By Dr. Mercola
In 2010, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) issued an Invasive Species Order1 (ISO) to "help stop the spread of feral swine and the disease risk they pose to humans, domestic pigs, and wildlife as well as their potential for extensive agricultural and ecosystem damage."
While this sounds perfectly reasonable considering how much damage wild pigs can cause, the way this order is being used by the DNR is far from it. Hybrid or heritage swine, such as those raised by Bakers Green Acres,2 a family-run farm, are not feral in the sense that they run around in the wild.
However, according to the DNR, Bakers' pigs fell under the classification of "feral swine" because they're cross bred with Russian boar—an illegal breed—and Mangalitsa pigs. They also share one particular trait with feral pigs—the shape of their tail, to be precise.
In fact, crazy as it may seem, the guidelines use physical characteristics as the determinant for deciding if a pig is considered an illegal invasive breed or not. As a result, the Department deemed Bakers' hybrid swine illegal, which is a felony offense. As reported by the Alliance for Natural Health:3
"The ISO4 shamelessly targets the heritage breeds favored by small and family farms, while protecting those favored by CAFOs. Under the ISO, possession of 'undesirable' pigs carries up to a two-year jail sentence and a $10,000 fine for each pig.
Moreover, the ISO allows the DNR to seize and destroy heritage breed of pigs raised by Michigan farmers on the spot—and without compensation."
Industry Is Hard at Work to Shut Down Farm-to-Table Systems
Make no mistake about it, this is a blatant attempt by industry-led forces to shut down farm-to-table operations that threaten the status quo of the factory farm model. Many hog farmers, and there are some 2,000 in Michigan, destroyed their heritage swine herds once the ISO was issued. But Bakers Green Acres did not. Instead, they sued the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for loss of livelihood.
The DNR retaliated by asking the judge to fine the Bakers $700,000 for possession of "illegal" pigs. Two years of harassment nearly destroyed the family farm, but finally, in early February, a court date was set. At last, the constitutionality of the ISO would be assessed by a judge...
Alas, things didn't go as planned. Within mere days, less than two weeks shy of the scheduled court date, the DNR suddenly reversed its stance, agreeing that Bakers' heritage pigs were perfectly legal after all.
This meant the judge had no choice but to dismiss the case. It also meant that the DNR didn't have to defend the legality and constitutionality of its ISO. Nor did it have to clarify its definition of what a "feral" pig really is.
And, last but certainly not least, it means the DNR does not run the risk of having to compensate farmers, including the Bakers, who suffered massive losses due to these seriously flawed guidelines. As stated by Pete Kennedy, President of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund:5
"For two years, DNR has said the Bakers' pigs are illegal, then two weeks before trial, they say the pigs are okay. Why didn't the state take this position two years ago? The state should compensate the Bakers for the losses it has caused the farm."
The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund also noted that:
"Before the ISO went into effect, the farm's Mangalitsa pork was highly prized by local chefs and consumers. After the order, Baker lost access to USDA facilities to process his pork. The ISO not only cost Baker his pork sales to restaurants, but other farm products as well.
Baker's case has already made an impact beyond Michigan. In January the Indiana Board of Animal Health amended a regulation on wild hogs that partly based their legality on physical characteristics to clarify that the regulation did not apply to hogs raised on a farm."
Government Run Amok – Where Will It End?
In the end, while the Bakers won the right to raise hybrid swine, curly tails and all, this case is a perfect example of government run amok, trampling on constitutional rights just to protect Big Business.
Here, the DNR patiently waited, bleeding this small family-run farm dry before pulling an abrupt about-face to avoid losing what they knew would be a significant court battle that would free small farmers from a tyrannical law that unjustly targets small farmers of high quality heritage breeds.
As it stands, there's no guarantee that the DNR will not target other pig farmers over this issue... As stated by Harold Martin, the Michigan assistant attorney general:" I am not saying we won't apply the ISO. I am saying the ISO doesn't apply in this situation."6 The Bakers are not through, however.
"Now is the time to hold our leaders of the State of Michigan responsible for their actions," Baker writes. "From the DNR to the Attorney General's office to the Governor's office, we have been let down time and time again. The elected officials and bureaucrats that are not representing the Constitution of the people must be replaced."
As discussed in the featured video, Baker is producing a documentary about his case. You can pre-order a DVD copy on his website,7 which will help him finalize the film, and fund his ongoing work toward preserving constitutional rights in Michigan.
Oregon 'Raw Milk Gag Law' Challenged in Recent Lawsuit
Another case that demonstrates just how crazy the status quo can get is Oregon's anti-advertising laws for raw milk producers. The sale of raw milk has been and currently is legal in Oregon, but advertising the fact that you have raw milk to sell was not... Until 7th generation dairy farmer Christine Anderson8 sued Oregon's Department of Agriculture for First Amendment violations that is. As reported by Alliance for Natural Health:9
"For years... Anderson was legally forbidden from advertising her milk—she couldn't post flyers in local stores, advertise via email or on her own website, or even display a roadside sign reading, 'Raw Milk for Sale!' If she did, she'd be subject to $6,250 in fines, up to $10,000 in civil penalties, and even a year in jail.
