is this what we really think, heil hitler and all?

I’m sure Ms. Esther Simpson is a lovely lady.  Tea with her would be very nice and I’ll bet she has some interesting stories to tell. But that’s not why I’ve been thinking of her for nearly five months.

The reason she has been on my mind since before Thanksgiving is because of her comment on an article titled Is That Really a Heritage Turkey  published in the Atlantic November 22, 2011.

The article is “a quick primer on turkey origins, a discussion of the different types of species and, as you shop for the highlight of your Thanksgiving meal, a bit of advice for finding a true heritage turkey.”

The author, Nicolette Hahn Niman,  raises true heritage breed turkeys herself and in the article clarifies the complicated past of what we call “heritage breed” turkey today.  Anyway, the article is a good read and if you’d like to be sure you’re getting the real deal, is an excellent reference.

But, as always when I’m bowled over by an article in The Atlantic, it’s usually because of the comments. We’ve talked about this before; those Atlantic readers have turned commenting into a form of mean ridiculing sport that I don’t think I’ll ever find acceptable.

Here’s what Ms. Simpson had to add:

And of course, I could not help myself:

Ms. Simpson’s comment wasn’t in the least mean-spirited, but it is a perfect illustration of how smart, well read people are completely blinded by their absolute belief in science and academia compounded by their lack of nuanced connection with nature and agriculture.

Turkeys did not turn themselves into Frankenturkeys incapable of walking or reproducing naturally.  Turkey were hardy, healthy, capable birds with actual parenting skills before people decided they wanted birds with massive amounts of white breast meat.  Turkey  freaks were created by breeders who started fiddling with the dials to satisfy customer demand.

But that fact is apparently either unknown or irrelevant to Ms. Simpson and those like her.  According to them, today’s big breasted white battery turkey in its state of man-made misery is apparently NOT eugenics. But helping the turkey return to its former self-sufficient state, that IS eugenics. Heil Hitler and all.

Eugenics is the idea that one can improve the human race by careful selection of those who mate and produce offspring. Eugenics was a popular theory in the early twentieth century but is no longer taken seriously, primarily because of the horrors of the eugenic efforts of the Nazi regime in Germany.

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Why is this silly exchange still on my mind? Because it is the perfect example of well-meaning, highly educated people believing that farming is something you can learn from a book and manage from a distance.  From her computer screen, Ms. Simpson is in no danger of having to find out how one-dimensional her understanding is.

Again and again we trust ridiculously short-sighted agricultural solutions.  Esther Simpson, like most Americans, believes that the hothouse varieties of livestock we have created,  requiring lots of special feed, care and midwife assistance are the more important varieties worthy of a future. After all, they are the only farm animals most people know.

Quick: what color are pigs? That’s easy, white or pink, right? Wrong. Pigs come in all colors, shapes and sizes, particularly the heritage breeds that are becoming so popular these days. All pigs, even the sweetest, pinkest Wilburs and Arnolds will become feral if allowed to fend for themselves.

Virtually all heritage breed pigs have one characteristic or another that would violate the Invasive species order which is based on how they look – not their genotype or dna

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Yet it has been decided by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to enforce what they call the Invasive Species Order (ISO).  What that means is that because of a feral pig problem, in Michigan, possession of pigs with certain physical characteristics automatically makes you a felon, punishable by jail time and a hefty fine. To be perfectly clear, the DNR has the right to kill properly confined animals  on any Michigan farm or private game preserve, arrest the farmer and levy huge fines.

I am in complete disbelief  by the actions that have been taken against pig farmers already.  And especially by the millions of Esther Simpsons in the world who will never comprehend that heritage breed pigs are under unreasonable, unconstitutional attack. Or she will defend the corporate line that this is all for the public good. Or maybe she doesn’t know about heritage breed pigs at all.

Pastured pigs are being enjoyed by diners everywhere as a delicious improvement over  leaner, less tender confinement pork. And the hardier heritage breed pigs are able to live a healthier, more enjoyable life than the standard confinement hog who is selected for uniformity, leanness and fast maturation.

My question is this: Which pig genes are more valuable? The ones capable of reproducing on their own, who still remember how to be good mothers, and are more hardy and self-sufficient?   Or the hot-house hogs in need of intensive management, medicated feed, elaborate infrastructures  and are forced to endure such unpleasant pig lives? Our lack of concern for protecting biodiversity is the worst sort of arrogance. Sustainable Table will explain why heritage breeds are so very important here.

