Friday, September 30, 2005

9-30 Chicken social security numbers

I was under our house today running a water line from the wood boiler to a radiator.
What I mean by under the house is this very constricted crawlspace (actually the old part of our house is built on logs and there is a space under the logs about a foot and a half high.
I was under there crawling on my belly from one end of the house to the other pulling the pipe behind me.
But half way from one side of the house to the other I had to stop.
In front of me was an animal.
A chicken.
A hen.
Actually a brood hen.
Sitting on two dozen eggs.
Which means pretty soon she might have an many as two dozen chicks born right under the house.
Which made me think of NAIS.
NAIS stand for "National Animal Identification System" ("NAIS").
That chicken under the house will soon be regulated by NAIS.
Here are the details:
NAIS will require that every person who owns even one horse, cow, pig, chicken, sheep, pigeon, or virtually any livestock animal, will be forced to register their home, including owner's name, address, and telephone number, and keyed to Global Positioning System coordinates for satellite monitoring, in a giant federal database under a 7-digit "premises ID number."
Every animal will be assigned a 15-digit ID number, also to be kept in a giant federal database. The form of ID will most likely be a tag or microchip containing a Radio Frequency Identification Device, designed to be read from a distance. The plan may also include collecting the DNA of every animal and/or a retinal scan of every animal.
The owner will be required to report: the birthdate of an animal, the application of every animal's ID tag, every time an animal leaves or enters the property, every time an animal loses a tag, every time a tag is replaced, the slaughter or death of an animal, or if any animal is missing.Such events must be reported within 24 hours.
Third parties, such as veterinarians, will be required to report "sightings" of animals. In other words, if you call a vet to yourproperty to treat your horse, cow, or any other animal, and the vet finds any animal without the mandatory 15-digit computer-readable ID, the vet may be required to report animals owner.
If a owner does not comply, the USDA will exercise "enforcement". The USDA has not yet specified the nature of "enforcement," but presumably it will include imposing fines and/or seizing the animals.
There are no exceptions -- under the USDA plan, all farm animals are included from the retired couple living in the country with a couple of chickens for eggs to massive corporate factory farms.
And that's NAIS for you. In the future it looks like I better give my chickens pretty explicit instructions about when and where they can sit on eggs.
What if I hadn't been under the house today and momma hen's hatched without my knowledge?
I couldn't have reported the chicks, couldn't have applied for their special number.
I would have been breaking the law.
And I guess that would have made those chicks criminals too.
I better have a hen meeting. So I can explain the rules to all of those hens out there. No unplanned and unreported egg hatchings.
Maybe the USDA would make this easier for me by printing up cards with the new rules that I can distribute to all of my chickens.
Isn't this a wonderful world?
Sometimes you almost wonder what is going on in the minds of the policy people over at USDA.
(actually, I have a pretty good idea what the corporate minds over at USDA are thinking and it ain't pretty. But I'll discuss genetically engineered animals and corporations like Monsanto figuring out schemes to collect royalties for their creations some other time).