The US Department of Agriculture has been ordered to halt the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) by a federal district court judge.

The livestock ID and tracking program, scheduled to begin in June, was suspended indefinitely pending further orders by Judge Emmet Sullivan, US District Court, District of Columbia.

The program, which would implant electronic tracking devices in all U.S. livestock, supposedly for the purpose of tracking outbreaks of animal diseases such as avian flu and “mad cow”, would be ineffectual, extremely expensive, and could jeopardize sustainable livestock farms, according to critics.

USDA said the program would continue with voluntary participation at the federal level, while state level programs would continue to be funded.

Further hearings in the case brought by plaintiff and sustainable farming advocate Mary-Louise Zanoni are scheduled for later this summer.