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I haven’t updated on the legal situation in a while.  Mostly things have been quiet, waiting to get court dates.  We still have pigs, though because of financial constraints and the market outlook we culled half our sows in December.  Things have been quietly moving along–until a couple of weeks ago.

Mark has started doing daily videos answering questions people have about farming and particular animals.  In one he answered a question about heritage hogs.  In the description I added that we have weaner pigs (ready to leave the mother) for sale.  The Attorney General’s office quickly contacted our lawyers asserting that we can not sell our pigs in Michigan per the Invasive Species Order and wanting assurance that we wouldn’t.  Sound reasonable, you may say, but I’d like to clarify a few things.

1) The ISO lists the following as prohibited:  “Wild boar, wild hog, wild swine, feral pig, feral hog, feral swine, Old world swine, razorback, eurasian wild boar, Russian wild boar (Sus scrofa Linnaeus).  This subsection does not and is not intended to affect sus domestica involved in domestic hog production.”  Why do they specify an exception?  How do I know if the hogs I’m raising are prohibited or are sus scrofa domestica involved in domestic hog production?  What is domestic hog production?  Can you have feral hog production, by definition?  To answer these questions, the MDNR issued their Declaratory Ruling.

 

2) The Ruling describes phenotypically what a “Russian wild boar” and a “feral swine” are.  They can’t use a genotype or DNA assessment because a DNA sample from a feral, or out-of-the-fence pig is identical to that of an in-the-fence pig.  They state that in the Ruling.  For real.  To tell if my pigs meet the criteria, I have to look at them and compare them to the description.  Here’s the description of a “feral pig”:

Identification may include use of one or more of the following characteristics (Mayer and Brisbin 2008):
• Bristle-tip coloration:Sus scrofa exhibit bristle tips that are lighter in color (e.g., white, cream, or buff) than the rest of the hair shaft. This expression is most frequently observed across the dorsal portion and sides of the snout/face, and on the back and
sides of the animal’s body.
• Dark “point” coloration: Sus scrofa exhibit “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: Sus scrofa exhibit a number of coat coloration patterns. Patterns most frequently observed among wild/feral/hybrid types are: wild/grizzled; solid black; solid red/brown; black and white spotted; black and red/brown spotted.
• Underfur: Sus scrofa 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: Juvenile Sus scrofa exhibit striped coat patterns. This consists of 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: Sus scrofa skeletal structure is distinct. 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: Sus scrofa exhibit straight tails. They contain the muscular structure to curl their tails if needed, but the tails are typically held  straight. Hybrids of Sus scrofa exhibit either curly or straight tail structure.
• Ear structure: Sus scrofa exhibit erect ear structure. Hybrids of Sus scrofa exhibit either erect or folded/floppy ear structure.
Other characteristics not currently known to the MDNR that are identified by the scientific community. (Emphasis mine.)
Have you seen any hogs like this?  The standard is “one or more of the following characteristics.”  So are the pigs in the pictures sus scrofa linnaeus or sus scrofa domestica? This is the criteria for knowing if the hog behind my fence that I’m raising for my family to eat is feral or domestic, right?
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3) Baker’s Green Acres is a domestic hog farm.  The definition of a domestic animal, according to the Animal Industry Act of 1988, is “those species of animal that live under the husbandry of humans.” A “feral swine” is a hog that has lived their life or any part of their life as free roaming or not under the husbandry of humans.  The piglets we have as feeders and weaners are 3rd & 4th generation pigs on our farm.  None of our pigs have been “free roaming” outside our fences or not under our husbandry going back to great-grandma and -grandpa.  Contrary to rumor, we have never sold a pig to a hunting operation.  All our pigs go through slaughter and to individuals or to a wholesale buyer like a restaurant.  Are we a “domestic hog production” farm or a “feral hog production” farm?
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4) What it boils down to is that the State of Michigan–from Governor Rick Snyder to Attorney General Bill Schutte to the department directors–maintain that what kind of operation you have is determined by what breed you have.  According to their argument, if your hog fits the description, you are raising feral hogs, no matter what the purpose for which you are raising them (former Director Stokes in a letter).  The question is: does the law depend on where your pig is or what breed it is?  They have steadfastly refused to define what domestic hog production is so that producers know if the ISO applies to their hogs, because the Declaratory Ruling describes every hog know to exist. That is because the Eurasian/Russian boar breeds (there are several variants) are the most heritage of heritage breeds.  These were likely the pigs hanging out with Noah.  That is why there is no genetic differentiation.  They maintain we are not included in the domestic hog producer exemption because our pigs allegedly are Russian boar hybrids as described by the Declaratory Ruling, which describes every pig except white pigs with their tails cut off. 
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5) If you have read the ISO and Declaratory Ruling and are at all unsure about your hogs in your backyard, you need to know that you have been denied due process of law and your Constitutional rights have been violated.  You can read some of the history on this in my blog posts “FAQ” and “Thoughts on Law.”
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All photos except the Mangalitsa were courtesy of Big Picture Agriculture. They have a good article on the history of pigs and heritage breeds, as does the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

 

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