Critics challenge nationwide animal ID program
By Dan MacArthur, North Forty News 7/30/06
The National Animal Identification System
is facing fierce resistance from a loose-knit
coalition unconvinced of the need for what
they consider a repetitive, costly and
"I don't think they should force anything
on anybody because a few people want it,"
insists Leslie Applegate, who maintains a
small herd of goats on her property north of
She and others, united in their opposition
to the NAIS largely through Internet
discussion groups, are challenging calls
locally and across the country for animal
owners and producers to register the locations
where their creatures are kept.
Applegate and other critics contend that
the voluntary premises identification effort
is only the first step down a slippery slope.
They are convinced that it will lead to a
mandatory program subjecting owners of even a
few animals to oppressive reporting
requirements and tyrannical government
intervention including potential seizure and
destruction of their animals.
"There's always a bogeyman somewhere in
people's minds," counters Jack Whittier, a
Colorado State University associate professor
and extension beef specialist. The NAIS, he
insists, is a well-thought-out program to
assure the safety of the nation's food supply.
The NAIS is aimed at containing the
outbreak of any animal-borne disease before it
can infect others. Eventually the U.S.
Department of Agriculture expects the NAIS
will be capable of identifying all sites and
other animals exposed to infected animals
within 48 hours.
To accomplish this, Applegate and others
contend that the USDA will impose a ponderous
and intrusive reporting requirement that
violates producers' privacy with no provision
for protecting the confidentiality of the
"Each and every time a covered animal
leaves a premises, or is taken to another
premises and returns, a report must be filed,"
Applegate stated in an open letter to elected
officials. "Reports must reflect all the
places the animal is taken to and must be made
within 24 hours." That provision, she
continued, means reports would be required
every time an animal attends a livestock show,
is transported to another farm for stud
service, or participates in a parade.
Whittier, however, maintains that the
reporting requirements would correspond to the
current ones for brand inspection, applying
only to animals traveling beyond a 75-mile
radius or across state lines.
Applegate further questioned "just who will
hold the database, how much it will cost, who
will pay for it and who will have access to
Whittier conceded that collecting and
processing the data is going to require "a
fairly significant effort" and confidentiality
issues still have not been resolved. But, he
said, private-sector contractors currently are
developing reliable information technology to
meet the needs of the NAIS.
"Is it going to be a big task, yes," said
CSU Cooperative Extension agent Ernie Marx.
"It's a big undertaking, but other countries
are making it work."
He and Whittier are among those
spearheading the premises identification
program in Larimer County, urging producers to
act now while registration is free and
voluntary. Under the current timeline, which
has already slipped, premises registration and
animal identification will be mandatory by
2008, with animal movement reporting required
the following year.
But beyond the burdens it places
particularly on small producers, "NAIS will
not work, NAIS will not protect us from
terrorism," Applegate asserted, insisting that
the nation's food supply already is safe.
Instead of subjecting such onerous
requirements on owners of such a broad range
of species such as horses, goats, pigs, llamas
and sheep, she stated that alternatives
already are available to detect mad cow
disease -which critics contend is the true
target of the NAIS.
The USDA, according to Applegate, could
more simply require the testing of all
slaughtered cattle for mad cow disease, or
bovine spongiform encephalopathy. The United
States, she continued, also could limit
importation of animals from other countries
and better enforce existing laws.
"Any program that is implemented should be
voluntary and market-driven," Applegate said.
That's precisely what the NAIS is, responds
Marx. He said it is a free, voluntary,
market-driven program to assure the safety of
the domestic food supply and ensure
international markets remain open to American
"Those who embrace it will find ways to
make it work," said Marx.
"I think it's just good business to be
participants to preserve the safety and
well-being of our animal industry," agreed
Whittier. "I don't think it [NAIS] is going
The North Forty News reported on the NAIS
in its July issue. That article is available