Saturday, March 7, 2009

Had enough of politics yet?

If you're still all jazzed up to make your opinions known, I urge you to contact the USDA to oppose a new draft rule that goes a significant way toward implementing the National Animal Identification System. The NAIS is a proposed system that effectively tags and catalogs all members of most livestock species in the US, tracks their movements and records specific information about them.

The USDA's main argument in support of the NAIS is that it will improve animal health and food safety... the problem is that it does absolutely nothing to promote animal health. The NAIS is simply a system that provides for the warehousing of billions of pieces of largely irrelevant information. The databases to register properties, identify each animal, and record billions of "events" will dwarf any system currently in existence.

The costs for implementing the program, enforcing compliance, monitoring, and storing the recorded information are astronomical. The USDA has already spent $130 million toward the NAIS without yet developing any workable system. Such a waste of money in these troubled economic times is simply unconscionable. This is an enormous diversion of resources from the far more critical needs under USDA oversight, such as disease testing, disease prevention through vaccination and improved animal husbandry practices, and disease detection--basic biosecurity measures which, properly implemented and sufficiently funded, will do far more to improve herd health and food safety than a national animal tracking system. The NAIS will not prevent food-borne illnesses such as e. coli or salmonella contamination, because the tracking ends at the time of slaughter. If we truly want to protect people from animal-borne diseases the answer is simple: stop feeding animal parts to sheep and cattle, and test slaughtered animals before they enter the food supply. Salmonella and e. coli are best addressed by improved husbandry practices and the improved oversight of slaughterhouses and processing facilities. The truth is, this isn't really about food safety.

Programs such as NAIS that burden small, sustainable farmers will hurt efforts to develop safer, decentralized local food systems. In fact, the NAIS goes a significant way toward reducing the humane and ethical handling of food animals and the cleanliness of small-scale, locally-produced foods. It discourages individual involvement in farming or animal husbandry: because of extremely high costs of participation to the individual farmer, and government intrusion, many people will choose not to participate in food production and animal husbandry, or will refuse compliance. This will result in less competition, greater reliance on centralized, industrialized food sources, worse food quality, less consistent disease reporting and treatment, and fewer choices regarding the source and humane handling of your food animals.

National registration and health surveillance will benefit large-scale, commercial operations by making their products more valuable on a global market... but for the small-scale and family farmer there is absolutely no rational basis for the government to monitor the movements of personally-owned livestock animals. Under the NAIS plan, even the individual owner of a pet riding horse or a few backyard chickens would need to register with the government as a livestock producer, purchase tracking tags, report basic health care information, and report the movements of animals that have absolutely no interaction with the commercial food supply. The whole concept of a national tagging and tracking system for all livestock animals is so mind-bogglingly wasteful and useless, it leads one to wonder who actually does benefit from this system, since it's not the animals and it's not the small-scale farmers. The truth lies in the direction of big agribusiness, the sale of RFID chips, readers and implant equipment for every livestock animal in the country... not to mention the operation of the absolutely monumental databases, privately operated and maintained. The truth lies in in 2002, when the National Institute for Animal Agriculture (membership comprised of entities such as Cargill Pork, Tyson, Micro Beef Technologies, and Global Vet Link) proposed that the USDA develop a "national animal identification system"... companies that would reap the benefits of an enhanced export market and reduced competition without having to bear any of the costs.

In much the same way that the USDA regulates and oversees large-scale, commercial dog breeding operations but does not interfere with the good work of the small-scale hobby breeder's activities, a NAIS could be implemented toward the greater oversight of feedlots and factory farms without impacting local, small-scale, homestead, and family-farm operations. Please urge the USDA to end their support of a system that only benefits big agribusiness and will do great harm to local and humane food production. Follow the link below to visit the USDA's public comments forum and make your opinion known. Click the talk-bubble next to "add comments" to do just that.

The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance has some good stuff to say on the subject... much clearer and more succinct than my thoughts, I'm sure. Be sure to check the "Focus on Horses" link on the right side for more information on the NAIS impact for horse owners.

