By David Kravets
A group of community farmers, some of them Amish, are challenging rules requiring the tagging of livestock with RFID chips, saying the devices are a "mark of the beast."
Michigan and federal authorities say the radio frequency identification devices (RFID) will help monitor the travels of bovine and other livestock diseases.
"Use of a numbering system for their premises and/or electronic numbering system for their animals constitutes some form of a 'mark of the beast' and/or represents an infringement of their 'dominion over cattle and all living things' in violation of their fundamental religious beliefs," according to the farmers' lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
As radio frequency identification devices become a daily part of the electronic age, RFID technology is increasingly coming under fire for allegedly being the mark of Satan. The technology is fast becoming a part of passports and payment cards and is widely expected to replace bar-code labels on consumer goods.
The suit (.pdf) mentions various verses from the Book of Revelation. "He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." Revelation 13:16-17
The farmers' lawsuit, brought by the Virginia-based Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund and some of its 1,400 members, seeks to block enforcement of the National Animal Identification System. Some of the group's members so staunchly oppose the program that "they may have to quit farming," according to the lawsuit.
And if they quit, U.S. citizens could be in jeopardy during a terror attack. According to the lawsuit:
"All plaintiffs preserve and protect Americans' agricultural heritage and traditional farming techniques, they maintain and protect heirloom varieties of plants and animals constituting a valuable genetic resource which may help to protect America's food supply in the event of a disease outbreak, and they also provide a national security benefit founded in a diverse system in the event of a terrorist attack or natural disaster that interrupts the distant transportation of centrally produced food across the country."
They may quit farming and imperil the United States because RFID tagging "forces them to, in part, violate tenets of their Old Order Amish beliefs, i.e., they are forced to use technology they would ordinarily not use," according to the suit.
The lawsuit also claims the program places a financial burden on small farmers and that the U.S Department of Agriculture has failed to show "any rational relationship to or causal link with animal disease control."