March: Biodefense -- As I was saying // Ben Frankel Anti-NAIS arguments smack of neo-Luddism

Published 28 March 2008

Yes, perhaps NAIS does go too far in requiring people to tag their four of five egg hens in the backyard — but quibbles aside, NAIS is essential: In an industrialized, centralized food production system disease in one place can easily and rapidly spread; we should, therefore, avail ourselves of modern technology to keep track of animals

The recall of 143 million pounds of beef processed over the past two years is the largest meat recall in the history of the world. The recall caused the California-base Hallmark/Westland to shut its doors (see HSDW story). Barbara Minton writes in Natural News that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) should have placed more inspectors in meat packing facilities rather than devote so much time and effort to the development of the controversial National Animal Identification System (NAIS). NAIS was formulated under the Patriot Act with the aim of securing the U.S. food supplies. Initially, NAIS (critics call it “no chicken left behind”) was designed to give U.S. beef producers help in getting their products into the export markets, as well as protection from liability involving those products. The program has grown, though, to include all livestock species, including cattle, bison, deer, elk, llamas, alpacas, horses, donkeys, mules, goats, sheep, swine, all poultry species, and fish. Owners of these animals are required to tag each group or groups of animals they own with GPS-enabled RFID tags. In addition, owners should report within twenty-four hours the following information to a centralized USDA data base: animal births, deaths, ownership transfers, and animal ingress and egress from the owner’s land. The tagging will be done at owner’s expense. NAIS also calls for animal owners who want to sell or take their animals off their property to register their land with the USDA, thus putting their property under federal jurisdiction.

The major point of NAIS critics is that the program makes no distinction between big factory farms and agrobusinesses and small farmers who own but a few animals. If anything, critics argue, NAIS will make it easier for the big guys: Farmers and ranchers who own thousands of animals will be required to deploy only a single ID for large groups of animals. Small farmers, pet owners, and homesteaders who own, say, fifteen goats, twenty sheep, seven cows, and twenty-five hens will have to tag and track every single animal individually. An old widow who lets four chickens roam in the backyard so she can collect the eggs will have to register her home as “farm premises” and obtain a Premise ID, as well as tag each of the hens.

There is not much time left. The animal tracking, logging, and reporting components of NAIS will come into effect nationwide in January