Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Urban Chickens and the NAIS: just say no

There's a proposal afoot at the USDA, the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), that would require all animals be fitted with tracking IDs under the guise of disease control. This proposal, if passed, would mean each of our urban chickens would need to be tagged and registered with the USDA.

And not just our chickens, but any chickens, which means the cost of pastured eggs and organic locally-grown meats at our local farmer's markets would go up, too.

Just another case where our urban chickens getting categorized as "livestock" isn't helping us.

According to the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, here are the three implementation stages of NAIS that are mandatory if the proposal would be successful (italics are mine):
1. Premises registration: Every person who owns any livestock animal would have to register the premises where the livestock is held within the state. Livestock animals include cattle (beef and dairy), hogs, sheep and goats, chickens and other poultry, horses, bison, deer, elk, alpacas, llamas and others.

2. Animal identification: There will be two levels of animal identification: individual animal and group or lot identification. Most animals in the program would need to be individually identified with a unique 15-digit number. Animals would either be implanted with a microchip or tagged with a radio frequency device, or otherwise physically identified. The tag will have to bear the entire 15-digit number, with the number easily read. For at least some species, radio-frequency identification devices would be required.

Group or lot identification could only be used where groups of animals are managed together from birth to death and not commingled with other animals. In practice, only large confinement producers of poultry and swine would be able to avail themselves of this exception to the individual tagging rule. If animals do not meet the requirements for group identification, they will have to be individually identified.

3. Animal tracking: Every time a tag is applied, a tag is lost or an animal needs to be re-tagged, an animal is killed or dies, or an animal is missing, the event would have to be reported to the government within 24 hours. “Commingling events” will have to be reported, including both public and private sales, regional shows and exhibitions.
So, if the NAIS is passed, we'll have to get tags/RFID chips for each of our urban chickens and report to the government if we take our chickens anywhere but our own backyards.

Wow. While the intent of the NAIS is noble romantic (disease tracking and "protection against bio-terrorism"), the implementation seems a bit intrusive/awkward if you ask me. ("No Fly List" anyone? see parallel issues/concerns raised in the Identity Cards discussion)

If, like me, you want to do something about this, please visit the Organic Consumers Association action page and send your Congresscritter an email before March 16, 2009.

More information on the NAIS can be found here:
Tip of the hat to Bad Wolf for bringing this issue to my (our) attention.

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Bad Wolf said...

Been meaning to say, "GREAT WRITE-UP!"

Seriously. Good Job. Thanks for putting this together. :)

Unknown said...

Hey Bad Wolf, thanks for the lead on the subject matter! really appreciate you being my muse on this stuff.

Drop me an email when you get a chance in case I have questions about your stuff? Thanks!


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