This is not a matter to be ignored. Farmers are being stripped of their livelihood with NO COMPENSATION for businesses that were perfectly legal before April 1, 2012.  It does not matter that their pigs have been properly confined and cared for – it is a species elimination, not a feral pig elimination.

Of course, the Michigan Pork Producers Association is all in favor even though these heritage breed hogs have admittedly caused no outbreaks of disease.  You can read their response to the Invasive Species Order here. At the least, very disappointing. And predictable. Read this excellent article to see how successful Big Pork was in whisking this order straight into effect. Disheartening to say the least.

This article from Mother Earth News offers an excellent and detailed explanation of the situation and the contact information for Governor Rich Snyder, who has the ability to rescind the ISO. The article tells the sad story of Dave Tuxbury who after being served a search warrant, killed his entire hog population; pregnant sows, baby piglets and all.

Even if you’re not a Michigan resident, you need to contact Governor Snyder because Pennsylvania, Kansas and New York are all poised to pass similar legislation.  This has the potential to become very ugly people. Make yourselves heard on behalf of these farmers; they really need to feel your support.

18th century Edmund Burke is a wealth of tat-worthy quotes to live by

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“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”             ― Edmund Burke

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OK people. You know what you need to do. Ready? GO-GO-GO-GO-GO

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This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday. What’s that you ask? It’s an ambitious and enlightening collection of posts from bloggers all over about issues near and dear to my heart: real food and natural living. Check it out!

21 thoughts on “is this what we really think, heil hitler and all?

  1. The situation in Michigan makes me so angry! Thank you for placing it in a broader framework for me. I was not aware of Pennsylvania, Kansas and New York. What craziness! Is there something I’m missing in their argument??
    Eleanor

    • I always wonder that myself, but it seems not. Fear of potential disease, property damage, etc. However it has been open season on feral hogs for some time, and the number killed is surprisingly low.

      If those confined hogs need so much protection from nature, we’re surely backing the wrong horse…

      • I think confinement producers are so precarious, the fear of any risk of disease makes them feel righteous in taking action. Contract producers are so heavily indebted and can be shut down for any perceived risk leaving them with no income and tons of debt. I hate to make it seem like good people against bad, because there are both on all sides.

        But failing to recognize your own weakness and fighting to handicap competition instead of improving yourself never lead to anything good for anyone. It’s an industry fighting to not die.

        My determination to abstain from industrial food of all kinds has just been completely bolstered. It’s starting to feel like I’m living in a country occupied by Monsanto, Con-Agra and General Mills (names picked at random).

  2. Broad breasted white turkeys are not happy, they can’t be! As you know I have had a hard week here on my wanna be farm. I know my turkey hen fought with that opossum, granted she lost. That is more than what a broad breasted white would do!
    I am all for the heritage breed animals. They are much easier to take care of because they can think on their own. I do not believe all of the drugs are needed to raise the animals who give the ultimate sacrifice, their lives. All the drugs, and concrete, and grain are needed when the “popular” breeds are bought. We have had our share of tweaked animals.
    I am not so happy with Michigan about the hogs, to say the least. I thought there was some cross breeding with the wild Russian boars and that was the problem. My information may be incorrect, but this law is very loosely written to allow plenty of trampling on small farms. Of course the Michigan Pork industry is all for it because it will lead to more money in their pockets. If only small family farms had the money to buy public officials.
    I don’t think we are getting pigs this year. I know a few people to buy from, at least until they are outlawed from raising pigs the way they should be.

    • I felt bad about your hen. I’m planning on adding pigs at some point. Maybe by the time I’m ready it will
      be too late… I hate seeing farmers so fearful – something bad is bound to happen.

  3. Just used the Edmund Burke quote a few days ago! The feral hog situation in MI reminds me of that Tom Cruise movie, “Minority Report” – when police arrest you just before you are (supposedely) about to commit a crime.

