here’s an article from the april 23, 2012 detroit free press
thanks to neon vincent for his constant vigilance and keeping me in the loop. he also sent me another link to a blog post about this issue, which i first cribbed from a natural news link, and am trying to re-post here as well. thank you to everyone who is following this story.
(here’s the sign of a good and organized friend: he posted this in the comments section last night: Glad to help! I’ll see what I can do about that other story. In the meantime, the link to it is here. http://www.resilientcommunities.com/big-ag-fights-back-michigan-turns-small-farmers-into-felons/)
They’re huge, they’re invasive, they reproduce quickly, they eat everything in sight and now, they’re illegal.
Sound like Asian carp?
Nope, these are wild Russian or Eurasian boars and their relatives, illegal to possess in Michigan as of April 1. But the backlash against a new order that designated them an illegal invasive species has gone viral on property-rights and natural-foods websites across the country.
Hunting ranches that stock the boars and some pig farmers who raise specialty breeds that have some boar-like characteristics say the new rule will wipe out their business, and they are fighting back.
Since April 1, when enforcement of the new rule began, the Department of Natural Resources has searched two ranches with warrants and inspected 18 others to make sure all their wild boars were destroyed or sold. Three ranches and a pig farmer have filed separate lawsuits, saying the new law violates their constitutional rights.
Internet sites have painted the DNR as a government agency out of control, bringing in jackbooted, weapons-carrying officers to take private property and turn farmers into felons.
“I am hereby calling for the armed citizens’ arrest of DNR officials who must be brought to justice for their crimes against Michigan farmers,” said the editor of NaturalNews.com.
“That’s very irresponsible rhetoric,” said DNR spokesman Ed Golder. Officers do carry guns but despite assertions, the DNR has arrested no one and has shot no pigs, he said.
The DNR said it added the boars to the Michigan Invasive Species Act in late 2010 because feral hogs that have escaped over the years from hunting ranches have bred and spread, uprooting crops, destroying wildlife habitat and carrying diseases that could spread to the state’s pork industry and potentially to humans.
The agency estimates there are 1,000 to 3,000 feral hogs in the state; as of late last year, it said 340 had been spotted in 72 counties, and 286 had been killed. In Michigan, it is legal for anyone to shoot feral hogs on sight.
Supporters of the order included the state’s largest hunting and conservation group, the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, and the Michigan Pork Producers Association, owners of megafarms.
Opponents note that the Legislature rejected bills to outlaw boars. Instead, the DNR director outlawed the creatures through an administrative order, adding them to the list of animals banned under the existing invasive-species law.
Wild boars are popular shooting targets on the state’s 60 unregulated hunting ranches, where hunters pay to hunt animals year-round.
The DNR filed a lawsuit April 10 against Renegade Ranch in Cheboygan County, which hosts such hunts, to enforce the new order. Armed with a temporary restraining order, officers descended on the ranch after the owners refused entry days earlier, and the DNR said it did find prohibited swine. Violating the act can lead to civil or criminal fines of $1,000 to $20,000.
At a hearing in a packed courtroom Friday, a judge ruled the ranch can harvest its existing boars through paid hunts by clients, but cannot buy more. The DNR can inspect the ranch again in the next four weeks.
Another hunting ranch owner, Dave Tuxbury of Deer Tracks Ranch near Fife Lake, turned DNR officers away and told them to come back with a warrant. On a website, he described in gory detail shooting dozens of boar sows and piglets. When the DNR came back with a warrant, there were no illegal hogs left. “It has been a sad few weeks,” Tuxbury said.
Shooting preserves may have been the main targets of the new act, but family farmers who raise European breeds of pigs, some related to boars, have been swept up in the controversy.
Near Cadillac, Mark Baker of Baker’s Green Acres raises hybrid Mangalitsa pigs for chefs, who prize the tasty, naturally raised meat. Baker said his pigs, crossbred with boars, are now in danger. Only purebred Mangalitsa are exempt, the DNR’s Golder said.
Baker has become a hero in the pig fight, raising cash and national attention through videos on his website, bakersgreenacres.com , decrying the state’s attempt to take his pigs.
“I have no problem with exterminating feral swine,” Baker said Saturday. “But my pigs are my property.”
An Air Force veteran who also raises chickens and produce on his 80-acre farm with his wife and eight children, Baker has filed a lawsuit saying the DNR’s actions are unconstitutional when applied to his pigs.
Baker said he believes that the state’s factory farms are to blame for the boar ban, because they want to put small farmers like him out of business.
He said his pigs would never become feral, because they’re domesticated. They live behind fences, never attempting escape.
Baker’s attorney, Joseph O’Leary, said Saturday that the DNR’s definition of the banned species is vague and unconstitutional. Farmers cannot tell whether their hogs are banned or safe, he said, and instead, “the DNR assures us that it will know an illegal pig when it sees one.”
The DNR order states it applies to wild boar, wild hog, wild swine, feral pig, feral hog, feral swine, Old World swine, razorback, Eurasian wild boar and Russian wild boar, but not to domestic swine. It defines banned pigs by color, tail structure, ear types and even color of fur.
Marc Santucci of Okemos, who raises purebred Mangalitsa, said he has been assured by the DNR that his three dozen or so pigs are safe, but said the agency has done a poor job of explaining itself, leading to fear by farmers.
“I’ve gotten calls and e-mails from all over the country,” from other farmers worried Michigan’s actions will spread to other states, he said.
Celebrated chef Brian Polcyn of Forest Grill in Birmingham has bought Baker’s pigs and is a fan of breeds such as Mangalitsa for their tasty meat and creamy fat. “I think the government went overboard,” Polcyn said. “These are farm animals.”
The DNR said halting invasive species is one of its missions. Golder cited Asian carp, imported to Arkansas in the 1970s for food and sewage-pond cleaning, as similar. The carp escaped from fish farms and government ponds and now pose a costly threat to the Great Lakes.
“These are Asian carp with legs,” Golder said. “They pose just as serious a threat on land as Asian carp do in water.”
Contact Tina Lam: 313-222-6421 or firstname.lastname@example.org