amish farmers sue Michigan
Amy Sancetta/AP

Amish Farmers Sue Michigan, USDA Over RFID Tags

November 19, 2008 07:59 AM
by Isabel Cowles
Amish farmers are suing for being forced to use radio frequency identification (RFID) on cows, which violates scriptural warnings.

Amish Wary of RFID, Cite Scriptural Ties to the Devil

Amish farmers are suing the Michigan Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for forcing them to impose “the mark of the Beast” on their livestock.

The Amish faith, known for its literal interpretations of the Bible, conflicts with Michigan’s imposition of a law requiring farmers to use radio frequency ID devices on their cattle to help track and identify animals and prevent the spread of diseases like mad cow and foot and mouth.

The USDA National Animal Identification System (NAIS) effort to create a network of registered livestock involves implanting identification devices called 840s into individual animals. “Available in visual only eartags, radio frequency identification (RFID) eartags and injectable transponders, 840 devices use a standardized 15-digit numbering system,” the USDA Web site explains.

Although the USDA intended the NAIS devices to be voluntary, the Michigan Department of Agriculture has legally required the system. Previously, all cattle wore metal ear tags for identification purposes—even those on Amish farms. But the Michigan Department of Agriculture announced that on March 1, 2007, “All cattle must be identified with an official radio frequency identification (RFID) ear tag prior to movement from a Michigan premises.”

According to Amish belief, the insistence that all livestock be implanted with a chip represents an “ongoing attempt to number every living thing, a practice mentioned in Revelations where it is linked with the Devil,” the Daily Telegraph explains.   

The Bush administration argues that the case should be dismissed, noting that the USDA never made the radio frequency ID chips mandatory. In a statement, the administration explained that nothing within Michigan’s adaptation of the law, “prevents the Michigan Department of Agriculture from granting appropriate religious exemptions imposed by that department," Wired magazine reports.  
Although the Amish are especially traditional in their adherence to the Bible, other Christians have also resisted the implantation of radio frequency identification, citing scriptural warnings of “the mark of the Beast” even where passports, credit or debit cards and electronic barcodes are concerned.

Christian consumer advocate Katherine Albrecht wrote a book entitled “The Spychips Threat: Why Christians Should Resist RFID and Electronic Surveillance.” Albrecht said in an interview with Wired magazine that “My goal as a Christian (is) to sound the alarm.”

Reference: Official Amish complaint

Related: Amish conflicts with U.S. customs and law


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