The Real News Story

Wholearth Shropshire WHE 6R 9 wks old

If an imported United States sheep ever tested positive for scrapie in Canada, the impact on livestock cross border trade agreements would equate to an agricultural earthquake for the national sheep industry.  Part of he CFIA’s job is to make sure those aftershocks never happen.

The public looks to media to inform them of of facts on news and current events, but when reporters repeatedly use incorrect “information” from previous incorrect articles, they are no longer journalists but merely players in the broken telephone game, and spreaders of lies and gossip. Why would a reporter fail to fact check with the people actually involved?

In the “Sheep Case Dragging On” story in the July 21st, 2016 of Community Press newspaper (and elsewhere in Sun Media publications), there are 2 glaring errors that continue to be propagated. I am the owner of the sheep in question.

My farm has NOT been under Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) quarantine since 2012 as the story indicates, but since January of 2010, effectively halting my life and farm income for 6 and a half years and counting….while the government stumbles through the same time period spending over a million dollars in an effort to save face, not get caught in major procedural blunders, and drag out legal proceedings to drain the resources of myself and the other accused.

The most serious incorrect statement in the Jason Bain’s Sun Media article that continues to be spread as truth, is that there were two sheep on my farm that tested positive for scrapie.  Not true.

I repeat—it has not been proven that ANY scrapie was EVER found on my farm.

A breeding sheep that I sold in 2007 died on a farm more than 1,500 miles away in Alberta, and the CFIA says it tested positive for a disease called scrapie. The CFIA thought the rest of my flock might be infected, but agreed the animal could have actually been infected on the Alberta farm.  Many more sheep have since tested positive for scrapie in that same Alberta flock. I questioned if the infected sheep was even mine, since the traceability tag had “mysteriously” dissappeared there, the CFIA were not able to identify it, and in a dozen years of sheepkeeping I’d never had anything remotely resembling scrapie symptoms.

Scrapie is a prion disease, however, unlike mad cow, scrapie is not transmissible to humans. Its impact on sheep farms is financial: infected sheep lose wool, produce fewer lambs, and typically die young between 2 and 3 years of age. It’s actually more of an economic disease.

The CFIA conducted live biopsies on my flock in 2011 and all were negative for scrapie. None showed any symptoms of illness. But the CFIA said the live tests were only 88% accurate. They would need to kill the sheep and dissect their brains to know for sure if they were healthy.

The sheep went  missing before the CFIA could carry out their Destruction Order, which meant when they were found, CFIA would kill them. Since no scrapie had ever been found on my farm, I filed a federal court application for judicial review which would in effect halt the Destruction Order.

When a remaining ewe pregant with triplets came down with toxemia after pining for her missing flockmate sister, I called in the CFIA veterinarian who assessed her and agreed with my diagnosis, saying that she had zero scrapie symptoms and would be just fine and that she was in robust physical form.  I told him I believed she would die within 24 hours of toxemia as she was not responding to the treatment which came too late.

She died next morning, and surprise, surprise…within days (instead of the usual few weeks) the CFIA had their positive test results.

Funny thing though…I found out from CHEX TV, who called to ask for my reaction and a statement, saying they’d been told by CFIA that I had a sheep die of scrapie. I had not been informed, which would be the norm. Interesting.

Many other factors such as age, offspring and parentage that all tested negative, support the my belief that my flock did not have scrapie.

With the CFIA’s unsubstantiated claim of scrapie found on the farm, my application for a Judicial Review to stop the kill order was effectively squashed.

The CFIA continues to deny my requests for my own sheep’s tissue sample so I can have it independently tested by a private non-government labratory to prove the absence of scrapie.

Most importantly, is a fact that CFIA goes to great lengths to keep from the public, preferring to fabricate that 2 scrapie positive sheep were found on my farm.  Nope.

The real news story is that the Alberta farmer/livestock trucker imported an American Dorset ram whose health deteriorated rapidly while exhibiting classic scrapie symptoms. He told myself and several other sheep producers that he could not figure out why that Dorset sheep’s tests came back negative, saying that the CFIA surely  made a huge mistake as it looked to be an obvious case of scrapie.

That’s where my scapesheep comes in.

As I was saying, if an imported United States sheep ever tested positive for scrapie in Canada, the impact on livestock cross border trade agreements would equate to an agricultural earthquake for the national sheep industry.  The CFIA’s job is to make sure those aftershocks never happen.

So it never happened.

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.

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