Another very tidy summary can be found at the website of the LibertyArk Coalition. The thing that freaks me out the most about this is how far we've gone toward full implementation without any kind of public discussion on the matter. It's an issue that's totally off the radar, unless you happen to be a livestock owner. I am not, currently, but hope to be someday soon. More importantly, I care very much about where my food comes from. I feel very strongly about local food production, sustainability, biodiversity, and the ability of people to feed themselves from the ground up. I want us to continue to have food options that don't involve factories, that don't involve the horrific conditions of large feedlots and commercial slaughterhouses. I want to be able to grow my own chickens and keep a pig around without it being anyone's business but my own. I want to take trail rides and go camping without notifying the government of my movements. This system is frightening in its scope and impact. I can't urge you strongly enough to look into the issue, and to make your opinions known.

More on HB2852

HB2852, which would require “pit bull” owners to purchase $1M worth of liability insurance, has been referred to the Consumer Protection committee. These are the people to contact to request modification of HB 2852 to remove the breed-specific language. The fact that it has officially gone into committee doesn't mean it's set to pass--the bill could very well die in committee, but if they move on it the next step will be public hearing, where we could call for public opposition in Salem.

Below is contact information for members of the Consumer Protection committee. Please feel free to write and call. Remember to be reasonable, calm, and factual.
A hearing for the bill has not yet been scheduled.

Consumer Protection


Paul Holvey, Chair
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1408
Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE H-275, Salem, OR, 97301

Chuck Riley, Vice-Chair
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1429
Capitol Address: 900 Court St NE, H-274, Salem, OR, 97301

Jim Weidner, Vice-Chair
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1424
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-387, Salem, OR, 97301

Brent Barton
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1451
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-386, Salem, OR, 97301

Jean Cowan
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1410
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-376, Salem, OR, 97301

Vic Gilliam
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1418
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-389, Salem, OR, 97301

Wayne Krieger
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1401
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE., H-381, Salem, OR, 97301

Greg Matthews
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1450
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-379, Salem, OR, 97301

Carolyn Tomei
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1441
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE., H-279, Salem, OR, 97301

Matt Wingard
Capitol Phone: 503-986-1426
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-474, Salem, OR, 97301

Victoria Cox
Cindy Hupp

Full list of email addresses for easy cut and paste:;;;;;;;;;

This Committee agenda may be watched here:

This bill may be tracked here (click “House Bill” button and type 2852 into the box):

Previous alert and additional information can be found here:

Thanks to Green Dog Julie for the above links!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Well, it appears Senator Starr's proposed "pit bull" ban was only a diversionary tactic to try and distract the public while HB 2852 was slipped in under the radar. Proposed by Rep. Vicki Berger, HB 2852 requires owners of APBTs, AmStaffs, and Staffordshire Bull Terriers, or owners of any dog resembling any of these breeds to carry liability insurance to the tune of one million dollars.

The senate was evidently flooded with phone calls, letters, and emails regarding Starr's proposed ban. We need to make even MORE noise about this issue--let them know we ARE paying attention and that we mean what we say. The fact of the matter is breed specific legislation is ineffective, misguided, unfair, and totally unacceptable. If the issue were TRULY about public safety, we'd be talking about fair and effective dangerous dog legislation that places the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of irresponsible pet owners, REGARDLESS of breed or type.

Please, contact our representatives. Let them know that HB 2852 will do nothing to improve public safety. Responsible owners will handle their dogs responsibly, while irresponsible owners will continue to put the public at risk, no matter what breed or type of dog they own. Irresponsible owners will not purchase these insurance policies; victims of dog attacks will still have been attacked... mandating insurance policies will not stop these occurrences. Mandatory insurance and the social stigma around it will drive responsible owners away from adopting and caring for shelter dogs that even vaguely resemble pit bulls to avoid the embarrassment and hassle, leaving millions of dogs a year to die in shelters. It will lead to pet abandonment and unfairly target low-income and working-class dog owners and be nearly impossible to enforce. Add to that the near-impossibility of identifying a pit bull on sight (recent DNA testing of mixed breeds shows even the experts can't do it) and the fact that they temperament test as more stable than nearly all breeds and you can see that mandating insurance on the basis of
external appearance is sheer stupidity.

A far more appropriate piece of legislation would require dogs with bite histories or previous complaints about aggression to be insured. A far more effective piece of legislation would resemble Calgary, Alberta, Canada's Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw (warning: PDF), a smart and effective piece of legislation that puts the onus of responsible ownership squarely with the dog owner, themselves.

...but of course we all know this isn't about public safety. Write now!

Say NO to HB2852!