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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Michigan Begins Heritage Hog Slaughter


Despite its assertion that it would not do so, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has begun conducting armed raids on heritage hog farmers, the first two over the weekend of April 14-16. 

Dave Tuxbury of Deer Tracks Ranch killed all of his hogs on April 14 so that the DNR, which had served a search warrant, would not charge him as a felon. “It took 12 guys four times in there to kill all of them,” Tuxbury wrote Monday in an email. “Sows with young, pregnant sows, dozens of piglets and old mature boars. 

Does anyone know what it feels like to open fire on 20 baby piglets in one group? They (DNR agents) commented to everyone that Mangalitsa heritage breed hogthey never saw a fence built so tough and no way would a hog get out of this area. …They never saw a fence like that.” 

But even a super-tough fence wasn’t enough to prevent enforcement of the order that effectively put the Michigan heritage hog farmer out of business on Saturday.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed the DNR’s “invasive species order,” or ISO, in December 2011. The ISO went into effect April 1, and was enacted, the DNR said, to protect Michigan’s hog farms from diseases spread by so-called feral hogs, as well as protect landowners from damages caused by wild hogs. 

You can read the ISO here. Its scariest sentence: "Other characteristics not currently known to the MDNR that are identified by the scientific community."  

In other words, the Michigan DNR can seize your hogs by changing the rules whenever it wishes. 

A couple of things smell fishy here. 

First is that the DNR’s own website says that fewer than 700 wild hogs have been seen or killed in Michigan over the last 10 years. Officials of the Michigan Pork Producers Association (MPPA) confirm that there have been no reported cases of pseudorabies spreading from wild hogs to domestic ones. 

The second concern is that the ISO outlaws swine on the basis of their phenotype – how they look – not on their genotype or their DNA. Virtually no kind of pig except the few breeds raised in CAFO hog farms can pass the nine phenotype descriptors laid out in the ISO — and virtually no heritage hog can pass it. The ISO says that such hogs are illegal, whether they are securely fenced in or not, and that farmers who keep them will be charged as felons. The ISO allows DNR officers to come onto a farm and kill the offending animals — and to do so without compensating the farmer whose stock they destroy. 

The third fishy stinker is that the DNR is charged with managing wildlife — not farm animals. 

There’s much more to the story. As attorney Pete Kennedy of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund explains in this excellent post, the MPPA — which has a vested interest in eliminating competition from heritage hog farmers helped draft and pushed for the ISO. 

State Sen. Darwin Booher (R-35th District) is a good guy here. He has said that the DNR is acting outside its mission and has no business regulating farm animals. 

Booher’s aide, Kara Butters, told me in a phone interview that the Michigan Pork Producers Association, specifically MPPA’s executive director Sam Hines and MPPA board member Harley Sietsema, have been shopping this legislation for several years, trying to find a state legislator to sponsor the law. 

Unable to find anyone to do so, the pair then took the proposal to the DNR, which responded with the ISO. Sietsema’s High-Lean Pork owns 250 of Michigan’s 313 confined animal feeding operations, or CAFO, hog farms, most of which are “farrowing operations,” dedicated to providing young pigs to ship out of state to other hog farmers. 

I spoke with Michigan farmer Mark Baker of Bakers Green Acres farm in Missaukee County and asked him how the ISO would affect his heritage Mangalitsa hogs, for which chefs around the country pay premium prices. The Mangalitsa is a Hungarian hog prized for its extremely high lard production. Baker raises about 75 Mangalitsas a year and feeds out 50 to sell to top chefs. 

“They’re not going to take my pigs,” Baker, a U.S. military vet, said.  “I am willing to be arrested.” Baker has filed suit against the DNR. Read more about Baker — and listen to some radio interviews with him —at his website. 

Tempers are hot and getting hotter on this issue, and I fear bloodshed. Don’t be misled into believing that this is strictly a Michigan issue: Pennsylvania, Kansas and New York are all poised to pass similar legislation, according to several sources. If Michigan succeeds in destroying its heritage hogs, as well as the livelihood of its heritage hog farmers, you can be sure that other states will soon follow suit. 

