Karen Selick’s letter to the Globe and Mail about the scrapie controversy

From Karen Selick in the Globe and Mail letters section:

It’s important to put the recent scrapie incident in perspective (Eradicating Scrapie – letter, May 1). The neurodegenerative disease has been around for at least 280 years; the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s scrapie eradication program has been in existence for fewer than 10 years. Obviously, sheep and goats made it through the centuries without this government program.

There’s good reason to question whether the program is an effective use of taxpayers’ dollars. Some studies have indicated that the slaughter of specific genotypes to prevent one form of scrapie predisposes the “national flock” to greater susceptibility to other forms of disease. Some experts have questioned whether eradication is possible at all.

A CFIA official has acknowledged that, sometimes after a spike in cases, “nobody wants to report a case because of the bad economics … [so suddenly] you have two years of very few cases.” In other words, the draconian nature of the program may promote the practice of “shoot, shovel and shut up.”

Karen Selick, lawyer for Montana Jones, Belleville, Ont.


Filed under News

25 responses to “Karen Selick’s letter to the Globe and Mail about the scrapie controversy

  1. The chances are pretty good that scrapie may have been around throughout thousands of years. Humans figure out they can test for these things and it’s been policy for a long time to eliminate rather than look at cause. It’s really getting out of hand in instances like this and really does need to be stopped. Public pressure in this instance will hopefully not let up .

  2. miro malish

    It seems to me that the elimination of Heritage genetics may be a preliminary move toward cammodifying the gene pool. First the Breed is destroyed and then a company may successfully claim ownership of the genes or parts of those genes. Otherwise there will always be a strong argument preventing breed ownership. Whether its sheep, pigs, chickens, or whatever, the same approach will be undertaken. Eliminate the broad and public ownership and replace it with Patentable ownership.

    If we miss this as the underlying strategy then we may fail to put forward the appropriate response. Our response should not only be about the specificity of this event, but should be about this broader implication.

    We have failed to ensure the differenciation, or cleft, of organic and heritage in the legislation most recently passed. Ensuring that GMO gets treated the same as other agricultural products, and no different. lets not loose this opportunity to ensure that heritage (public realm) life forms remain to be accessible and available for all. Or some one please explore the reason why we might want to sell off tot he private sector what was once common to all.

    • Lorri Nelson

      But the breed is not destroyed. And we have 27 ewes and 20 lambs (more to come) and three rams to prove it! And what’s more, we are breeding with scrapie-resistant rams, and raising scrapie-resistant lambs! Pretty hard to wipe out a breed by saying they have scrapie when they’re encouraging us to breed scrapie resistance into them. Nice try, though.

      • miro malish

        Well i certainly don’t know much about sheep or the breed. What makes them Scrapie resistant?
        And I am not sure that your point eliminates the strategy and general direction of gene ownership. Are you suggesting that these 27, and 20 are somehow under some special protection from such initiatives?

      • Peter

        Lorri, I believe you missed the essential point Miro was trying to make. It seemed to me he was making a principled suggestion. The application / details from incident to incident will vary, but the suggested underlying aspiration may nonetheless be there.

      • Lorri Nelson

        What makes them scrapie resistant is breeding. You use at least one RR (resistant) parent and the lamb is guaranteed an R (they will be ither RR or at least QR, you can read all this on-line if you care to google it). The CFIA has an entire program based on this, designed specifically to preserve rare genetics. If a producer refuses to take advantage of it, well, that’s their choice.

      • Studies show that ARQ sheep have a reduced mortality rate and in general are stronger and thrive better compared to their other genotyped siblings. That is indeed the case I’ve observed, and the ARQ’s Shropshires with their more traditional breed character and conformation are simply better sheep all around.

        More importantly, 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 as your own that have been influenced by Ag Canada and CFIA to base their genetic pool, as you describe you and Patric Lyster are doing, on using ARR rams for “scrapie-resistant lambs” as you seem to believe, is misguided. The science now indicates you 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 an issue for humans…atypical scrapie may well be—research has found that primates are susceptible to this variant.

        Still want to wipe out genetic diversity? We need ARQ sheep.

      • Lorri Nelson

        Oddly, Montana, I don’t totally disagree with you. We do probably need ARQ sheep. And so far in this country, breeding specifically with RR sheep has not been mandated. Hopefully it never will. But when someone has a positive scrapie result, that changes the landscape. I know you don’t like it, I wouldn’t like it either if it happened to me (and I have had sheep destroyed on trace-out). But you can’t ignore the fact that scrapie genotyping is about resistance/susceptibility only, a sheep still has to be exposed to acquire classical scrapie.

