The Bush administration on Thursday urged a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a group of Amish farmers in Michigan claiming RFID chips required on cattle “are a mark of the beast.”
The Amish farmers claim (.pdf) Michigan regulations requiring them to use radio frequency identification devices on their cattle “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 in September in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
In response to the charges, the United States Department of Agriculture wrote (.pdf) Thursday that its RFID tagging program is a voluntary measure to help agricultural officials track bovine and other livestock diseases. The USDA said the lawsuit should be directed at Michigan, which adopted RFID requirements last year.
The case should be dismissed, the administration wrote, “because plaintiffs cannot establish that any rule issued or action taken by the USDA either mandates the use of RFID tags on livestock located within Michigan, or, conversely, prevents the Michigan Department of Agriculture from granting appropriate religious exemptions imposed by that department.”
The farmers, however, contend the program is a USDA mandate because the Michigan law was adapted last year as part of a multi-million dollar, federally backed grant program to help eradicate livestock disease.
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, payment cards, locking devices and is widely expected to replace bar-code labels on consumer goods.
The Virginia-based Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, a 1,400-member group, brought the case. Some of its members so staunchly oppose the program that “they may have to quit farming,” according to the lawsuit.