State reconsiders plan for farm animal identification

MAINE - A federal proposal to identify every farm animal in the nation through traditional methods such as tattoos and ear tags, or embedded microchips that can be scanned electronically, has generated a firestorm of criticism in Maine.

The anger and suspicion reached new heights a few weeks ago, when state agricultural officials were pelted with manure at a meeting in Ellsworth. The attackers escaped, but the stink they created has forced legislators and the Maine Department of Agriculture to reconsider the development and implementation of the plan.

The animal identification proposal originated in Washington, D.C. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been working since 2002 on a nationwide farm animal identification system that would allow rapid response to disease outbreaks by giving health inspectors access to information about the current location and life history of every farm animal in the nation.

The proposal was spurred by concerns about a potential outbreak of mad cow disease, bird flu or other serious hazard to human health — and worries about the possibility of crippling agricultural production losses from diseases that affect only animals.

Mike Johanns, the U.S. secretary of agriculture, wants a system that would eventually show the location of not only every cow and pig in the country, but also every family flock, llama, ostrich, rabbit and other agricultural creature.

Don Hoenig, the state veterinarian in Maine, said rapid response to disease outbreaks is the goal.

“One of the tools we need is … to identify the animals and find out where they have been [over the courses of their lives],” said Hoenig. “The goal is to have 48-hour trace-back of all animals that might have come into contact with a [diseased] animal.”

Said Hoenig: “We are so far away from that, it is embarrassing.”

Source: VillageSoup
calendar icon 15 May 2006
clock icon 1 minute read
© 2000 - 2024 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.