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Michigan’s Invasive Species Act Targets Family Farms

MICHIGAN – The Department of Natural Resources of the state of Michigan is about to impose on farmers the Invasive Species Act, issued in December 2010. That means by April 1, farmers must destroy heritage, or “wild”, breeds of swine or they will be violating the law.

While many states have much needed laws against introducing non-indigenous animals into the wild, reports that the Michigan statute targets family farms and breeds of pigs normally considered safe and breeds of choice for many restaurants.

Possession of just a single such animal is now a felony crime in Michigan and punishable by up to four years in prison. State officials say they are prepared to begin destroying targeted pig herds the beginning of April. The likelihood of criminal arrests now looms over dozens of family farms and private hunting ranges.

Though the pigs listed in the Invasive Species Act have been raised by farmers and ranchers for decades without any negative impact on the environment, it is now a felony to own them. Many small farmers see evidence the legislation is intended to eliminate competition to the conventional pork industry.

Aaron Butts, Executive Chef at Joseph Decuis, says the same kind of regulation, if enacted in Indiana, would not only hurt farmers, but also the culinary industry. He says if Indiana’s DNR implemented that regulation, Joseph Decuis would have to outsource pork, most likely from confined animal farming operations which are exempt from Michigan’s Invasive Species Order.

“It’s definitely a big part of what we’re known for. We’re known for quality and how we source our ingredients, and the farm is a huge part of the restaurant. People respect the fact that when they come in they know where their food’s coming from.” Butts said. “I could get a lot of pork for a lot less cost, but it’s not going to be good, and our customers aren’t going to come for that. They’re not going to settle for that.”

Which Pigs are now illegal?

Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources issued an official document outlining nine traits of what they are now labeling “feral pigs”. The statute is written in such a way that virtually all types of pigs raised by family ranchers across the state of Michigan are now considered illegal in the state.

For a pig to be classified as “feral” it only has to have one or more of the following traits:

  • Bristle-tip coloration: exhibit bristle tips that are lighter in color (e.g., white, cream, or buff) than the rest of the hair shaft.
  • Dark point coloration: exhibits “points” (i.e., distal portions of the snout, ears, legs, and tail) that are dark brown to black in coloration, and lack light-colored tips on the bristles.
  • Coat coloration: exhibit a number of coat coloration patterns:solid black, solid red / brown, black and white spotted, black and red / brown spotted.
  • Underfur: exhibit the presence of underfur that is lighter in color (e.g., smoke gray to brown) than the overlying dark brown to black bristles/guard hairs.
  • Juvenile coat pattern: exhibit striped coat patterns — a light grayish-tan to brown base coat, with a dark brown to black spinal stripe and three to four brown irregular longitudinal stripes with dark margins along the length of the body.
  • Skeletal appearance: Structures include skull morphology, dorsal profile, and external body measurements including tail length, head-body length, hind foot length, ear length, snout length, and shoulder height.
  • Tail structure: Straight tails.
  • Ear structure: Erect ear structure.
  • “Other characteristics not currently known to the MDNR that are identified by the scientific community.”

As with so much in this country these days, the act is being carried out under the guise of “for the good of the people”. Under the cloak of government benevolence, family farmers are about to have their animals destroyed and be arrested on felony charges.

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