How could advertising a perfectly legal product be illegal, and why didn't the state government want Oregonians drinking raw milk? Could it have something to do with the Dairy Farmers of Oregon, an anti-raw milk industry group whose explicit mission is to 'build demand' for conventional dairy? Or is it the Dairy PAC, which donates thousands of dollars to state representatives?"
This nonsensical law also banned consumer access to information about how a farm produces its milk, thereby preventing you from being able to compare it to other sources of milk. It's worth noting that there's no reasonable justification for any of this. Research by Dr. Ted Beals, MD, featured in the summer 2011 issue of Wise Traditions,10 the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, shows you are about 35,000 times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk.
Shielding you from raw milk advertisements is not protecting your best interests. If the US government really wanted to protect your health, it would ban junk food commercials and direct-to-consumer drug advertisements. Dr. Beals' research, which is based on the US government's own data, shows that between 1999 and 2010, there was an average of 42 cases of illness per year attributed to raw milk, and that includes both "confirmed" and "presumed" cases. In his report, Dr. Beals writes:
"From the perspective of a national public health professional looking at an estimated total of 48 million foodborne illnesses each year [from all foods]… there is no rational justification to focus national attention on raw milk, which may be associated with an average of 42 illnesses maximum among the more than nine million people (about 0.0005 percent) who have chosen to drink milk in its fresh unprocessed form. …Consumption of any food has some risk of illness or adverse reaction. And the consequence of basing public policy on horrific personal experiences is that all foods will ultimately be banned, and we will not be able to participate in any activity."
Oregon Dairy Farmers Now Allowed to Advertise Raw Milk Products
Fortunately, three months after filing suit with the help of Institute for Justice, which provides pro bono legal representation in cases such as these, the Department of Agriculture agreed to end its enforcement of the state's ban on the advertisement of raw milk. According to a February 13 press release11 by the Institute for Justice, Department of Agriculture director Katy Coba also agreed to ask the state legislature to repeal the law.
"'I am so excited that the State of Oregon has agreed that farmers like me should be able to advertise their legal products,' Christine said upon learning of the settlement. 'It will be such a relief to be able to carry on my business without feeling like I have to be looking over my shoulder for telling people about our farm and what I do.'"
Both of these cases demonstrate what those of us who want access to wholesome food are up against—unconstitutional shenanigans of the highest order! It's time for dissention, and to support each other, farmers and consumers alike, across state lines. Each and every case of infringement on your right to access healthy food must be vigorously and swiftly addressed. And the more voices that speak out against these kinds of repressions, the better our chances of success.
Is Your Food Supporting or Harming Your Health?
Virtually all of the meat and poultry (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, etc.) found in your local grocery store comes from animals raised in so-called confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). If it wasn't raised in a factory farm, it will typically bear a clear label stating it's "grass-fed" or "USDA 100% organic."
Large-scale factory farming is the cheapest way to raise meat, thereby allowing for the largest profits. But the ultimate price is high, as there's a complete disregard for human health, the environment, and the ethical treatment of animals.
Far from being what most people would consider "a farm," these massive operations are more like industrial warehouses, stocked to the hilt with animals that are quite literally crammed together. Due to the overcrowded, unhygienic conditions in these livestock factories, most of the animals end up getting sick. And whether they're ill or not, they're still routinely given antibiotics and artificial hormones to promote growth.
The natural diet of a cow is plain grass, but CAFO-raised cows are fed pesticide-laden grains and other byproducts instead. Not only does this upset their digestive systems and alter the nutritional makeup of their meat, all of the feed additives also get transferred to you when you eat that meat. The routine use of antibiotics in particular has led to the rapid rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that now threaten human life.
The factory farm model also directly contributes to Americans' increasing reliance on processed junk foods, which in turn drives the rise in obesity and chronic disease. For the past several decades, the focus has been on creating ever-cheaper foods. Well, you cannot achieve top quality and rock-bottom prices at the same time. Something has to give, and quality nutrition definitely fell by the wayside as technology overtook the food and agricultural industry.
If You Want to Optimize Your Health, Bucking the System May Be Required...
The problem is, the food industry knows it cannot compete with wholesome organic foods, raw milk, artisan cheeses, and delicatessen like the Bakers' swine. Since they cannot compete, the next best thing, from their perspective, is to simply eliminate the competition. By limiting or eliminating your access to alternatives, you have no choice but to become a consumer of CAFO goods.
I believe the movement toward sustainable food and ethical meat is an extremely positive one and, in the big scheme of things, is absolutely critical for optimal health, and for the protection of our environment. When it comes to meat, be it beef, pork, or poultry, the only type I recommend eating is meat that has been humanely raised according to organic principles.
By purchasing your meat from smaller farms, you're promoting their proliferation, and the return to saner, healthier ways of eating. In the end, that will benefit everyone in your community, including the animals. (The organic industry also tends to favor far more humane butchering practices, which is another important part of "ethical meat.") The following organizations can help you locate farm-fresh foods in your local area that has been raised in a sustainable manner:
- Local Harvest -- This Web site will help you find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
- Farmers' Markets -- A national listing of farmers' markets.
- Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals -- The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
- Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) -- CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
- FoodRoutes -- The FoodRoutes "Find Good Food" map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.