I’ve gone as far as I can go…well..even further than I imagined I’d ever need to.
A dozen years ago I began efforts to save a rare heritage breed of endearing fuzzy-faced sheep from extinction. The Shropshire.
I went from the earthly joys of shepherding…the satisfaction of long hours working with earth and animals, to the place I stand today. I stand to lose my farm. Simply for wishing to live quietly. Then for suggesting that our government re-examine their protocols involving agricultural biodiversity.
I went from from disbelief that a sheep in my flock had scrapie (which stands true to this day) to horror at what degree of harm a government agency (Canadian Food Inspection Agency—CFIA) can do with an incredible amount of money and a superfluous number of relatively incompetent employees. Over two and a half years ago, I was advised to roll over, let them kill my healthy sheep, take their money and move on. Other commercial sheep producers did…why shouldn’t I?
But I didn’t.
I’m not a commercial sheep producer. I raised rare heritage Shropshire sheep with rare bloodlines dating back to the first imports here to Canada in the early 1900′s. There were less than 100 breeding females in Canada. I was passionate about increasing their population so Canada wouldn’t lose it’s precious original genetics. Agricultural diversity is essential. We need to increase our heirloom seeds and heritage breeds..not destroy them, despite what our government doesn’t think about it. It’s why I dedicated the last 12 years to conserving them.
A sheep I sold many years ago was later found to test positive for scrapie in Alberta, but I had a hard time believing (due to a long list of supporting facts) that it was infected with the disease when it left here. Experts agree it may not have..even CFIA agrees. However I gave the government the benefit of the doubt, and began working with them to see IF it really did exist here on my farm property and in my flock…despite so much evidence to the contrary. I reasoned that IF it did…we needed to find out.
I said ”Wait a sec…let’s look at this more closely…in view of the apparent absence of symptoms or disease and the entire flock testing negative on a live test that is 86% accurate, there must be alternative risk measures that also preserve the genetics.” I came up with a proposal. CFIA ignored it…did not even respond. They decided my healthy rare PREGNANT sheep needed to be killed, so they coud test how healthy they were.
I contacted media and went public with the story. CFIA was not happy with me.
The whole saga is documented on the ShropshireSheep.org website, on the Save Our Shrops Facebook page, and the protest of over 5,000 petitioners are reflected in this Save Our Shrops campaign.
The flock disappeared before CFIA could destroy them.
I made a public request to CFIA reiterating my proposal in an effort to get my sheep back safe on home ground.
Raw milk advocate and heritage livestock farmer Michael Schmidt spoke out in support of saving the genetics of the Shropshires and all rare heritage breeds.
CFIA found my flock on a Chesley, Ontario farm in mid summer. CFIA then killed them, 11 healthy newborn lambs and the remaining unborn lambs. I drove five hours to see them when I found out days later. They would not let me touch my own sheep…though they ran to see me when they realized their shepherd had come. Not because of any disease issues… because CFIA can do whatever they want. The truth is they were particularly heartless, despite knowing what difficult and distressing circumstances they were for me.
CFIA Killed my healthy pregnant sheep
All of them were killed and tests came back negative.
I have been, and am still in quarantine. CFIA has effectively halted my farm income and ensured that each day revolves around them, and defending my right to live peacefully. They have attacked, stripped bare, twisted up and torn down—it’s non-sensical..am I that much of a threat? I’m just here. On a farm with a few animals, growing vegetables, going to market…well, I was.
CFIA continued to issue press releases announcing the high risk to the nation and dangerous nature of the missing sheep situation. CFIA commiserated how they understood what a severe impact their procedures had on “affected” producers (implying that my flock they killed were indeed infected with disease—they weren’t) …and how difficult it must be and announced publicly that they properly compensate producers for their losses. Sure they do.
Armed with search warrants, Canadian Food Inspection Agency investigators and Ontario Provincial Police raided my home, Michael Schmidt and two others on August 2nd, 2012. Criminal charges ofConspiracy, Obstruction and Removing an Animal from Quarantine are pending. They did not bring the promised compensation cheque with them.
I’ve held on as long as I can—the bank is awaiting long overdue farm mortgage payments and was only stalling foreclosure because CFIA had promised compensation was on it’s way. It is not.
So this first LifeStock is a benefit to put the farm back on the road to recovery and start a legal defence fund. It’s not easy to admit that I can’t do it on my own.
Way back when I’d barely started to stand up to CFIA a farmer told me to give up. He said “The government has more money, more people and more time than you. Forget the sheep. Farm the government. Demand how much you want, insist they take all instead of holding you captive in quarantine with no compensation. Take their money and move on. You can’t beat them.” He had experienced a similar occurrence on his farm many years prior with cattle.
I thought of my sheep..my wooly friends…my dedicated years…how much I enjoyed them…how wrong and senseless it was to let an uninformed governing body destroy them. There was NO WAY I could let such an irrational thing happen…yet it did. That steadfastness may cost me the whole farm and a whole way of life. If I hold on and rebuild it I could try to reestablish the flock too, though it will take time.
Next year for LifeStock 2013 we’d like to work toward establishing a non-profit board and choose another farm or producer in need of help.
Thank-you to everyone who has thought about this, or spoken up, written a letter to CFIA, their MP, commented, called or emailed me in support of efforts to make changes to the policies that threaten our biodiversity, food, farming and freedom.
So please join us Sunday September 30, 2012 for the first LifeStock at Wholearth Farmstudio.Come share your voice and listen with your heart about your food, your farmers, your community…your freedom and choices.
It’s your Life…it’s your LifeStock. For healing, for farms, for fun, for music, for food, for change…
Montana Jones/Wholearth Farmstudio