piglet. You read that right, he had to shoot his baby pigs)
Those facilities, farms or individuals still in possession of prohibited swine are in violation of the law and could face criminal or civil penalties under Part 413 of the state's Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.
The intent from the beginning of this Invasive Species Order has been to enforce the law while minimizing the impact on individuals and livelihoods. For that reason, the Michigan DNR provided additional time and assistance for ranch owners, breeders and others to remove prohibited animals from their properties prior to the April 1 enforcement deadline. The additional time allowed property owners to adjust their business plans to minimize economic hardship. The DNR intends to continue to work cooperatively with property owners where possible.
Sus scrofa Linnaeus, the scientific name for the prohibited animals, can pose a significant threat to the environment and to domestic pork production. The animals have been known to carry several diseases and parasites, including hog cholera (classic swine fever), pseudorabies, brucellosis, tuberculosis, salmonellosis, anthrax, ticks, fleas, lice and various worms. When released into the wild, the animals are highly mobile, making it easy for them to spread disease quickly in Michigan's wildlife and domestic livestock populations. One sow can produce two litters of four to six piglets in a year's time, increasing the threat.
The swine engage in two types of behavior that damage soils, crops and water -- rooting and wallowing. Their rooting behavior, during which they dig for food below the soil surface, causes erosion, damages lawns and farm lands, and weakens plants and native vegetation. Wallowing behavior, during which swine seek out areas of shallow water to roll in mud, increases turbidity in ponds and streams and increases erosion along stream banks, which affects water quality.
The DNR in December 2010 issued an Invasive Species Order outlawing certain types of swine in Michigan. The order went into effect Oct. 8, 2011. In order to give those in possession of prohibited swine every opportunity to come into compliance with the law, Director Stokes delayed enforcement of the order for an additional six months, until April 1, 2012.
In the absence any other regulations for the swine, the DNR is moving ahead with the next phase of implementation of the Invasive Species Order. A declaratory ruling from the DNR, issued Dec. 13, 2011, lists the specific physical characteristics the DNR will use to determine if particular swine are prohibited. Those characteristics are:
Sus scrofa exhibit bristle tips that are lighter in color (e.g., white,cream, or buff) than the rest of the hair shaft. This expression is most frequently observed across the dorsal portion and sides of the snout/face, and on the back and sides of the animal's body.
Dark "point" coloration
Sus scrofa exhibit "points" (i.e., distal portions of the snout, ears, legs, and tail) that are dark brown to black in coloration, and lack light-colored tipson the bristles.
Sus scrofa exhibit a number of coat coloration patterns. Patterns most frequently observed among wild/feral/hybrid types are: wild/grizzled; solid black; solid red/brown; black and white spotted; black and red/brown spotted.
Sus scrofa exhibit the presence of underfur that is lighter in color (e.g.,
smoke gray to brown) than the overlying dark brown to black bristles/guard hairs.
Juvenile coat pattern
Juvenile Sus scrofa exhibit striped coat patterns. This consists of a light grayish-tan to brown base coat, with a dark brown to black spinal stripe and three to four brown irregular longitudinal stripes with dark margins along the length of the body.
Sus scrofa skeletal structure is distinct. Structures include skull morphology, dorsal profile, and external body measurements including tail length, head-body length, hind foot length, ear length, snout length, and shoulder height.
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.
Sus scrofa exhibit erect ear structure. Hybrids of Sus scrofa exhibit either erect or folded/floppy ear structure.
More information about the Invasive Species Order and the problem of invasive swine in Michigan and across the country can be found at www.michigan.gov/feralswine.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state's natural and cultural resources for current and future generations.
Again, thank you for your recent correspondence. If there is anything further I can be doing for you regarding this or any other state-related matter, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
Constituent Relations Division
Executive Office of the Governor
This is so much crap I can hardly stand it. I realize I was "lucky" to get this obvious form response, and that I probably won't get another response at all, but I can't not respond to the crap in this email. Even though it will never be read. Perhaps I'll just post this entire exchange on my blog.No, not my most constructive reply. I didn't want to put a bunch of work into an email that was obviously not going to be read in depth. And I may have used the word crap a little too often.
All animals have the potential to carry disease. That is a crap reason.
I have read the statistics on the amount of damage done by feral pigs in Michigan. It's not a big statistic. And I know that your own inspectors have gone on record saying that the very farms they are visiting (with the intent of destroying their pigs, down to the last piglet) have THE most secure fencing he has ever seen. The long and short of it- instead of regulating the PRIVATE property of your citizens, why not declare open season on ferrel pigs? That would solve the problem AND encourage tourism. Oh wait, because you're in the pocket of big pork, and that wouldn't do anything to further their agenda.
I can only hope that the passionate, informed farmers whose animals you are destroying have the determination to take this bullshit ruling all the way to the supreme court and the national attention it deserves, and that you go the way of Wisconsin Governor (not for long!) Scott Walker. There is hope that the good of the people will prevail over corporate interests. We will not relent until it does.
But I replied nonetheless. And I encourage you to do the same. Even if you're not from Michigan, we need to let the Governor know that allowing the DNR to follow through with this is unacceptable. We need to flood him with emails, phone calls, snail mail, or whatever to get their attention, and to let them know that this action, obviously prompted by big pork, is not going to fly on our watch.
There are lots of good articles on this issue with a lot more in depth information on the nuts and bolts of what is going on, but here's the nitty gritty. For 10 years pork lobbyists have been working to introduce a law onto the books in Michigan to outlaw most breeds of heritage pigs (the criteria for the outlawed pigs are actually listed in the above response from the governor's office). They failed miserably each time. So they turned to the DNR, the Department of Natural Resources, even though the ferrel pig population in Michigan is relatively small and the damage they have done is not significant. There have been no recorded cases of ferrel pigs infecting any pigs in the pork industry. An easier, cheaper, less unconstitutional solution would be to declare open season on ferrel pigs as they do in Texas and Oklahoma, which would not only help reduce the problem but would encourage tourism. Instead they have outlawed heritage pigs, which isn't going to help and is infringing on the rights of farmers and consumers alike.
Please note that, while they are describing the typical native wild boar, they are eliminating pigs who have any of the traits listed above.
Why do I care so much? Well, because since this action was signed by the governor other states have started the process of enacting similar actions. Where does it stop? It isn't a stretch from this to outlawing free range poultry- many parts of the country have feral chicken populations, and I'm sure the industrial chicken and egg industries would love to prohibit true free range operations. But besides it's potential to affect my farm and my life, it is wrong. It is an infringement on our basic civil liberties and property rights. It should not be allowed to happen. I have hope that this case will eventually make it to higher court, that this action will be declared unconstitutional, and that the state of Michigan will be forced to make amends towards the farmers whose animals they have been forced to destroy. In the mean time, we need to make our voices heard on this issue.
To contact Governor Snyder, you can either go to THIS LINK to leave a form email or get the snail mail address or phone number, or you can email the contact above at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE: Apparently they aren't reading my emails at all. Wanna know what I got in response to my second email? The exact. Same. Response. Awesome. Still, let's overwhelm them with volume- have you called or emailed yet?