Chakra Living

NAIS Threatens US Padayatras & Cow Protection

by Hare Krsna dasi

Posted May 10, 2006

I noted the recent article on Chakra regarding the plans by devotees in Tuscon to launch a Padayatra program ( Click Here ).

Devotees who know a little about the history of the Krsna consciousness movement, realize that the beginning of such Padayatra programs in ISKCON began in April 1976, when Srila Prabhupada encouraged Lokanatha Swami to begin a bullock cart preaching program.

Lokanatha Maharaja took up Srila Prabhupada's suggestion, and Srila Prabhupada was so pleased with the results that he said he wanted million of such bullock carts to go out:

"...And oxen can be used for driving carts and go preaching village to village. What is the question of killing them? Here in India our Lokanatha Maharaja has successfully organized such a program and it is a great success. He has traveled all over India and everywhere they distribute books, prasadam and perform kirtana, village to village. Each night they stop at a different village. We can introduce many millions of such carts all over the world."
Letter to Nityananda -- Mayapur 16 March, 1977

From the Krsna conscious perspective, the bullock cart symbolized many things. As indicated by Srila Prabhupada's comments above, it was a practical symbol of cow protection. Also, it embodied the value simple living, showing an alternative to industrialization and the automobile. And, beyond that, the oxen were the perfect pure animals to pull the Deities, because Dharma the Bull is the Personification of Religion.

Over the years, Lokanatha Maharaja developed Srila Prabhupada's suggestion of bullock-cart preaching with enthusiasm. By the time of Srila Prabhupada's Centennial in 1996, there were bullock cart Padayatras not only in India, but also in the Americas, England, Slovenia, France, Switzerland, Mauritius, New Zealand and even Kenya - just to mention a few places.

But in the U.S. at least, the bullock cart padayatra died out, in recent years being replaced by at least one horse cart padayatra. One reason was that very few American devotees learn how to work the oxen. But another reason is that stringent rules have been put in place to protect the beef industry from contamination by foot and mouth disease and similar diseases. In this way, the beef industry has helped to kill the bullock cart padayatra in the U.S.

NAIS: A New Threat

But now it, by its very powerful lobbyists in Washington, the beef industry has pushed into effect some regulations which will pose a much larger threat to cow protection and to any kind of animal-powered padayatra cart in the U.S. The new program being gradually enacted by the U.S.D.A. is called the National Animal Identification System (NAIS).

As explained by Dr. Mary Zanoni, (a Cornell University PhD and Yale Law school grad) in the winter 2006 issue of Small Farmer's Journal, "NAIS is the brainchild of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture. Who is the NIAA? Primarily two groups - (1) the biggest corporate players in U.S. meat production (for example, the National Pork Producers, Monsanto, Cargill Meat) and (2) the makers and marketers of high-tech animal ID equipment (for example, Digital Angel, Inc, EZ-ID/AVID ID Systems, Micro Beef Technologies, Ltd.)"

Basically, this collaborative of large-scale meat producers and micro-chip makers have used scare tactics (the idea of post 9/11 terrorist food contamination attack) to set up a system which will help meat producers use a combination of impossible regulations and comprehensive data resources to drive small farmers off their land, and at the same time enable the micro-chip makers to grow rich selling their devices.

NAIS will require two types of registration: (1) Premises registration and (2) Animal registration. So-called "voluntary" registration is beginning right now (it is already mandatory in a few states), and "mandatory" registration will begin in January 2008. At that time, there will be a fine of up to $1000 per day, assessed on people who fail to comply.

Zanzoni explains that (1) Premises registration will require every person who owns even one horse, cow, pig, chicken, sheep, pigeon, or virtually any livestock animal, to register their home, including the owner's name, address, and telephone number, and keyed to Global Positioning System coordinates (for satellite-assisted location of homes and farms), in a federal database.

(2) Animal Identification will require owners to obtain a 15-digit ID number, also to be kept in the federal database, *for any animal that every leaves the premises of its birth.*

(Interestingly, large scale producers will be allowed to identify, e.g., large groups of pigs or broilers [chicken] raised and processed [slaughtered] together by a single group ID number.)

Taking into account the featured products of the ID makers who are promoting this law, the form of ID will most likely be a tag or microchip containing a Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID), commonly referred to as a "Spychip."

For devotees, one of the most ominous features of the program is that the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) is strongly lobbying the House Agricultural Committee to put the database administration - not under the control of the USDA - but rather under the control of the NCBA itself. Zanzoni notes that, "Such 'privatization' will only worsen the prospects for invasion of privacy and economic pressures on small farmers and homesteaders."

Those who are familiar with Monsanto's practice of farmer intimidation and theft via trumped-up charges, ( http://www.percyschmeiser.com/ ) will be greatly concerned by the implications of giving such a powerful, private organization as NCBA detailed information on their farms and animals.

Not only will farmers be forced to turn over private information to such potentially hostile interests, they will also bear the high costs of purchasing the ID technology and meticulously keeping records about every animal. Practically speaking, only large firms will be able to afford this expense.

If devotee farmers decided to avoid using radio ear tags or having spychips implanted in their animals, practically speaking, what would be the implications? They would include things like:

  1. No more padayatra preaching with animal drawn carts (of any type).
  2. No more taking teams to participate in local parades and handing out leaflets and prasadam.
  3. Never letting one of your calves be used in a festival such as Govardhana Puja, if it is outside your property.
  4. Never taking any of your animals to a county fair to use that as a preaching opportunity.
  5. Never letting your cows break out.
  6. Never making arrangements to have your cows graze the slash of a neighbor's field.
  7. Never letting your peacocks wander off your property.
  8. Never getting too sick, injured, or old to take care of your animals, because without spytags they could never be transferred to a devote farm even one mile away.
  9. Never rescuing an animal from a slaughter house.
  10. Never helping out a nearby temple by grazing a couple retired animals on your land.
  11. Never purchasing animals from outside to improve your breeding base.
  12. Never accepting gifts of animals from donors.

NAIS is a complex policy, but anyone with any kind of animal should look into it, as the first part becomes activated by July 1, 2006.

USDA is currently trying to minimize the impact of this program in response to the howls of outrage from thousands of small farmers and hobbyists across the country, but if anything, the details are looking worse all the time.

For more information, and for links to the USDA's program, check these links:
www.smallfarmersjournal.com
www.usda.gov/nais
www.stopanimalid.org