        You have had a positive in your flock and a positive trace back to your flock. For the sake of the rest of Canada’s sheep producers, large and small, heritage breed or no, you should step up.

      • Patric Lyster

        Ms. Jones, if you read what I am doing, I am not eliminating ARQ sheep. Please remeber that a Qr can very esily be ARR ARQ. Please learn that there is two halves to the genotype and the sheep is not just an ARQ, what is the other half? It is possiblew to mate AA RR QR to AA RR QR and produce an AARRQQ.
        But then this might take a breeding plan and some knowledge of genetics and genotypes. Wouldn’t it have been better to keep the genetics alive than to just have them destroyed, and having nothing left, but your unusable, unwanted sheep? There is nothing in the CFIA policy that says anything about a genotype requirement after the pilot project or to repopulate.
        Also, if you are going to quote experts, you should at least give the credit to them instead of just listing an anonymous quote. Please provide a link to the research that shows that ARQ (I am assuming that you are meaning ARQ ARQ) sheep live longer than their other genotyped siblings. Also if your ARQs thrive so well, what has happened to so many that they keep dying off? Also, it appears that Cramirro 36J wasn’t an ARQ ARQ, so how come she lived to 13t, especially since she was unusable and unwanted (that is some feat considering that)?
        YOu keep saying the science says that selecting for RR may possibly selecting for higher susceptibility for other forms of scrapie, well guess what, that means it that it possibly is not selecting for scrapie suscepibilty. What in effect, in my opnion, is that you are saying that it is possible and not accepting the fact that it may be found to not be the case, either. If it was proven then you would be saying that it is selecting not that it is possibly selecting. Please provide the science that says it is selecting for scrapie susceptibilty, and not science that says it may be. Facts not conjecture, is what you should be using.

  3. Patric Lyster

    THe point that so many seem to miss, is that the protocol regarding scrapie, doe snot differentiate on flock size, farm size, and or rarity of the breed. The pilot project, which was offered, does address the rarity of genetics. However, in this case, the rarity of the genetics is only hearsay, at present since the owner has not registered for a number of years. Which begs the question, if they are so rare and valuable, then aren’t they worth the cost of registration and recording their rare bloodlines? Rememebr, the quarantine only accounts for the period after January 2010, not the preceeding few years in which no registrations were done, either.

    When it comes to diseases, does it mean that we shouldn’t try to eliminate any human diseases, either, especially ones that have been around for 100s of years? Advances in technology and scientific research make possible today, things that 200 years ago, people perhaps only dreamed of.

    • miro malish

      what we have learned about disease is that not all people that have genetic markers for disease get the disease. That there seems to be conditions or triggers that bring forward the disease state. Your tone, comparing these animals with our wish to eliminate disease, is somewhat remenicent of natzi idealogies and motives. In that vein should we destroy all humans with subceptable genetic markers of disease
      I have said previously I don’t know all the details. I suspect there may be some kind of compensation to any farmer where by some outside authority imposes their will upon their lives and economic affairs. The manner in which big brother does this, is, I believe what is really at issue here. What possible reason or motive is there for our representational governmental agency to refuse or obstruct reasonable discourse and collaborative methods to come to a common resolution? What could the possible excuse be to refuse supplying a sample for independant testing? Let science and reason determine our actions here. Where science and reason is so interrupted, one could only explore the motives beyond the specific case. So, is it to maintain authority? or to serve some broader economic interest?

      • I agree with you completely Mirko. It doesn’t matter what we are talking about here, the way this was done is a matter for concern.

      • Lorri Nelson

        Two things, miro, very quickly. First, to you this may be about authority imposing their will etc. etc. etc., but to us, it’s about sheep, and scrapie, and doing the right thing. That’s all. Secondly, I ask you why you think the CFIA should concede anything when this producer a) refused to cooperate with them for two whole years, and b) is now dragging their name through the mud. They tried “reasonable discourse” for two years, and got nothing. The “common resolution” would have been timely trace-in and trace-out, which may have actually resulted in no animals being ordered destroyed at all. Now we’ll never know.

    • Patric Lyster

      NO one has ever said that all sheep with a certain genotype will get scrapie, but until an accurate live test is available, it is the best method to control the spread of scrapie, to destroy and test animals from a flock which is the most likely (scientifically and due to the investigation) to be the source flock, for a scrapie positive. Everyone seems to miss the fact that Ms. Jones was in quarantine for around 2 years before the CFIA ordered some of her flock destroyed. So, how was this a rush decision and did the owner not have lots of time to work with them or to get independent testing?

  4. Lunapada

    All propaganda has to be popular and has to accommodate itself to the comprehension of the least intelligent of those whom it seeks to reach.

