As ranchers continue to fight against a ban the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (DNR) has instituted on "feral swine" -- a ban that went into effect this month -- the department gone into enforcement mode, conducting "raids" on farms previously known to have had the swine.
In 2010, the DNR outlawed feral swine -- pigs classified as non-native, invasive and said to be disease-carriers and detrimental to the environment -- for both those raising the pigs for sport hunting and as meat. Both groups with a stake in the swine have since fought to have the ban reversed or at least suggested more stringent regulations for those who owned the pigs instead of complete eradication. But after a series of delays and extensions to give hunters an incentive to shoot wild swine and ranches the time to get rid of the animals themselves, the ban did officially go into effect April 1.
Now, Natural News reports the DNR has conducted armed raids* against some pig farmers to enforce the ban:
Staging raids involving six vehicles and ten armed men, DNR conducted unconstitutional, illegal and arguably criminal armed raids on these two farms with the intent of shooting all the farmers' pigs under a bizarre new "Invasive Species Order" (ISO) that has suddenly declared traditional livestock to be an invasive species.
"I think this is an unconstitutional order, these actions of the DNR are way out of bounds," attorney Joseph O'Leary told NaturalNews in an interview today. He is representing one of the farmers who was targeted in these raids. "To take what was six months ago an entirely legal activity, and suddenly people are felons over it. They're not growing drugs, running guns or killing anybody, they're raising animals pursuant to USDA regulations and state of Michigan regulations. They haven't done anything wrong here, and the DNR is treating them like they are hardened criminals."
Last week, according to Cheboygan News, the DNR filed a civil complaint against Ronald and Charlene McKendrick, owners of Renegade Ranch, after access to the property was denied without a search warrant. Shortly after the complaint was filed, the Renegade Ranch was visited by the DNR on Saturday with one of the representatives having filed a restraining order, which Natural News calls "an attempt to bully their way onto the property."
Fines for violations range from $1,000 to $20,000 per infraction according to the outlet. McKendrick will appear in court April 20 over the complaint filed against him.
McKendrick told Cheboygan News that most game ranches in Michigan depend on hog hunting to sustain business. He sees this order as a method of trying to get rid of game ranches in the state all together. For the Renegade Ranch specifically, McKendrick said hog hunting comprises 70 to 75 percent of his business.
The Farm to Consumer Defense Fund, a group supporting the cause of the swine ranchers and farmers, seconded this sentiment, stating the DNR has tried to push privatized game hunting out of the state before with little success:
For more than a decade, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has worked politically to drive private hunting preserves out of business. However, the Michigan state legislature repeatedly rebuffed their attempts. Elected officials recognize how important private property rights are, and they were unwilling to prohibit landowners to raise and harvest animals in open areas. Now, backed by large Agribusiness interests in the state, DNR has done an end run around participatory democracy and declared swine with certain characteristics “feral” which not only includes animals raised at hunting preserves but thousands of other small farms across the state.
Natural News goes on to report Dave Tuxberry shot all of his livestock in anticipation of a DNR inspection. Bakers Green Acres, a farm covered in our original article about the feral swine ban, posted Tuxberry's thoughts about the raid on its website:
I was served a search warrant yesterday at 7:45 a.m.
After 8 guys 3 four wheelers, and 4 hours, DNR decided I was correct. I have killed all my hogs. They gave me papers that say I do not have any hogs on my property. All they saw were dead hogs laying around from my mass slaughtering. It took 12 guys 4 times in there to kill all of them, sows with young, Pregnant sows, dozens of piglets, and old mature boars. It has been a sad few weeks.
Does anyone know what it feels like to open fire on 20 baby piglets in one group which weigh between 5lbs and 15 lbs. They are so adorable and cute.
They commented to everyone that they never saw a fence built so tough and no way would a hog get out of this area. I trenched 2′ then installed chain link fencing, then a 10′ high tightlock fence on top of that. ( 200 acre area ) They never saw a fence like that.
According to a release earlier in the month, the DNR had conducted six voluntary inspections where the owners were found not to be in possession of the swine. The department emphasized that those still owning the banned pigs are in violation of the law and subject to civil and criminal penalties.
"Our intent from the beginning of this Invasive Species Order has been to enforce the law while minimizing the impact on individuals and livelihoods," said Department of Natural Resources Director Rodney Stokes in a statement. "For that reason, we provided additional time and assistance for ranch owners, breeders and others to remove prohibited animals from their properties prior to the April 1 enforcement deadline. The additional time allowed property owners to adjust their business plans to minimize economic hardship. We will continue to work cooperatively with property owners where we can."
For more information on the ban, its enforcement and the pigs to which it applies, check out our original post here.
*While Natural News does use the term "armed raids," it should be noted that game wardens naturally carry weapons.