Near a little Ontario town, east of Peterborough and north of Cobourg, there is a farm that specializes in a rare heritage breed of sheep called Shropshire. It is being threatened with eradication for prophylactic reasons. The Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has targeted the farm and its sheep for having a genotype that makes them susceptible – which means easy to infect – to a prion disease called “scrapie.” It doesn’t infect humans (like bovine spongiform encephalitis morphs into Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease), and it doesn’t morph into other forms of prion disease, but if a flock has it, it can persist. The known primary vector for transmission is through birth and contact with placental tissues.
One sheep from this flock succumbed to scrapie in Alberta, which is how this farm ended up in the cross hairs of the CFIA. The rest of this flock tested negative for the disease, and every effort was made to prevent this disease and to comply with the CFIA, short of killing them.
The death date is this week. Today there was a rally at the farm to save the Shrops. Awareness and popularity of this issue are the only things that may help at this point. Governments have a history of putting animals to death, beyond any argument.
Visit the Shrops site. Sign the petition. Send a letter to your Member of Parliament, even if it’s a short one.
Breaking news – Several sheep went missing overnight. Stolen? Likely. The farm’s owner refused to allow the CFIA to send the bodies of the sheep the CFIA wants to kill to a rendering plant. It’s illogical: it’s fine to kill healthy animals on suspicion of harboring scrapie, but if they actually harbored scrapie (which they don’t, this was overruled by tests), they’d still be made into pet food?
Update on further research:This appears to be an exercise of the Government of Canada saying “We’re #1!” They’ve allocated a few million dollars to eradicate scrapie by eradicating the sheep, so that they can then say “Canada is scrapie-free!” Which also implies that once the CFIA has succeeded with the eradication program, people won’t be able to import sheep into Canada, .
Update again: And the human spirit rises in response! A group calling itself the “Farmers Peace Corp” has acted, at great risk of criminal liability, to do the right thing. Read the article in the Globe and Mail here.
Here they are on Facebook: Shared post
2016 update: the sheep were sadly located and slaughtered. None tested positive for scrapie. But the Crown dropped the charges against the shepherd and people involved in the sheep-napping. https://www.rarebreedscanada.org/shepherd-wins-legal-fight The Shropshire sheep website is down, and the farmer likely does not have a new herd.
Also published on Medium.