You’ve no doubt read the stories in recent days about how Michigan’s Natural Resources Department has mysteriously concluded that most if not all of the free range (non CAFO) pigs in the state are an “invasive species” and therefore need to be shot, killed and disposed of. Meanwhile the Michigan Pork Producers are endorsing the move, as the competition to their CAFO-raised pork is about to be eliminated.
Perhaps they’re tired of hearing about how more people prefer meat that’s raised the old fashioned local and organic way. But when all the other options are conveniently gone, people are just going to have to settle for what they can get and shut up about it.
No doubt you’re thinking that this is some sort of abuse of government power by private interests that’s going on down in the states. And maybe you’d be right about that. But we may have our own peculiar problems with regulatory overreach up here in Canada as well. Remember the story from December 2011 about Montana Jones’ herd of Shropshire sheep that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was proposing to kill, and for what seemed like no good reason.
Since then, the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) has become involved in trying to negotiate a positive resolution to that situation. So how’s that going? Well here’s a press release we received yesterday from CCF litigation director Karen Selick:
“CFIA Orders Slaughter of 41 Apparently Healthy Heritage Shee
TRENT HILLS, ON: Montana Jones, a breeder of rare Shropshire sheep, has been notified by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) that they intend to destroy 41 of her apparently healthy sheep—including 20 pregnant ewes—on Monday, April 2, 2012.
The order is part of the “scrapie eradication program” undertaken by the federal government in 2010 with funding of $4.5 million. Scrapie is an illness which affects the productivity and longevity of sheep but is not transmissible to humans.
All of the condemned animals tested by the CFIA in live biopsies tested negative for scrapie. Furthermore, none of the animals has shown any clinical symptoms of the disease in the 12 years that Jones has been raising sheep. Obvious symptoms such as chronic scratching, head tremors and an irregular “bunny‐hop” gait would ordinarily be apparent if any animals were infected.
A single sheep (known by its tattoo number WHE 24S) sold by Jones to an Alberta farm in 2007, was discovered approximately 3 years later to have scrapie. But scientists cannot accurately determine when or where it acquired the infection.
Jones’ farm has nevertheless been under quarantine since January of 2009, causing her great financial hardship.
CFIA veterinarians admit that symptoms of scrapie normally appear within two to five years but have nevertheless condemned the 41 sheep even though none of them has had contact with WHE 24S for almost 5 years. In fact, 37 of the sheep slated for destruction were not even born until after WHE 24S had left the farm.
Jones has been negotiating with the CFIA through her lawyer Karen Selick of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, in the hope of saving the apparently healthy sheep from slaughter, but to no avail.
“This is an endangered breed. They’re due to have lambs soon so I’m expecting 30 to 40 new babies. If CFIA kills my pregnant mothers, there will be only 107 or so females left in Canada,” said Jones.
“CFIA personnel rejected several alternative risk‐control measures we offered, and ignored the nearly 3,000 Canadians who petitioned to stop them. They could at least let the lambs be born. My last desperate proposal is an offer to sacrifice 30 sheep for destruction if they would allow me to hold back 11 of the most significant rare breeding stock. Then they’d have a number of brains to test before destroying every single one. If the tests come back negative, they could re‐evaluate and at least save some.” Jones explained.
“They have also been refusing to allow a third party tissue test. They plan to take away the only evidence I might have to disprove their results if they claim there is a positive. I have seen the CFIA make numerous errors and am very concerned that their results could be inaccurate.”
Ms. Jones launched http://ShropshireSheep.org to educate and inform the public on the importance of conserving heritage Shropshire sheep. Her Wholearth flock is comprised of genetics which date back to breeding stock imported from the U.K. in the late 1800’s.
If Jones chooses to defy the destruction order, she could be subject to a fine of up to $250,000 and up to two years’ imprisonment. “Montana’s liberty is clearly at stake here,” said lawyer Karen Selick. “The government therefore has a duty not to act arbitrarily or disproportionately, but in our view it is doing both,” Selick alleged.
CFIA has discretion to pay compensation for the confiscation of private property, but may withhold reimbursement if Jones breaches its destruction order. “These rare Shropshires are irreplaceable. Whatever they might pay me wouldn’t be nearly enough to obtain more from England. Those genetics don’t even exist there any more. I’ve lost 12 years of work saving this breed, lost over 2 years of farm income—the ordeal has pretty much exhausted me. Now I’m going to lose these beautiful ewes and their lambs too. ” said Jones.
The 41 sheep have been chosen for destruction specifically because of their genetic makeup. Ironically, one of the CFIA veterinarians involved in condemning the sheep is co‐author of a 2010 research paper warning against the dangers of a “selection strategy that takes a sheep population towards homogeneity.”
A demonstration is planned at Jones’ farm on Monday, April 2. Details will follow in a separate media advisory.
The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) has been providing legal representation to Montana Jones. The Canadian Constitution Foundation (“Freedom’s Defence Team”) is a registered charity, independent and non‐partisan, whose mission is to defend the constitutional freedoms of Canadians through education, communication and litigation.
And here’s that followup info on the Rally April 2nd, 2012, from the Facebook page “Save Our Shrops Rally”:
“~ To Protest CFIA’s Slaughter of Rare Heritage Sheep ~
This coming Monday you are encouraged to come to Wholearth Farmstudio for the “Save Our Shropshires” (SOS) rally as a show of support and peaceable protest, to demonstrate your disapproval for the actions of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the draconian legislation that allows them to take such arbitrary and disproportionate measures as forcing the slaughter of apparently healthy heritage sheep.