The DNR needs to put the guns away. Gov. Rick Snyder — said to be a great appreciator of local food, and especially the charcuterie made from some of Mark Baker’s Mangalitsa hogs — and Rodney Stokes, director of the DNR, need to rescind this ISO. 

If you’d like to tell them so yourself, here’s how: 

Governor Rick Snyder
State Capitol
P.O. Box
, MI 48909

Phone: 517-335-7858

Rodney Stokes, Director
P.O. Box
, MI 48909

Robin Mather is a senior associate editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS and the author of The Feast Nearby, a collection of essays and recipes from her year of eating locally on $40 a week. In her spare time, she is a hand-spinner, knitter, weaver, homebrewer, cheese maker and avid cook who cures her own bacon. Find her on Twitter, Facebook or .

Photo: A Mangalitsa hog at the Franciscan Monastery gardens in Kadaň. 

9/5/2014 5:01:42 AM

What is most important there is the welfare of the people living in Michigan. Especially when the health of everyone is at risk. hog owners should be cooperative with the authorities to prevent further outbreaks. You must have variety of exotics to offer for hunting like blackbuck hunting would be fun in exchange of hog, to continue business. Varieties are important just how offers.

wilhelm kohl
4/19/2012 11:54:58 AM

Please correct the article: MARK BAKER does not raise Mangalitsa pigs, he raises crosses of Wild Russian Boars & Mangalitsas. That is the only reason he is effected by this order. If he was truly raising Mangalitsa pigs, he would have no problems at all.

susan brownfield
4/19/2012 5:41:05 AM

I understood that the Mangalitsa breed would not be affected...isn't that true?

michael ford
4/18/2012 9:21:02 PM

Don't be naive enough to believe everything you read in the Media. They try to brainwash you with their own view point. Hogs will become feral and revert to their wild origins within a few generations. Their physical features will change and they will carry diseases that farm raised hogs will not have due to inoculations. Here in Georgia as in many other States wild hogs are becoming a problem. They are found in every County in the State. There is no hunting season and as such they can be taken at any time. They decimate the indigenous species very quickly (aka: deer, quail, plants and many more). So I can see why the DNR is trying to do something.

michelle nivens
4/18/2012 1:19:32 PM

Google Deer Tracks Ranch. It is a recreational hunting ranch that raises animals (including wild hogs, whitetail deer and elk - which are fed an antler enhancing diet, BTW). The animals that they are so sad to have had to kill were being raised for the sole purpose of being killed for sport. The only difference is that they did not get their 600+ dollars for it. As a breeder of actual heritage hog breeds (NOT the same as these feral type hogs that are imported and bred for hunting) I DO think that this legislation is a concern but I dont know that this "farm" is the best example. From my understanding they are trying to stop people importing and breeding the wild hogs. Probably trying to avoid the issues that other states have had when these hogs get loose and reproduce in the wild.

ron smith
4/18/2012 5:59:35 AM

Americans have become sheep. A hundred years ago this would never have happened because there would be a pile of corpses. Human corpses. You don't come onto a mans land and just start shooting his animals without a WHOLE LOT of very good science with two sets of tests and a CDC expert on hand and documentation supporting the decision and a very clear right to do so. It starts with them revoking the right to fully automatic weapons and next thing you know they are just confident nobody will ever raise a hand to stop them from violently violating the rights of citizens with impunity and just running ALL OVER YOU. If you don't stand up to defend yourself don't expect anyone else to.

kelly montgomery
4/18/2012 1:20:00 AM

This is just wrong, who is our government anymore? A bunch of academics with no experience, no real life practicality. Once again corporate special interest pulls the strings of our tax dollars. What ever happened to people with backbones, common sense,morality, and God forbid A MIIND OF THEIR OWN. MY deepest regrets to those farmers who were forced to do the unthinkable.