Saturday, March 11, 2006

NAIS is Baaaad!

The Baalands opposes the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The sheep oppose it because they don't want any more holes in their ears or a microchip injected under their tail (talk about an invasion of privacy!). The goats oppose it because they're goats; and well, they oppose everything.

Everyone who values freedom should oppose NAIS. It goes against the core values on which this country was founded. NAIS is a large-scale, unprecedented surveillance by the U.S. government of citizens simply because they own a certain type of property. It is an invasion of privacy and an attack on personal property rights. Our founding fathers must be rolling over in their graves.

The rationale behind NAIS is to safeguard the American food supply and control foreign animal diseases by being able to determine the origin of an animal disease within 48 hours, i.e. the infamous 48-hour traceback. NAIS does nothing to prevent the introduction of foreign animal diseases either by accident or acts of bio-terrorism. It does nothing to prevent foodborne illnesses. Seems to me, all a 48-hour trace back will do is place the blame on farmers and give Uncle Sam the right to seize private property. Remember the Vermont sheep that were confiscated five years ago because four sheep tested positive for an undifferentiated TSE? If USDA was so concerned about these sheep (and the risk they posed to public health), how come it has never conducted any tests to determine what, if anything, the sheep had? Five years!!!!!!

NAIS is already costing the American public millions and millions of dollars. If we really cared about food safety, wouldn't it make more sense to spend our valuable resources on more food safety inspectors? Most contamination of meat occurs at the plant level, not at the farm. The biggest criticism pertaining to BSE is lack of surveillance, not whether or not cows have proper ID. In my own state, we lack adequate animal disease diagnostics. What's the point in putting a microchip in an animal, if the state lacks the ability to diagnose diseases in the first place.

NAIS will place an unfair burden on livestock producers, especially small producers. Producers will have to pay for ear tags or other identification methods for their livestock. The burden of record keeping will be huge. Every time an animal is born, moved, co-mingled, exhibited, or slaughtered, it will have to be reported. Non-compliance will result in fines. The U.S. government will have the right to come on your property without a court order. Isn't there something about illegal search and seizures in the Bill of Rights?

USDA claims that the public supports NAIS. Of course, they do. You can get John Q. Public to agree to anything if you ask him the right poll question, tell him only part of the story, then restrict his answer to yes or no. I wonder if you told the public that NAIS does nothing to prevent animal diseases, they'd still be for it. Or if you told them that it woud not prevent the most common causes of foodborne illness? How about if you told them that it will increase food prices without providing any benefit to them? Would they still be for it? Wait until you tell them they're going to have to register Fido and Fluffy!

"BIG" agriculture is for NAIS. The major commodity organizations, along with American Farm Bureau, all support NAIS. Why shouldn't they? It benefits big farms by opening potential export markets. As for me, I don't know why we should let foreign countries dictate what we do. If China won't buy our meat unless our livestock are microchipped, then we should stop buying all their cheap merchandise produced by children living under a repressive Communist regime. As for Japan, they want to sell cars, don't they?

There is a valid concern that NAIS will force small and medium sized farms out of business. NAIS definitely favors large farms. Large farms will be able to identify animals in groups whereas small producers will have to identify every lamb and chicken on their farm. Large farms will likely receive tax breaks to implement NAIS. Small producers will be left to foot the entire bill. NAIS also favors large companies. I worry about the effect NAIS will have on small meat processing plants and livestock auctions. It seems everything the government does results in larger farms and firms.

A legitimate concern of all producers is the confidentiality of the data. Farmers are afraid the government will use the data against them: "This farmer has 100 cows, I think he should show more income on his tax form. Let's audit him." Producers don't want terrorist animal rights organizations like PETA to get a hold of the data, which will be linked to GPS coordinates. There's this thing called "freedom of information." The government claims that won't happen. How many times has it happened already?! It doesn't matter whether the data is released by accident or on purpose. The result is the same.

There is a one consolation. NAIS is a HUGE undertaking. The U.S. government probably can't pull it off. There is already a mandatory identification program (for scrapie) in the sheep and goat industry. The sheep and goat industry is very small, yet the government has managed this program very poorly, never fully funding it. Oh, did I mention? They give producers the ear tags! Otherwise, many producers wouldn't comply.

Stop NAIS!
No Mandatory Animal ID

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