  5. It is fascinating to read the valid opposing opinions on the same issue. I came to the conclusion that the difference in opinion is in fact imortant and either side can be right except:
    Personal attacks diminish quickly credibility and secondly, abuse of process by the enforcers of the law grants and requires civil disobedience.
    The support for the enforcement actions as expressed above does not fare well with many.
    The simple fact of procedural abuse and rude enforcement needs to be the focus.
    Unfortunately in today’s world the economy-dictated policy of Government needs to be challenged constructively and creatively.
    Please research the new movie “raising resistance” about the soy war in south America fully endorsed by Government policy. Who is behind that policy??? Not hard to figure that out.
    As I mentioned before,I am not against Government. I am sternly warning about the total corruption of Government and the convenience of supporting blindly a policy which is there to protect the economical aspect and neglects the diversity aspect.
    If we allow or tolerate silently these violations of common sense because of fear or because it paid off to kiss a…., then we better brace ourselves for a downward spiral of morals spinning out of control.

    • Patric Lyster

      Michael, I have no issues with the fact that farmers are overburdened with regulations, and that there are numerous cases of the government overstepping their power. However, I respectfully submit that, in this case, the owner had plenty of time and there was no rush decision. I have been involved from the beginning, and through my negotiations, based on science not scare tactics and fear, I was able to get this pilot project put into place. I got one year, due to the success, they now offer 2 years. Is it the be all and end all, no, but based on science it is about the best option we have for preserving genetics. With selective breeding, we can breed back to a flock of sheep with Ms. Jones preferred genotype. However, due to the science and not knowing how long prions can be infective, in the soil, it is perhaps a wise decision to breed for some scrapie resistance. It may not be easy to find traditional Shropshires with the RR genotype, but it is possible and we are raising some ourselves. To note, we have purchased some QQ ewes which we maintain on a different farm and are mating them to RR rams to bring their genetics into the main flock.

      • Please….once again you post misinformation. You have been involved in YOUR case…you have NOT been involved in mine in Ontariio, and as CFIA here said…”We don’t communicate directly with Alberta CFIA—they are not involved.”
        Your pilot program may have suited you…the one I was offered did not suit me as I would have lost all my genetics with it. Hard to breed out the traits you now have on your flock, and I personally, would not want them—they are so FAR from a traditional heritage flock, and the traditional breed character is lacking. Go to England to see some specific {not all by any means} flocks…you will see what I mean. Don’t forget you travelled across many provinces to obtain those genetics that I carefully developed for so many years… unfortunately their breed character is now lost too, as it does not present in your flock. now..the modern American type does.

      • Patric Lyster

        Ms. Jones, once again you are trying your defamation tactics. Please provide the evidence of my flock lacking traditional Shropshire breed characteristics. Since you have never seen my flock, how can you say such a thing? You would be best advised to issue an apology and retract the statement. Or are you referring to the fact that I have genetics from you and that perhaps they lacked breed character? You do not even know what I have and have never seen either of the 2 RR rams. Also, how about RR Shropshire rams in the UK, are they all lacking breed character? If not, then you have to admit that there are traditional character Shropshire rams out there. For your information, to be traditional doesn’t mean small and woolblind.
        Also please show where you carefully developed anything for many years. Your lack of registering, in my opinion, attests to just how successful your breeding program has been, as in your own words the sales of breeding stock pays for your registrations. How many must you sell to pay a registration fee of about $10 each to register your sheep? One sheep sold at say $300 would pay for 30 registrations, so why couldn’t you afford the registrations of your carefully developed sheep. A side note is that the ewe Cramirro 36J that you are bragging about how long she lived and how beautiful she was, has an awful lot of American genetics. If those American genetics are so bad, then why would you have bought her for one of your foundation ewes, and also why did you keep her so long, since she was unusable and unwanted (your words)?

        Interesting, in my opinion, how when it doesn’t suit you, that everyone else is wrong.
        The information I have posted is not wrong and if it is, then please provide the proof, otherwise you may wish to watch what you are saying. As to involvement, I have been involved since you made it public and wish to present a lot of misinformation and continue to try to defame my character. I am also involved as , if you checked it out, CFIA is a Canadian branch of government so there is no Alberta and Ontario CFIA. The C stands for Canadian, is that so difficult to understand? When you question things and CFIA asks me for information, am I not involved? Perhaps you should look at the facts and you might, in my opinion, notice that there is more to this than just your one sided version of this case. If you check things out, I do believe up until (and maybe still) your recent positive, that the case would still have been noted as the case found on my farm. Or are you saying that there was more scrapie that you haven’t told people about?

