May 1st, 2012—Hastings, Ontario/The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) released a statement Friday claiming that a single sheep belonging to a quarantined Ontario farm has tested positive for scrapie. The sheep’s owner suspects the finding was pre-ordained. For over two years shepherd Montana Jones has maintained that the CFIA has not provided evidence that scrapie exists in her rare heritage flock of Shropshire sheep.
Despite live biopsy tests indicating the sheep were free of the disease, the CFIA claimed the 88% accuracy was not sufficient, and refused to retest to increase the accuracy rate, or to apply another form of live testing. They issued an order to kill the sheep and test brain tissue.
The case made national headlines when 31 of the flock disappeared prior to CFIA’s planned April 2nd destruction. A group called the Farmers Peace Corp [sic] left a note saying they took them into protective custody until CFIA could prove that the flock did indeed have scrapie.
Jones says she is not surprised at CFIA’s claim. “I have been expecting them to announce a positive. It is in their interests to shut down the media attention, turn off the spotlight on their draconian protocol, and halt the judicial review that is before the courts. It’s also a tactic to incite the public to help search for the missing sheep.”
Signed and certified
On March 28, 2012 a group of young sheep were sent to the abattoir, prior to the CFIA’s planned April 2nd destruction. According to CFIA scrapie regulations any sheep under 12 months (ie. lambs) are eligible for slaughter and sale as meat. Despite this fact Jones has chosen not to make any of her animals available for human consumption since the quarantine was in place, due to concerns about potential public misconceptions from those who are not fully educated on food safety or the science of scrapie.
Jones believes that the CFIA test finding was already a fait accompli. She was alarmed to discover a signed government document declaring the offal was “contaminated by scrapie”, dated 20 days before any samples were actually shipped to the lab for testing, and 29 days before the scrapie test was even performed. ALL 14 samples tested negative for scrapie on April 25, 2012.
An Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) inspector wrote out a Carcass and Portion Condemnation form claiming and certifying as of March 28 that Montana Jones’ sheep were: “…found on post-mortem examination…to be affected with Contamination with Scrapie …”
Jones said, “I asked for supporting evidence for her claim. As I understand it there are no observable indicators of scrapie in a post-mortem exam of the carcass in an abattoir. I already knew it was a false statement.”
“The OMAFRA inspector said there were no indicators, but that the CFIA told her to write it. I asked for a copy of the report she submitted to her superiors, because the document would need to be corrected to indicate that there was in fact NO PROOF or evidence of scrapie in her post mortem examination. She said she already filed it electronically.”
Jones said that the OMAFRA inspector offered to change her document after the fact. “She removed the word ‘scrapie’ and gave me a second slip dated April 25. “Now the CFIA lab test results for those same eleven animals in question all came back negative, just a few days ago.” says Jones. “Who wouldn’t question this?”
Vet agreed scrapie unlikely
“The ewe they say was positive died of a pregnancy related illness, but it was CFIA’s first opportunity to get a mature head to test.” said Jones. “It was a sheep that was not actually on the CFIA destruction order…a VRQ genotype they say is not susceptible to scrapie.”
Jones said the CFIA vet in charge of the case had examined the ewe the day before it died. “Dr. Douglas MacLeod said she was in very good body condition, with no signs nor symptoms of scrapie, no tremors, no unusual gait, no teeth grinding, no neurological dysfunction, no rubbing, no scratching, no wool loss, no puritic behaviour, no ataxia. He agreed with me that she likely had toxemia, but did not offer treatment.”
“I told him she was going to die, that I thought I caught her toxemia too late…and could he please euthanize her and write up an order for her and thus I would at least get compensation and he would have the head and obex brain tissue to test,” said Jones.
“He said no. He would only do that with an animal that was symptomatic for scrapie and he said she was not, that she looked ‘very comfortable’.”
“The next morning she was dead, and her lambs stillborn. So CFIA now have their scapesheep.” said Jones.
CFIA may deny access to DNA and tissue
Jones’ says she is also concerned that CFIA have refused to provide DNA and obex brain tissue of the sheep they claim tested positive for scrapie. “It’s only fair to have an independent third party lab do a blind test to prove or disprove CFIA’s claim. They seized my personal property and all evidence, and are playing the roles of judge, jury and executioner.”
“Perhaps I’m being naive to trust even that process,” she said. “I now realize any body could tamper with any thing anywhere.”