NEWS-Pig protest: Granny Warriors plan Richmond rally
The September 12 slaughter of privately owned wild boars in Buckingham County has inspired a protest in Richmond.
The Granny Warriors, who are concerned about the rights of animal owners, will pull into town in a slogan-bedecked RV to protest the USDA and support Danny and Cindi Henshaw, whose Willis River hunting preserve was the target of an early morning raid and pig slaughter.
The Henshaws' story in last week's Hook ("Boar War: Questions raised in Buckingham slaughter") has unleashed a torrent of support from groups such as the Granny Warriors (Motto: "Fighting injustice and exposing animal rights activists and the bills they help write to the public for what they are!") and NoNAIS.org (Motto: "Protect traditional rights to farm"), an organization against the National Animal Identification System, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture says is designed to prevent the spread of disease.
"I was surprised and pleased that people from all over have offered that much support," says Danny Henshaw, who was awakened before dawn and arrested on a misdemeanor charge of operating an illegal hunting enclosure, a facility he says he's operated for 16 years and was no secret from authorities.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says some of Henshaw's wild boars tested positive for pseudorabies, a highly contagious disease among animals but which is not transmissible to humans. When the disease is discovered, the solution is "depopulation"– destroying the herd to maintain the state's pseudorabies-free status.
The Henshaws say their animals exhibited no signs of the disease, which include sterility, and they were not allowed to take their own blood samples from the 79 slaughtered boars before the USDA hauled them off.
Cries of "heavy-handed" tactics have arisen following the 11 days government officials holed up on the Henshaws' property and posted 24-hour guard around their approximately 100-acre hunting preserve. Cindi Henshaw's pet pigs, Cupid and Valentine, who were kept in a separate pen on a separately deeded lot, were also shot during the depopulation.
Not everyone is running to the Henshaws' defense. One local pig farmer expresses concern about the spread of pseudorabies to other herds.
"I find it unbelievable [Henshaw] had never heard of pseudorabies," says the farmer, who requested anonymity, citing fear of anti-NAISers. "It's a huge issue among feral hogs. It's upsetting to me there was someone in this area doing something so irresponsible."
"We knew the name," responds Henshaw. "I thought it was a venereal disease for pigs. If I'd had some sort of problem, I'd be more aware. We've never had sickly or dying pigs." Pseudorabies is caused by a herpes virus, and is not to be confused with rabies.
On the Hook website, comments about the story rival the number received for "Claws and Effect: Cat killing shocks Bentivar."
The Granny Warriors, who last took on People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in a spring protest in Norfolk, are urging supporters to show up October 24 across the street from the USDA building in Richmond.
Granny Warrior co-founder Linda Hunnicutt is driving her RV from Asheville, North Carolina, for the protest. "It's the right thing to do," she declares. "The government shouldn't have done that. It was heavy handed. There are other ways to do that."
Doreen Hannes is too young to be a Granny Warrior, but she's coming from southern Missouri for the rally. "A lot of attention needs to be drawn to the fact that the USDA and state agencies are out of control," she says. "They did not follow protocol, and they destroyed people's personal property."
Both Hunnicutt and Hannes say the National Animal Identification System spells the end of the small farmer.
Danny Henshaw is aware that what happened to him is helping fuel the anti-NAISers' distrust of the USDA.
"They're using our story to help their position," he says. "I don't have a problem with that if it can help other people."
The chariot of the Granny Warriors will be headquarters for an October 24 protest in Richmond.
PHOTO COURTESY LINDA HUNNICUTT
Willis River had offered wild boar hunting for 16 years.
PHOTO BY BONITA CHESHIER