Media fogwash

(Originally posted on May 7, 2012—reposting)

Who’s On First?

It is interesting to note that recent media coverage (May, 2012) on the Shropshire scrapie issue has just grazed the surface, and not even attempted to find out up-to-date facts on this topic by interviewing relevant individuals. The flock owner for instance…moi.

The alleged positive test result is highlighted out of context, without reporting other hugely pertinent facts. Seems the media is only reiterating the same  Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) statements from their own press releases.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA)  Brian Evans has admitted the prevalence of scrapie in Canada is “fairly low.” Evans just issued a press release saying “Scrapie can only be confirmed through tests conducted on brain tissue.”

Penny Greenwell is quoted as saying “Scrapie has a long incubation period and there is no known 100-per-cent-effective live test. Infected animals can spread the disease in flocks and herds without showing signs of illness.”

However, what is not said is that most sheep scrapie cases present between 2 and 4 years…and the alleged positive was over 6 years old. Just one in a series of relevant facts surrounding this case.

Both Evans and Greenwell neglect to mention that if ONLY brain tissue is used and various other sites in the entire lymphatic system are not tested, THEY COULD MISS between 5% and 30% of infected animals, thereby rendering their kill-and-test program most unreliable.

Yet CFIA claims the 88% accuracy of the LIVE test is not enough? So they killed 9 of my pregnant sheep to verify they were healthy, found out they were indeed all negative for scrapie, and are out to kill 31 more if they find them.

Some media report that “The 31 animals that disappeared just before they were to be destroyed April 2 were a group sorted from Jones’ flock as having a genetic susceptibility to the disease, said Penny Greenwood, national manager for disease control and animal welfare with the CFIA in Ottawa.”  But in fact, the 9 that were seized and killed, AND the alleged positive, were of a genetic cohort that CFIA deemed NOT as susceptible as the ARQ/ARQ’s.

While it is commonly accepted that  “horizontal” transmission of scrapie to another sheep is possible, especially for producers who allow their sheep to birth in groups as many do, the media release does NOT mention the actual facts in this particular case.

Wholearth ewes are penned in individual lambing pens before and after birthing for up to two weeks, and the area cleaned before another ewe is introduced. Therefore, the likelihood of another coming  into contact with infected material in the birthing environment is extremely unlikely. CFIA has admitted the same to in information about potential contamination, management and clean up in flocks in general.

Greenwood goes on to say CFIA is unable to offer the DNA and tissues “with no chain of custody to certify the samples”, but in FACT they have been unwilling to even discuss the issue, and it is pure assumption there would be no “chain of custody.”  OF COURSE there would be complete care and control to satisfy both parties…that statement is merely conjecture by Greenwood, not truth.

Inadvertently breeding for atypical disease?

What exactly are we letting happen here, at the hands of a tunnel visioned government?

There is a move to wipe out ARQ/ARQ sheep as they have been considered to be a “susceptible” genotype for scrapie. This does not mean necessarily that an ARQ/ARQ sheep WILL get scrapie, but some research suggests it is at higher risk of contracting the disease if scrapie already exists in a sheep’s environment.

While classical scrapie is not considered a human health risk, it is a threat to the lamb industry because commercial lamb producers see less revenue due to affected sheep creating reduced production.

The latest scientific findings have confirmed that genotype genocide and the elimination of our biological diversity is a very dangerous thing, in nature and agriculture.

In fact, flocks such those that have been influenced by Agriculture Canada and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to alter their genetic pool by using ARR rams for a “scrapie-resistant flock” is misguided.

The science now indicates producers doing so are in fact, possibly breeding FOR scrapie.From the experts in prion research: “Sheep believed to be resistant to scrapie are succumbing to atypical infections and a newly identified strain of the disease. Eradication programmes based on selective breeding should be reappraised.”


“the ARR allele was until recently thought to confer full resistance to BSE and scrapie. However, the successful transmission of BSE prions to ARR/ARR sheep and the detection of natural cases of classical scrapie in sheep with the ARR/ARR genotype have shown that this resistance is penetrable. Moreover, the identification of previously unrecognized atypical scrapie strains in sheep with various genotypes, including ARR/ARR, further supports this statement.” 

The WORST of it is that while classical scrapie is not presently considered an issue for human health risk…atypical scrapie may well be.

Research has found that primates are susceptible to a new variant popping up increasingly in the ARR genotyped sheep that our government and most national sheep organizations have been grooming to be our national flock.

When might the CFIA realize that safeguarding our ARQ/ARQ sheep may well be the answer to ensure that our nations future health is protected from scrapie related human illness?

We need diversity for our health now and in the future—we need heritage breeds of sheep and all livestock.

What to believe?

My main goal in this ongoing Shropshire saga has been for Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz to implement a Heritage Breed Exemption to the current Scrapie Protocol, which would protect and conserve the genetic diversity of all rare heritage breeds in Canada, not just the Shropshires.

