04/09/2012 01:13 EDT | Updated 06/09/2012 05:12 EDT

These Sheep Did Nothing Baaaaaaaad

Last week, a Canadian sheep farmer, Montana Jones, reported 41 of her sheep had been apparently been stolen. The Shropshires were expected to be euthanized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The doomed sheep aren't sick or diseased, but they do have genetic markers that can make them more susceptible to scrapie, a neurological disease, should they be exposed. Those interested in demonstrating support for Jones will find information here.

Jones' sheep are condemned because a sheep she sold five years ago, in 2007, to a farm across the continent in Alberta, became ill with scrapie about three years after she sold it. In 12 years of business, Jones' farm has never had a diagnosed case of scrapie, and there is no evidence that the Alberta sheep's scrapie came from its birth place. As a precaution, Jones' farm has been under quarantine since 2009 and her flock has been tested with all sheep testing negative.

Nonetheless, as part of the CFIA's multi-million dollar scrapie eradication program, the Jones farm's sheep of the susceptible genotype that earmarks them as potentially infectable by scrapie, have been selected for culling. Under the eradication program, according to a letter from Jones' attorney Karen Selick, L.L.B. from the Canadian Constitution Foundation, the CFIA has discretion in this situation that has not been exercised. She also points out that Jones' flock does not meet the criteria for scrapie eradication in the United States.

A press release from the Canadian Constitution Foundation states:

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.

"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."

Letters from Montana Jones' attorney Karen Selick to the CFIA:

January 24, 2012

February 3, 2012

February 15, 1012

March 28, 2012

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that the sheep had been euthanized. They had in fact been reported missing before the slaughter could occur.