  6. Lorri Nelson

    Hi Michael, two things:
    First: “a policy which is there to protect the economical aspect and neglects the diversity aspect.” Please concede that the CFIA does indeed have a program in place whereby a producer can preserve their lines by using RR rams. It is a policy that really makes the best of a bad situation and it is something the CFIA should get credit for. If Ms Jones chose not to take advantage of it, that is not the CFIA’s fault.
    Second: “The simple fact of procedural abuse and rude enforcement needs to be the focus.” In fact I don’t think there was procedural abuse. I think the one thing that is being focused on is the form filled out by the OMAFRA employee, that was unfortunately worded but is actually being blown out of all proportion. It was simply a fill-in-the-blanks form, saying that the Specified Risk Materials (the “offal”) could not be used. That would happen to animals from any flock under quarantine and it was nothing personal against Ms Jones. As for rude enforcement, well, put youself in the shoes of the CFIA for a moment. For two years they didn’t get trace-in and trace-out information. They have been publicly maligned and accused of some pretty monstrous stuff. And then the final coup-de-grace, the violation of the quarantine. Who’s being rude here?

    Again, thank-you for allowing the posts. And thank-you for conceding that an opposing opinion can be right and valid.

    • You both continue to post untruths….staggering really. You say the OMAFRA fas document was a “unfortunately worded but is actually being blown out of all proportion.” No, it would NOT happen to any flock under quarantine..no, and again no, you are not aware of the facts. What incredible blatant presumption..I’m being polite. You don’t know the facts on SO much of this yet you consistently post speculation. FACT: Let’s remember that whether tests results afterwards are positive OR negative..the regulations state all sheep under 12 months are fit for human consumption and permitted to enter the food chain. They were in fact negative. Two animals of that group were a week over 12 months and the offal from those two cannot be used…but NOT because they were “Contaminated with scrapie”, as the government falsely wrote because they were not, as tests 29 days later proved. Those samples weren’t even sent in to the lab for 20 days. And you think that’s just a li’l ol’ “simply a fill-in-the-blanks form”? It was a falsely CERTIFIED CONDEMNATION by a government official that was not true….I now have the CFIA on record admitting it was not true. They bungled. Again. And are having a hard time doing it in public…and you think that it’s “rude”. How come Patric never mentions he’s taking CFIA to court? Politely I suppose. Or perhaps that is not actually so either.

      Your position has become embarrassingly obvious. Now jump on this next thing I have to say..ready?….wait…Patric you ready now….? Okay…”black.”

      Your turn to both shout “WHITE!”

      • Lorri Nelson

        Yup. The offal was condemned. As it should be. As it would be from any sheep from any flock under a scrapie quarantine. Remember, Montana, they don’t test for scrapie in an abattoir. That is a lab test. You got your inch, you took your mile, whatever. Time to get over your righteous indignation. The way to deal with a scrapie positive is not to throw a tantrum.

      • Patric Lyster

        Ms. Jones, please provide your proof, that I am taking CFIA to court. I said that I may, you are saying and I quote “.How come Patric never mentions he’s taking CFIA to court?” Please either retract the statement and aplogize or realize that it is being added to the file, which may soon go to a lawyer to deal with your defamation of character (glad you brought it up).
        In regards to the sheep going for slaughter, are you saying that you knowingly shipped 2 that were not eligible to be sent for slaughter? If the sheep over 12 months are unfit for human consumption, then why would you have them slaughtered ?Because, as you know full well, the scrapie protocol says sheep under 12 months may be sent for slaughter for human consumption. If you knowingly (and in my opinion, would have to have known) sent sheep that were over 12 months of age, you had already breached your quarantine order, unless those sheep were of a genotype that wasn’t of primary interest to CFIA. If that is the case, then those sheep would fall into the genotypes of your unusable, unwanted sheep. Then how could they be used for meat if they are unusable? Please explain how this works. Also please explain how the shipping of lambs for slaughter is not allowing you to sell any sheep? I mean it woud appear that you are an extremely hungry person, if you are planning on you and your immediate family consuming all 11 of those sheep. Am I not correct in assuming that you were planning to sell the meat, or had already sold it? If not, it would seem rather strange to pay for the slaughter of that many animals at once, when you can’t even afford to register your sheep.

    • Lorri Nelson

      Wow, Montana, making sweeping judgments about someone else’s flock that you have never seen. You are always so quick to say, “You know nothing.” I always say the one with the most to hide is usually the one making the most noise.

  7. Well what I have come to the conclusion after all the back and forth, is the following:
    C(F)IA is laughing their head of because the motto DIVIDE AND CONQUER is certainly working for them.

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