Still no evidence that the original positive found on an Alberta farm was a sheep that originated on my farm. CFIA’s DNA lab report (which I have not seen despite requests) has only proven that two offspring born on the Alberta farm were out of a sheep there. But for the sake of (no) argument, let’s say it was indeed the same sheep that originated on my farm. Experts agree that that sheep 24S could have contracted the disease after it left my farm, which has a history of no scrapie nor symptoms for the entire 12 years since my flocks existence.

I believe in controlling scrapie, however I also believe in preserving rare heritage genetics. I’ve been open to co-operating with Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to discover if scrapie does indeed lie somewhere within my flock, but with a considered approach in view of it’s rare breed status. I even proposed sacrificing more than half my beloved flock towards finding out . They refused. Perhaps had CFIA and I worked together, the sheep might not have been taken by Farmers’ Peace Corps {} .


CFIA now claims that a different sheep  (WHE 15S) just tested positive on my farm.  Numerous facts suggest that test result could be a ‘mistake’, for the following reasons:

1) There were no scrapie symptoms in the alleged positive the day before it died, when the CFIA veterinarian heading the case confirmed it was likely ill due to pregnancy toxemia.

2)  The alleged positive was over 6 years old. Scrapie commonly affects sheep between 2 and 3 years old, rarely after 5 years old. {}

3) Scrapie is generally transmitted from an infected scrapie positive mother to it’s offspring via birthing fluids.  Yet the 13-year old pregnant mother of the alleged positive was healthy (until CFIA killed her). She tested negative for scrapie. { }

4) The alleged positive was not one of CFIA’s specified high risk genetic cohorts, it was a VRQ/ARQ.

5) CFIA and Jones are engaged in judicial review currently before the courts. CFIA needed a positive to counter that review, and did not have one prior to their alleged positive.

6) A false government document certified that some of Jones’ sheep were “contaminated by scrapie”, 20 days BEFORE the samples were even shipped to the testing lab.{}

7) CFIA refuses blind third-party testing. Why not have the DNA and obex brain tissue speak for themselves?

Greenwood is quoted stating “CFIA has “no doubt” that the animal in question was scrapie-positive.” Montana Jones is not convinced. She has “no doubt” that this case necessitates third party investigation, after experiencing a history of numerous CFIA errors.”

This issue is about shining a bright light on all questionable, intransigent government tactics and draconian protocol, especially those that are devastating Canada’s dwindling heritage breeds.

Will the real human nature please stand up

It’s an odd twist that certain people seem to have launched an all out attack in various public online forums, with some others commenting that their interest in the case might be viewed a personal vendetta, rather than focussing on the facts of the issue. It’s still not clear to me why those individuals have changed sides, going from being so much against CFIA’s tactics to clearly raging and ranting on with misinformed false accusations. It is most unusual. So far I have chosen not to share taped conversations that are contrary to what is purported online.

Their targeted, out-of-context vehement hair-splitting digressions to every nuanced detail has some pondering the phrase, “Methinks ye doth protest too much.”

But that’s a red herring rabbit hole for another day…well, actually..there aren’t enough days left in this lifetime to go there.  There is neither the time nor interest to address their speculative deviations to fiction, and I will instead focus on sharing all the relevant facts of the Shropshire/CFIA issue publicly and in the courts.

I didn’t bring this issue to light with an aim to hide pertinent facts, but to reveal them. I am not the first farmer this has happened to…MOST never say a word….it’s too much of a stigma to even utter the word scrapie, even for those producers whose large flocks have been destroyed and all tested negative.

I’m still holding fast to believing, perhaps naively, that the truth will out, that by staying the course, all will be revealed in the fullness of time.

And if it does not?

…well, I will have learned some pivotal lessons about human nature…some sad,  some disheartening, but most are incredibly inspiring.

The one powerful lesson realized throughout is that so many of us want the same thing, whether it’s about sheep, lies, government…no matter. Those are details.

Friends and supporters refresh and encourage me every day with a reminder for all like-minded souls. Here’s to living freely and simply and honestly, doing no harm and to helping where we can.

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.

8 thoughts on “Media fogwash

  1. Montana,
    Our hearts continue to go out to you. While the rest of us are relishing in the joys of spring you are stuck in this terrible, disgusting place. Everytime I think of the government coming on to our property and killing your innocent creatures I literally want to throw up. I can’t pretend to know what you’re going through or how you must be feeling but please now that we are all still behind you, that we think of you often and that you are truly are inspiration.

  2. Excellent read. It is all very entertaining. Like reading a science fiction novel. Thrills, chills, and an evil to fight against.

    1. Adam Shea, it might be entertaining if it was a novel. This is real life, this is about your future food supply, it is about preserving genetic diversity in the face of changing world conditions, to ensure that food supply. It is about regulations and regulators out of control. If ‘they’ are right about the status of the sheep they would be open to a review of the whole process, including independent testing. I hope the courts find in favour of Montana Jones.. (as they did in the case of the Ottawa valley man who butchered a pig and was spied on from a neighbours’ treehouse for weeks, by the CFIA/Natural Resources).

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