The Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency, Ontario Goat, along with the Canadian Sheep Federation, Canadian Sheep Breeders Association and the Canadian Livestock Genetics Association, would like to express their collective concern over the 41 missing Shropshire sheep.
On April 2, 2012, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency notified the public of a breach of quarantine in relation to scrapie control measures taking place in Trent Hills, Ontario. 41 sheep belonging to Montana Jones were slated to be destroyed and tested for scrapie as part of an ongoing scrapie investigation by the CFIA.
Industry members and producers alike can sympathize with the devastating and emotionally charged events that surround a scrapie investigation. A positive case of scrapie is a devastating event for any and all producers involved regardless of the nature of their operation and leads to both economic hardship and the destruction of carefully crafted breeding programs.
Scrapie eradication efforts are, however, essential to the continued growth and vibrancy of the small ruminant industry in Canada. Positive cases of scrapie continue to pose a considerable threat to the health of the national sheep flock and goat herd. Scrapie is a devastating neurodegenerative disease with a long incubation period, for which there is no 100% effective live test. Infected animals can live and spread the disease in flocks and herds without being detected or exhibiting signs of illness.
Any situation where a positive case of scrapie is identified certainly speaks volumes to the need for moving towards scrapie eradication in our country, so these devastating situations cease to exist. Current scrapie control measures have made great strides in reducing the occurrence of the disease in Canada and contravening those measures jeopardizes the efforts made to better our national disease status.
Not only is scrapie eradication important to the industry, the international perception of pro-action in disease control is essential.
Recognition of domestic efforts to minimize the risk of disease can help build a robust trade based industry on both domestic and international levels where international trade is essential to the vibrancy and long-term sustainability of the Canadian livestock species. Canada's ability to control the spread of scrapie dictates our ability to trade and interfering with that process jeopardizes the strides made towards domestic and international confidence in our animal health programs.
The events this week impact all livestock sectors because they undermine Canada's ability to demonstrate that we have robust and effective disease control programs in this country.
Actions taken by the group calling itself the "Farmer's Peace Corps"
seriously risk the health and success of the Canadian sheep and goat industries. Moving potentially diseased animals during their greatest period of infectivity risks spreading the disease to an even larger number of animals. The most common pathway for the spread of scrapie is through contact with birthing fluids, and the animals removed from Ms Jones' farm are apparently due to give birth in the next few weeks.
There is concern that this group may be ill-equipped to deal with biosecurity issues that surround this disease. Additionally, any premise or animals associated with this breach of quarantine risk falling under the same control measures applied to the original animals that were taken. What was initially a destruction order for 41 animals could quickly turn into the required destruction of hundreds of potentially infected sheep and goats.
Producers and industry groups alike would urge those involved to re-think the actions they have taken and the impact those actions have had on the small ruminant industry. As devastating as the loss of these
41 animals will be to the producer, it does not justify the impact this recent series of events has had on the survivability of the industry.
Moreover, this action makes a mockery of the sacrifices that other producers have made over the years in the shared commitment to rid Canada of this disease scrapie.
Murray Hunt, General Manager, Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency
Jennifer Haley Executive Director Ontario Goat
Stacey White, General Manager, Canadian Sheep Breeder Association
Rick McRonald, Executive Director Canadian Livestock Genetics Association
Jennifer MacTavish, Executive Director Canadian Sheep Federation
Jun 22, 2012
Over two dozen sheep that vanished from a scrapie-quarantined eastern Ontario farm for about two months have all tested negative for the brain-wasting disease.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency on Thursday confirmed it had recovered, euthanized and tested 26 of the 31 adult sheep that went missing in early April from Linda Montana Jones' quarantined farm at Hastings, Ont., east of Peterborough.
A CFIA spokesperson confirmed by email last week that 11 lambs born to those sheep during their absence were also found to be susceptible to scrapie and were euthanized for further scrapie testing. Results of those tests were not released Thursday.
The agency said Thursday that the missing animals were found on a farm in Grey County, roughly 325 km west of Jones' farm.
Scrapie quarantines "will remain in place on both farms while the investigation continues," CFIA said, adding "efforts to trace the remaining five sheep continue."
The agency said the negative test results "are consistent with the CFIA's experience with scrapie in Canada."
A typical infected flock or herd sees an infection rate anywhere between three and 30 per cent, the agency said, noting two sheep from the Hastings-area farm had previously tested positive for scrapie.
Scrapie, a federally-reportable form of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) such as BSE in cattle or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in people, "can spread among sheep and goats without showing signs in the infected animals for several years," CFIA said.
"Unfortunately, all genetically susceptible animals exposed to scrapie must be humanely euthanized to allow for conclusive testing. This approach ensures the disease does not spread within the national flock."
There is no known human health risk connected to scrapie, the agency reiterated Thursday, but the disease has serious impacts on sheep and goat production and trade. The U.S. border, for example, has been shut to breeding sheep and goats from Canada since the beginning of the BSE crisis in 2003.
"Uphold and respect"
The Jones farm has been quarantined since January 2010, after a single sheep she sold to an Alberta farm in 2007 died and tested positive for scrapie.
Another sheep that died on the Jones farm was tested in late April this year and, according to the agency, was a "very strong positive." Nine other sheep from the same genetic cohort were then destroyed and all tested negative.
Jones, with help from the Calgary-based Canadian Constitution Foundation, has campaigned to prevent her animals, which she describes as rare Shropshire sheep, from being destroyed and tested.
Jones has been lobbying for a "heritage breed exemption" from CFIA's current protocols for testing and eradication of scrapie, and has been critical of what she describes as "questionable, intransigent government tactics and draconian protocol."
A foundation lawyer from Belleville, Ont. on April 19 filed an application with the Federal Court of Canada, seeking a judicial review to overturn the CFIA's destruction order for Jones' animals.
Jones has previously said the 31 sheep vanished sometime overnight before April 2, with only a note left behind from an unknown party called the "Farmers Peace Corp" claiming responsibility.
No charges have yet been announced against anyone relating to the animals' disappearance from Jones' farm.
Another Canadian Constitution Foundation client, dairyman and "raw milk" advocate Michael Schmidt of Durham, Ont., said June 13 that he had been "asked by the Farmers Peace Corp to speak on their behalf," though he added he has "no knowledge about the different people involved."
He said in a statement that "those involved in the Farmers Peace Corp have acted without knowledge and involvement of Montana Jones" or her foundation lawyer, Karen Selick.
Schmidt added that "in my role as liaison I can assure that I never visited Montana Jones' farm, transported or handled any of her sheep."
The group, he said, supports "evidence-based scrapie eradication programs." He said the group had also "made sure to prevent cross-contamination with any other sheep to uphold and respect the quarantine imposed."
© 2023 Created by Darren Marsland. Powered by
You need to be a member of Ontario Agriculture to add comments!
Join Ontario Agriculture