  4. As usual, this is very unsettling. I wasn’t aware of Michigan’s new law. Horrifying. I know never to assume anyone in government or positions of power have any common sense what-so-ever, but this is mind boggling.
    So, when are they going to start taking out humans, as we are the greatest invasive species of all?
    Man, the movie Babe would have been a real depressing bummer if the piglet were in Michigan…

      • I am definitely spreading the word! We have some friends of ours in Northern Ohio who raise the happiest hogs in the states, and though they’re only a few hours from Michigan, they had no idea what was going on over the border. To say they were horrified is an understatement.

  5. Truly wonderful write up and I have been reading and worrying over the pig issue myself. the rest is very clear and I agree, I love my royal palms, I have raised a total of five different “rare” breed turkeys and I have now settled on my Royal Palms and large breasted whites- Did you just go what the?

    Well, I buy mine from a local hatchery, and I have had the best luck with them, I have never lost one to weakness or to leg issues, they free forage right along with the rest, they are just as smart, just as clever and just as “natural” in all ways as the royal’s are..

    I had a Large Breasted White hen that became a favorite of hubby’s and a right pet.. she didn’t get butchered at the regular time as the rest did and she lived to be four before losing a battle to the fox, she nested, she was breed by the royal tom, she laid eggs, she sat and she raised cross-bred babies, and she would run to see you..

    I still miss her, I don’t know how much longer she would have lived naturally but as she was a indoor/outdoor barn turkey with free range all day and lock up at night, and we do have a annual spring fox issue, her only disadvantage over the royals is that she could not fly, which they can but she could sure run.

    I don’t know if I am a one off or what, but my naturally raised, free range, no feed out for 12 hours a day, no extra hot growth feed Large White Breasted Turkey’s are a pleasure to raise and have around my little farm, I currently have a flock of five hens and one tom, and like normal the hens are so friendly they come running up and sit at your feet to be petted..

    The hardest thing about them for me, is that they are so! friendly and sweet.. make’s freezer camp day ever more sad around here..

    • Same with my cows. The neighbor who had a Holstein dairy can’t believe how independent, chubby and self sufficient my calves are. I’m planning to add some turkey soon and I’ve been told by others how friendly and personable their turkey are. I’m looking forward to getting to know some soon.

  6. This reminds me a lot of the homebirth/hospital question. Big business has so much more money and sway they are able to thwart the efforts of the few who dare question. And homebirth is often illegal even though the 1% of the population that chooses a different option surely doesn’t take that much money out of the pockets of the already rich.

    It makes me so mad. I live in Iowa – hog CAFO capital of the world, it seems. I’m surprised they are not on the list with NY and KS – I’m sure it’s in the works here too. Thanks for this post. I’m contacting my representatives.

    • Wow, I had no idea that I couldn’t have a baby anyplace I felt like it. Probably can’t die the way I’d want to either. And the vaccinations, raw milk and I’m sure a billion small freedoms I’ve never even wondered about.

      • Wait, homebirth itself is not in any way illegal. No one will be prosecuted for giving birth outside a hopsital. The issue is with the all important mid-wife. A sane 27 states allow them while 23 ridiculous states make it illegal to use a mid-wife and said mid-wife can/will face arrest and prosecution. That is why you hear the terms “illegal homebirth”. The birth itself wasn’t illegal, just the mid-wife tending to the mother and doing her underappreciated job. :(
        Also, interesting numbers here. Homebirths were around 50% in the late 1930′s yet accounted for a mere 1% of homebirths by the mid 50′s. And now, we’ve got 1 in 3 births ending up in surgery (c-section). Honestly, I worry about that number the most. How long until women are unable to naturally deliver childern as has been done for century after century? When will nature and evolution notice we’re not using our bodies the way they were intended?

        Sorry for the long respone, but the homebirth issue is big for me. Gotta keep the facts straight!!
        Airis

      • I find it frustrating that so many of our options in life are restricted by malpractice insurance. There are a lot of things going on with fertility, pregnancy, birth and parenting that make me scratch my head…

        You are right, it’s important to be sure to relay headlines carefully – they have a tendency to become a really sensationalized version of the telephone game.

  7. It’s hard when we see legislation like this that was introduced by special interests who only have “big business” in mind. It’s certainly disheartening. It seems like the same people who are for “smaller government” are backing bills like this one that would actually expand government’s power!
    I feel so bad for the farmers. I had heard about this from another blog that I follow and didn’t realize it was so imminent. Thank you for a great blog post – very informative and insightful. Many times I caught myself saying “right on!” to my computer screen.

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