The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) has declared swine with certain “physical characteristics” an invasive species. As they begin to roll out the swine Invasive Species Order (ISO), they have jumped the regulatory fence from public lands to private property. Much to the horror of landowners, farmers and business owners, the MDNR is targeting domesticated and humanely raised pigs on private property and farms across the state.
Michigan farmers and ranchers as of April 1, 2012 are being subjected to Michigan DNR inspections by armed DNR personnel. Swine owners face possible felony charges and staggering economic losses and other criminal penalties.
Until now, the Michigan Department of Agriculture regulated all swine farms in the state. The Animal Industries Act sets forth protocols for disease testing and other animal health rules.
Wild Game Hunting is Family Fun, Healthy Food
Private hunting preserves are very popular with individuals, who enjoy getting outdoors and harvesting their own animal. To them, it is not just sport, but about providing their own food for the family freezer. These hunters prefer naturally raised animals and bringing home their own bacon, chops, and ribs. Known in the industry as “select harvesters,” these are people of all ages who want to experience nature with their families. Yes, they may mount a boars head on their wall, but they also prefer to feed healthful wild game to their family and give thanks for the bounty of the earth. They appreciate the privacy, safety and security offered by a simulated hunting experience.
Rock star Ted Nugent owns a Michigan hunting preserve. He had this to say, “This order was fraudulently perpetrated by lies and inexcusable misrepresentation by power abusing corrupt politicians and their paid lobbyists and organizations knowingly lying about numbers, species and conditions…It’s a sad day for Michigan and America when private property rights are blatantly trampled.”
Dream Business Turns into Nightmare
Michigan private preserve owner, Greg Johnson, is a retired engineer. To please his mom & dad, he went to college and got an engineering degree. He worked for years as a geological and environmental engineer. Yet, it wasn’t really satisfying to him.Today, he has found his true calling. He is living his dream as owner of Bear Mountain Quest. Greg travels around the U.S. to hunting shows promoting his trademarked “Raging Russians,” wild boar hunting adventure. He is a one man tourism bureau, promoting Agri-tourism, with no help from the State of Michigan. He offers four seasons hunting and fishing adventures. He aims to please the whole family, wives and kids are welcome. He is loved by others in his community for the tourism his private enterprise generates.
Greg has taken land too fragile to be tilled and farmed in a traditional manner and found a suitable agricultural use for it. The vertical bluffs, bedrock and dense forest could not be farmed in any other way. The pigs love the rugged levels and the densely forested terrain.
With his engineering background, he personally designed and built a 4500 square foot hunting lodge with 4 bedrooms and 4 baths. He has a professionally engineered containment system which includes 10 foot high game fence, with cleared perimeters inside and out, with the added security of electrical fencing inside. Recently, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources inspected his fence and gave it an A+ for Excellent.
And, yet, this same agency is out to destroy his business.
The state agency has decided “sporting swine” are illegal, bad, and dangerous. They have campaigned against private hunting preserves, seeking to outlaw them. Their public relations campaign went national, even appearing in the NRA Magazine, American Hunter.Greg claims, “I once had 450 guests a year, now it is about half that, thanks to the Michigan DNR.”
Greg knew he was in trouble, when he exhibited at a show in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The MDNR, from another booth at the same show, was handing out anti-swine literature and telling people that they were going to “close down private hunting preserves.” Claiming the pigs were diseased, and the operations unregulated, the state agency was maligning his healthy pigs and prosperous small business.
Eat Wild Trend Creates Conscious Carnivores
On this 211 acre estate, he farms high quality heritage pigs (San Diego, Bzikot, Andreas, and Kaldin are the breeds).
Originally sourced from the Wild Boar Coop in Saskatchewan, Canada, these swine are prized for their meat value. Today, Greg breeds his own, and sources from other Michigan farmers. Since the sows are raised in their natural habitat, they are able to select their breeding partners. Their babies are farrowed in the deep recesses of his 100 acre dense cedar forest. The pregnant sows pull down cedar, hemlock and spruce bows to build their nest.
“If you were a pig, knowing that in the end you were going to be harvested, this is where you would want to spend your life,” says Greg.
In 2011, Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, decided that for one year, the only meat he would eat would be from animals he would kill, himself. In doing so, he became one of the ultimate foodies, a select harvest hunter.
Michigan Government Bucks the Health Trend
As the wild game culinary trend continues to grow in popularity, Michigan is one state that could have been a leader in this form of Agri-Tourism. Instead, it has chosen to lose out, big time.
At one time in Michigan, there were 1000 private deer hunting preserves. Today, because of the hostile regulatory climate, created by the Michigan DNR, less than 400 remain. And, out of the 65 swine hunting preserves, only a handful survives. One of the few that remains is Greg Johnson’s Bear Mountain Quest.
Greg Johnson has filed a lawsuit against the DNR to try and preserve his swine sanctuary, and the rights of his creatures to live in the paradise he has created.
How you can help
Contact the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and ask them to stand up for farmers and wild game ranchers. Regulation of these private concerns belongs squarely in their camp. Tell them MDNR is trespassing on their turf and hurting these vital rural enterprises.
Keith Creagh, Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
See the Action Alert by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
Learn more about the wild boar industry
Wild Boar Production
Kimberly Hartke is the publicist for the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nutrition education non-profit.
This post is part of the Fight Back Friday blog carnival, see more activist items on Food Renegade blog.