Raising certain breeds of hog is now a felony punishable by up to two years in prison and fines of up to $700,000 in the state of Michigan. Farmer Mark Baker learned this the hard way when state officials accused him of raising an invasive species of feral or wild pigs.
He has taken the state to court.
“They issued a declaratory ruling that will make me a felon if I keep these pigs,” Baker, who has raised hogs for more than eight years, said of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). DNR officials accused him of raising feral hogs because his pigs have certain characteristics.
“They say because my hogs have erect ears and they have a wooly coat and they have certain coloration and a flat nose and a limp tail they say that my hogs are feral,” Baker said in a YouTube video. “It makes no sense to me.”
Even if Baker follows the order and kills the pigs, the state will not compensate him.
“I’d be done,” he told NPR. “… How can the DNR say that the pigs that are under my control, livin’ in my barns — how can they say that they are feral?
The fines are $10,000 for each hog, and he has about 70.
Certain Hogs Now Invasive Species in Michigan
Baker raises free-range hogs that are a hybrid of Russian boar and a heritage breed called Mangalitsa on his Baker’s Green Acres farm in Marion, Michigan. The hybrid hogs have lots of fat and fur which enables them to live outdoors in Michigan’s cold winters. They also produce a red meat that Baker and his customers like.
“My chefs love it,” Baker told NPR of the pork. “They like the dark red meat, the woody flavor and the glistening fat.”
DNR officials have a very different opinion of Baker’s hogs. They think they are a non-native or invasive species that will devastate the state’s ecosystem and destroy crops if they get out. They say Russian boars are an invasive species.
“These invasive swine are nothing more than Asian carp with legs,” DNR spokesman Ed Golder said. “They will come in and devastate a natural ecosystem, and they will pose a serious threat to farms of all sorts.”
The Asian carp is a Chinese fish that ecologists think will kill off other kinds of fish if it gets lose in American lakes. It is an invasive species.
Raising Heritage Hogs Illegal In Michigan
The invasive species order that Baker is facing also accuses him of raising wild or feral hogs. In his video, Baker’s hogs appear to be highly domesticated and don’t seem to exhibit any wild or aggressive characteristics. Baker said that the DNR is trying to brand heritage breeds of hog “feral swine” and punish those who own them.
“These pigs have been around since probably before Biblical times and now here in the United States we have a government entity that is going to say they are illegal,” Baker complained. He also questioned the Department’s claims that Michigan is facing an invasion by feral swine.
“I am a farmer and I know lots of farmers and I don’t know any other farmer who’s experienced this feral swine invasion,” Baker said. The DNR contends that there are 3,000 wild pigs in Michigan.
“There are ten other states that are watching what Michigan does and if Michigan gets away with this and they are able to declare that one of my farm animals is an invasive species and are outlawed where does it end?” Baker asked.
The case began last year and a judge has yet to rule. Baker and his family are taking donations to fund his lawsuit against the DNR. For more information visit the Baker’s Green Acres Website.