Sadly, after two years of fighting to save my rare flock of Shropshires, CFIA has notified me they intend to destroy 41 of the flock—including 20 pregnant ewes and their unborn lambs—this Monday, April 2, 2012.
You are invited to please bring cameras, signs, banners, your voice of reason, flowers for the sheep’s grave. Be prepared for weather, and bring your own portable beverages and nourishment. All media are welcome.
In keeping with the somber nature of the event, I would like all attending please wear something black. This may be a traumatic day possibly involving graphic procedures and will not be suitable for children to attend. It could well be too much for adults.
The order was made under the federal government’s “scrapie eradication program.” Scrapie is an illness which affects the productivity and longevity of sheep but is not a human health risk.
None of my flock have tested positive for scrapie in live biopsies, but CFIA claim the 85% accuracy is not enough and want to kill them to test the obex brain tissue.
None of my animals show any clinical symptoms of the disease.
Nevertheless, the CFIA has ordered the sheep destroyed based merely on the “suspicion” of being contaminated. The CFIA has declined all alternative risk-control measures proposed by myself and my lawyer, Karen Selick of the Canadian Constitution Foundation.
In the most recent desperate proposal, I have pleaded with CFIA not to wipe them all out at once. I offered to sacrifice 21 of the sheep and hold back the 11 with the most significant historical genetics. I’ve asked them to consider re-evaluating the death sentence if the 21 brain tissues came back negative. I have had no response yet, but hold out hope at least those 11 individuals and their lambs could still be saved.
CFIA officials intend to kill the sheep with a barbiturate injection and I have insisted I be allowed to bury them respectfully here on the farm. They had planned to load them in a trailer and ship them to a deadstock and pet food facility near Ottawa. I won’t allow that kind of stress and disrespect for these beautiful animals.
Demonstrators are cautioned that under the Health of Animals Act, no person may “obstruct or hinder” a CFIA official in the performance of his duty, on penalty of up to 2 years’ imprisonment and fines of $250,000.
(We’d like an idea how many to expect….so please show your support by “Liking” our page, but only say “YES” if you are indeed attending…thank-you…)
WHEN: 8:00 am Monday, April 2, 2012
WHERE: Wholearth Farmstudio is located at RR#2, 143 Concession Road 14 East, Hastings (Trent Hills) Ontario (1/2 hour east of Peterborough, ½ hour north of Cobourg). See Google map link here: http://g.co/maps/m7knu
WEB: Please check http://ShropshireSheep.org/ for updates.
For further information, contact:
Canadian Constitution Foundation
Toll-free: 888-695-9105 x. 104
• Shropshire Sheep and news on CFIA— http://shropshiresheep.org/
• Montana’s story on importance of heritage Shropshire sheep history—http://www.montanajones.com/writing/a-likeable-sheep/
• Rare Breeds Canada— http://www.rarebreedscanada.org/
• Wholearth Farmstudio—http://wholearth.com/
• Canadian Constitution Foundation— http://theccf.ca/
(1/2 hour east of Peterborough, ½ hour north of Cobourg)
See Google map link here: http://g.co/maps/m7knu
Michigan Department of Natural Resources Threatens Livelihood of Over 2000 Pasture-Based Farms
The Michigan Pork Producers Association is endorsing a radical move on the part of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR has declared feral pigs, an “invasive species.” Under their interpretation any domestic pig can be considered feral. The DNR is putting fine dining chefs and the farmers who supply them on notice. Heritage breed pigs may soon be off the menu, and prohibited on pasture-based farms. Also affected, will be the many Michigan families who choose to buy humanely raised meat for their family table.
Mark Baker, retired military, nearly signed a contract to become an industrial hog farmer. That all changed when he heard Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm speak. Joel is a Virginia farmer and author of the new book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World.
Inspired, Mark laid aside the CAFO contract, and decided to start a traditional farm, where chickens and hogs run free on lush pasture land. His oldest son was 7 at the time. Today, Mark and his wife Jill have 8 children.
Everyone in the Baker family pitches in to help tend to the animals. Even the 8-month-old is with his mother in an over-the-shoulder baby carrier, as she does her farm chores.
A father aspires to build character in his children
Mark’s desire to start a farm came from his fellow soldiers in the U.S. Air Force. “The best people I worked with were farm kids. To make my children whole adults, I wanted to give them the farm kid advantage.”
“Military life is rigorous. Farm kids could keep a smile on their face and maintain a good attitude during the worst of times. They really are the salt of the American Spirit,” enthuses Mark.
Five years later, half of his farm revenue comes from pork sales. Baker’s Green Acres farm raises a special heritage breed of hog, the Mangalitsa. This breed has dark red meat and a heavy layer of fat to keep them warm in Michigan’s harsh winter weather.
Mark tills the pig fields and sows their fodder, turnips, mangals (similar to beets), field peas, and pumpkins. He has a friend in Traverse City who grows 1500-pound pumpkins for competition. Mark puts his friend’s seeds in the field and grows pumpkins to 500-pound size. The pigs can’t get their mouths open wide enough to eat them.
That is where the Baker kids get to have some good old farm fun. Their task is to go into the fields and smash the pumpkins to pieces, so that the pigs can feast….”