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05/31/2006 Archived Entry: "The madness of the National Animal Identification System"

THE NATIONAL ANIMAL IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM (NAIS). Absofrickinlutely amazing how little attention it's getting. It's probably the most draconian tracking and control plan ever implemented, yet even the people most affected -- small farmers, horse owners, families with kids in 4H -- are mostly unaware of it.

If you're unaware, read and weep. (The above link is the polite "official" take, here and here are real-people takes on this monstrosity.)

The plan is (among other things) for every agriculture animal anywhere in the U.S. that ever leaves its premises to have a government ID number, and for every trip off the property to be reported immediately to "the authorities." That means literally that you'll be required to report to the government every time you take your horse on a trail ride, every time your kid takes a pig to the county fair, every time you give some baby chicks to your neighbor. It applies to every ag animal -- even trout if you have a little fishin' pond. Not only that, but if you've got a chicken coop, it too will have to be registered and "geo-located." There goes the privacy of your gulch, eh?

But I'm not here to write about yet another government horror (and yet another government horror that -- as Silver wrote the other day about NSA snooping -- won't actually achieve what its proponents claim). This is about people.

I'm thinking about NAIS right now because the manager of the local garden store just cornered me when I was in there buying a couple of pots for my tomatoes. He knows I write for Backwoods Home and he asked what I knew, or what BHM knew, about this horror. But he also said that when he first learned about NAIS from the local extension agent he laughed out loud. It was too ridiculous to be true, he told her. When I told him the parts about horses and fish, which she hadn't mentioned, he laughed again.

What sort of nut, he wondered, would come up with a scheme like that?

If the plan is to control disease, why not focus on the big factory farms, whose methods of feeding and close confinement help create and spread diseases? But NAIS gives the "big guys" a break (they helped develop the plan, which among other things enables them to register animals and premises in bulk while little guys like the garden store manager, who have a few dozen animals, have to account for each individual beastie). No wonder the big ag producers were happy to work with the fedgov on this plan; it'll destroy family & hobby farming.

Once my friend at the garden store did believe what he was hearing, he recognized one of the other real clear purposes of NAIS: to control the food supply. He nodded when I mentioned another biggie: a dry run for eventual people tracking. (NAIS doesn't immediately call for universal microchipping, but it's in the long-rang plan.)

But how many millions of horse owners or people with hen-houses in their backyards 1) have never heard of NAIS, 2) hear about it and assume it only applies to Tysons and Foster Farms and other commercial ag operations, and 2) hear about it and ... laugh. It is, after all, a joke. Or would be, if it weren't deadly serious. If you were an ordinary apolitical American citizen with a daughter raising a 4H calf or a goat to supply milk and cheese, would you believe your government was capable of such far-reaching, useless, Stalinist lunacy?

Hell no. You'd think you were hearing an urban -- or in this case rural -- legend. You'd laugh it off. After all. This is America. Only in someplace like darkest Russia could it possibly be a federal crime to ride your horse a mile down the road without reporting it to the central government.

Posted by Claire @ 12:52 PM CST

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