At long last, I have an updatte for you!  I asked a couple of people who were in the courtroom, Scott Everett and Joseph O’Leary, as well as Mark for their views on last Friday’s hearing for Ron McKendrick.

The hearing in Cheboygan was a question of lifting or keeping in place the Temporary Restraining Order that prevented Ron McKendrick from NOT allowing DNR on his property.  In other words, he was restrained from denying them access.  They could come and go at will, his business was essentially frozen–he couldn’t buy more stock, sell hunts, and could only send animals to a processor if he alerted the DNR (note that they’d already interviewed/intimidated his processor).

Highlights of the day were:

According to several counts, between the Attorney General, DNR and Department of Agriculture there were 17 State of Michigan Employees in the courtroom concerning this case.  The lead characters were all dressed in black (Mark likened it to the Matrix).  Security was intense.  At this small, rural county courthouse everyone was supposed to go through metal detectors, past numerous deputies and State Police Troopers.  An explosive sniffing dog walked through small groups of farmers and supporters.  Mark noticed a couple scruffy looking fellows in overalls and talked to one of them on a couple of separate breaks.  The fellow shared that he was currently unemployed, homeless, and had nothing else to do, so he came to see the proceedings.  Ah, OK.  Mark then asked how an unemployed fellow such as himself made it past all that security into the courtroom with a concealed gun and wearing a Kevlar vest .   The fellow quickly found someone else to talk to.  There were several similar experiences related by others who attended.  As with other meetings with this agency, the farmers and ranchers were “disarmed” with great show (not that there were any arms in the first place) while the agents went to great lengths (and expense) to show their force.

It was interesting to hear the DNR attempt to explain how there is a second species of swine. Even though common sense people believe that all animals that can breed and produce fertile off spring are of the same species, somehow, someway, the DNR believes some swine are a totally different species than others.

The Department of Agriculture talked about all the diseases that swine carry and the risks associated with spreading diseases when pigs are raised outside.  Remember that open ended 9th characteristic?  That was a point Attorney Joseph O’Leary tried to hammer home:  this declatory ruling is simply too vague to be a rule of law.  It lacks sufficient definiteness such that ordinary people can read it and stay within the law.  It doesn’t give objective shoulder height measurements or even describe the “distinct skeletal structure.”  And we won’t touch the “characteristics currently unknown” trait.

The disputed full blood Mangalitsa was used as an example. As presented through expert testimony by Mark Baker, Mangalitsa swine have 7 of the 9 prohibited DNR characteristics, yet DNR Director Rodney Stokes has chosen to attempted to exempt them from the ISO.  It seems a very political move since the Mangalitsa has very politically connected friends.  In another instance, witness Matt Tingstad related that at the Feb. 1st meeting he showed a video of his pigs, “Gretchen” and “Princess Gloria,” whom he purchased from Roger Turunen, to expert Jack Mayer.  Mr. Mayer assured him his pets were exempt.  When Matt showed pictures to a DNR agent at another time, the agent told him they animals were not exempt.

One DNR Conservation Officer that testified said he would never use just one of the prohibited characteristics to classify a pig as an invasive species. The law and a very clear directive letter from Rodney Stokes says any one or more characteristics condemns an animal.   Attorney Joseph O’Leary said, “that is because you are a man of great integrity.”

In the end, the decision was that Ron McKendrick can continue to harvest his animals and conduct business, though he can’t restock.  The DNR is allowed to enter his property one more time before the actual trial (this was only a preliminary hearing, remember) to look for pigs.  They also must give three days notice through Ron’s attorney before conducting their search.  They may not in any way interfere with Ron’s business by interviewing customers, employees, or business associates.

This was only a preliminary step.  The full trial has yet to be scheduled, but is expected to be within the next month.  Stay tuned…