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Grandma is an outlaw

By Henry Lamb
web posted July 24, 2006

She didn't kill anyone. She didn't rob a bank. In fact, she didn't commit any illegal act. It's what she didn't do that made her an outlaw. We'll call her "Sally" - so the jack-boots can't track her down.

Sally got up on the morning of January 2, and went about her daily chores - fixing breakfast, feeding the animals, and cleaning the house. Aside from the cold, and the new year, everything was pretty much as it had been everyday for many years. But today, Sally became an outlaw without even knowing it.

Way back in 2003, the Wisconsin legislature enacted the Wisconsin Premises Registration Act, which became effective in November 2005. Sally, and everyone else in Wisconsin who owned even one chicken, horse, cow, or any other livestock animal, was required to register her premises with the state by January 1, 2006.

Sally didn't register her premises - and became an outlaw by doing nothing.

Last week, Sally had some visitors. She knew she needed help, and wrote this letter to the Liberty Ark Coalition:

    "I am in need of help! I live in Wisconsin, and yesterday the USDA sent two inspectors out to try and get me to sign Premise Registration forms. I told them no, and to leave. They said it is mandatory, and I told them I didn't care; I was not signing! I need to know what my rights are, how to fight them, and what to do if they come back! Please help me!"

First, hooray for Sally. This country needs more people with her backbone. But Sally's in trouble. According to the Wisconsin Livestock Identification Consortium, penalties for her crime could range from $200 to $5,000.

Liberty Ark's reply included this advice:

    "You essentially have three options: (1) sign up for premises registration; (2) refuse to sign up and wait for the state to bring an enforcement action against you; or (3) bring a lawsuit of your own challenging the legality of the regulations. If you choose to sign up for premises registration, that does NOT mean that you have to give up the fight!"

The reply went on to explain that opposition to this National Animal Identification System is growing across the country, and that even though the Liberty Ark Coalition is only a couple of months old, nearly a thousand individuals and more than 60 organizations have signed a pledge in support of the Coalition's effort to stop this program.

Wisconsin was the first, and so far, the only state to make registration mandatory. The USDA program originally announced that the program would be voluntary for a time, but would become mandatory in phases. Recently, in the face of rising opposition, the USDA has attempted to quiet the opposition by emphasizing the "voluntary" portion of the program, but without abandoning the authority to make it mandatory if voluntary participation fails to reach 100%.

Premises registration is only the first phase of the three-phase program. By 2007, not only are all premises to be registered, but every animal that is housed at every premises is to be tagged with a 15-digit identification number that can be read electronically. By 2009, the movement of any animal off a registered premises, for any reason, would have to be reported to a central database.

This program has been developed with very little public awareness, by the National Institute for Animal Agriculture and the USDA, behind the excuse that such a system is needed to prevent or control the spread of animal disease, and to protect the food supply chain. It doesn't take much critical thinking to realize that there is already a great system to control the spread of animal disease. There has not been a case of Foot-and-Mouth disease in the U.S. since 1929, and the five cases of BSE that have been discovered were tracked almost immediately. Food safety measures occur in the processing operation.

What sense does it make to subject millions of animal growers, and hundreds of millions of animals to this massive, expensive, governmental bureaucracy - to achieve what is already being done? A better understanding of this program, and why it is being pushed, is available here.

It will take an army of people like Sally to stop this program, and that army is growing daily.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO), and chairman of Sovereignty International.

 

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