DoubleSpeak from Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz

Does Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz have difficulty communicating…or understanding concepts? Clearly the facts are not his strong point.  His long awaited letter says a great deal of…nothing. He did not respond to a single issue I raised concerning the CFIA’s proposed destruction of 44 rare heritage Shropshire sheep that have all tested negative for scrapie. He merely recited some generic lines which don’t address any of the questions in my letter to him. Clearly he is not listening to the 2,700 and growing petitioners who want to prevent Canada’s heritage sheep from extinction.  (Update March 14, 2015 Over 11,000 signatures!)

This is his response received two months later, I have put my concerns underlined in brackets:

Dear Ms. Jones:
Thank you for your correspondence regarding the situation on your farm and the proposed disease control actions of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns.

The description of the rare heritage breed Shropshire sheep and your request for an exemption from standard CFIA policy are helpful to increase our understanding of the challenges faced by producers of rare breeds in Canada. While recognizing that a declaration of infected place and implementation of CFIA disease control measures is not something that any producer wishes to experience, the CFIA’s mandate includes the protection of Canada’s animal resource base. (CFIA has not determined that Wholearth Farmstudio is an “infected place”.  In fact every sheep in the flock has tested negative to the rectal biopsy ELISA test and no signs nor symptoms have ever been present.)

This is integral to the Canadian food supply and is critical to the well-being of all Canadians. (The implication here is that scrapie is a human health risk when in fact Health Canada states no, it is not, and CFIA actually encourages all the lambs from the Wholearth flock to be sold for meat! Perhaps Gerry Ritz is unaware that science determined long ago scrapie is not in fact the same as BSE—get the facts on agriculture, Mr. Minister! )


The objective of the program is the total eradication of scrapie from Canada. The CFIA has consulted and received support for this approach from the national associations representing sheep and goat producers. Due to the chronic nature of the scrapie infection, a successful program requires an aggressive approach to identify new cases and investigate all possible exposures and sources of infection. This “stamping-out” approach is an internationally recognized response to control outbreaks of scrapie and other diseases. (Outbreak?? CFIA has a budget to spend 4.5 million of your tax money to eradicate scrapie when in fact there are other, worse sheep diseases. Only 10 cases found in Canada last year! Sure, lets eradicate it, I agree…but 4.5 million for 10 cases?  The point being NO SCRAPIE has been found to exist in the  Wholearth Farm flock. CFIA agrees the Alberta case may well have contracted it after it left the farm 5 years ago.)


The CFIA recognizes that there are rare circumstances in which deviation from the standard disease control plan may be permitted (e.g. for rare/heritage breeds), as long as appropriate risk-mitigating measures are in place. I understand that CFIA program staff have recently presented you with the option to apply for such a deviation. I hope you have considered their proposal, as it would achieve both the preservation of your Shropshire genetics and satisfy the CFIA’s scrapie control requirements. (This is blatantly untrue…again Gerry Ritz is not educated on the facts,   their “proposal”  still means killing all rams immediately and simply delaying the destruction of the other healthy ewes. The clearest, least expensive and most rational course of action is to monitor the flock and continue live testing and  breeding to increase the population of this invaluable, rare heritage flock.)

Again, thank-you  for writing,


Gerry Ritz, PC, MP




Montana Jones
Montana is a watcher of whales, saver of turtles, wayfarer and shepherd. She is a writer, photographer, art farmist and was formerly a magazine art director, media coordinator, journalist and past winner of the Sutton Agricultural Fair Spelling Bee. She tends an oversized garden, eats real food and raises Shropshire sheep and other heritage livestock on Wholearth Farmstudio in Northumberland County, Ontario Canada. She received a CBC Literary Award, Ontario Arts Council Writer’s Reserve Grant, and has appeared in EnRoute, Mind’s Eye, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, Canadian Women Studies Literary Journal, Watershed Magazine and Edible Toronto.

2 thoughts on “DoubleSpeak from Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz

  1. maybe you need to think about giving the sheep away, like hiding them, that way the entire flock cannot be sentenced to death for the mistakes of morons running the CFIA.

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