Scrapie Tags = Low-Tech Animal ID

This morning I discovered something interesting.

It is no longer legal to sell sheep or goats in Tennessee.


Right, it is no longer legal to sell sheep or goats in Tennessee.

I know, you’re thinking I put a tablespoon of crazy in my Cheerios today, but read on.

I opened a letter this morning from the Tennessee Livestock Producers Association that announced that my sheep or goats must now have a Scrapie tag if I sell them at a sale barn.  If they aren’t tagged, when I sell them at the sale barn, I will be charged $3.00 per animal to have them tagged when I sell them.

But wait! The letter also said that I could call USDA Vet Services at 615-781-5310 and get the tags for free. Wow, I thought. The government giving something away for free—where’s the punch in the mouth that normally accompanies their ‘freebies’?

That wasn’t the only thing that puzzled me, though. So I called.

When a nice government worker lady answered the phone, I told her about the letter and asked what I needed to do to get the ‘free’ tags.  She said, well, I can fill out the application for you on the phone and then you get the tags for free (I realise now that I was remiss in asking the name of the application).  So, I then asked her why they were giving away Scrapie tags to be put on animals that weren’t being tested for Scrapie. A Scrapie tag in an ear means no Scrapie, right? Wrong. She said that it wasn’t about Scrapie.  They just want to be able to trace the animal back to me in case it gets sick.

“So this is just like a low-tech version of the animal ID, right?”

“Right,” she said.

“Ok, you’ve answered my questions.  I sure appreciate your time.”

“But don’t you want me to fill out the application for you?” she said.

“No,” I said, “I don’t think I’ll be selling any more sheep at the sale barn.”

“Well,” she said in the most authoritative tone she could muster, “you should know that you can be fined if you sell sheep or goats privately now and they don’t have an ear tag.”

“Ok, thanks, bye.” I said.

Pictures of gun-toting, uniformed tag-checkers began flying through my head and it hit me: If now I can be fined for selling something in the same condition I used to, the way I always have in the past, it’s no longer legal for me to sell that thing.


Still think we’re in a free country?