Farmed & Dangerous?
Apparently I am farmed and dangerous:
But I am not a criminal. I'm a shepherd, farmer and writer who has been preserving rare Shropshire sheep for the last 12 years, and farming various other heritage breeds and vegetables for the last 30.
Then the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) killed my beautiful ewes and their unborn lambs to find out if they were healthy. They were.
They were also rare and pregnant. Now they are dead.
The CFIA ignored over 5,000 people who signed a petition to stop them . Their policy must change to protect our heritage breeds and heirloom seeds"”I need to keep going and ensure they don't destroy me, my farm or other small farms.
The domino effect since has been devastating, its been a downward spiral from their first raid, and worse with every invasion since. I keep telling myself "There are worse things", and I hang on.
The CFIA charged myself and raw milk activist farmer Michael Schmidt and 2 others with numerous criminal charges including conspiracy, for allegedly trying to save Canada's heritage sheep and preserve our country's agricultural biodiversity.
I barely scraped through winter and now, I face imminent foreclosure and an astonishing $100,000. Dollar legal defense fee for the upcoming criminal trial. I have no income, no transportation, am battling depression and post traumatic stress.
If convicted, I face up to 12 YEARS IN JAIL and fines of $1.5 million.
If I lose the farm"”they win. And that is just wrong:another wrong added to the CFIA's long list of nonsensical wrongs.
It's not easy to admit, but pride aside"”I need help.
Please help spread word of this situation
It's up to all of us to change any and all unreasonable government policies that harm our environment, control our freedom and rights in real food and farming choices, and destroy our agricultural biodiversity. This uncomfortable chapter of mine is just a detail"”I'm not going to lay down just because I'm cold or broke or steamrollered by government. I'm standing up.
People ask me how I can stand all the stress and pressure. I'm not always sure I can. But I hold the thought that what the CFIA has done is so very wrong, and what they continue to do is so very wrong.
More people need to know what our government is doing with the power we have vested in them, on the pretence of protecting us.
I appreciate the encouragement of so many who have been following this story:it has made all the difference to me. It constantly reminds me that we are not alone:no matter how different our personal challenges. This is not the worst thing that ever happened to anybody, but it IS happening, and it needs to stop.
Please help me keep my home - help me keep the farm going.
Any help you can offer WILL make a difference!
Why did they kill them?
Read the details on http://ShropshireSheep.org, click the red CFIA tab.
Please visit the farm page at Wholearth Farmstudio and the sheeps page at Shropshire Sheep Facebook page . With your help, we'll breathe life back into the farm, and make it whole once again.
Thank-you and please, please share....
THE LONGER STORY
Along with other heritage breed livestock, I raise Heritage Shropshire sheep
, a breed that is on the Rare Breeds Canada Endangered livestock list. The British genetics in my Wholearth flock had pedigrees dating back to the early 1900's when the first British stock was imported here. Despite protests from the British Rare Breeds Survival Trust, the CFIA wiped out the sheep and all my years of dedicated genetic work. The CFIA have paid ZERO compensation to me for destroying my healthy animals nor offered to replace them from English breeding stock. There are now less than 80 registered ewes in Canada.
How could this happen?
Three years ago the CFIA swooped down on my little heritage farmstead
and declared that a ewe I sold many years prior (to a livestock hauler and farmer in Alberta) had tested positive for a sheep disease called Scrapie. There had only been 10 cases in all of Canada the year before, and it's not a human health risk. The Scrapie infected sheep did not have the traceability I.D. ear tag that was there when I sold it, apparently the owner "didn't have it", but CFIA were told it was originally my sheep. The CFIA agreed it was quite possible that it had been infected in the time since it left my farm.
Scrapie is easy to spot, and my flock NEVER had a single sign or symptom. The CFIA went ahead and conducted live tests that have an 88% accuracy rate in detecting the disease. The 'dead' test on obex brain tissue has only slightly higher accuracy. As I predicted...all tests came back negative. But that wasn't good enough. But that wasn't good enough. The CFIA issued an order to kill them anyway.
I offered many other risk free alternatives and suggested we work together to find out if indeed any illness had ever been in the flock
. "Kill first"”ask questions later" is not the best option to conserve a rare breed.
The CFIA did not even respond to my proposal.
The CFIA wouldn't listen to over 5,000 petioners on Change.org either.
The CFIA is not pleased that I made public their unjust actions public knowledge.
I am horrified at the degree of harm a government agency can do with an incredible amount of money and a superfluous number of relatively incompetent employees. Who was I to suggest that our government re-examine their protocols regarding agricultural biodiversity?
I was advised to roll over, let the CFIA kill my healthy sheep, take their compensation money and move on. Other commercial sheep producers did...why shouldn't I?
Why? Because their policy to kill healthy rare sheep:ANY endangered livestock for that matter: is very wrong.
They demanded I hire an excavator and have a deep grave dug, and said they would kill them before my eyes and leave me to bury them all. A 15-foot pit was dug at the top of my hill overlooking the farm...the hill they grazed peacefully for so many years.
Then the CFIA told me they changed plans, and decided to load my sheep for a stressful 5 hour transport to a killing facility at a pet food plant near Ottawa, and that I would have top pay the bill.
There were many calls, emails and messages from outraged people saying they'd take, hide or move the sheep to protect them.
The CFIA arrived early April 2 to kill the flock, but the sheep were gone, with only a note left.
Months later they were discovered on a distant farm, and CFIA killed them and their newborns. All of the the tests cane back negative.
My farm is 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 was just quietly living and farming with a few animals, growing vegetables, selling at local farmers' market...well, I was. Not now.
The CFIA continued to issue press releases announcing the high risk to the nation and "dangerous" nature of the missing sheep situation. The CFIA claimed they understood what a severe impact their procedures had on "affected" producers (implying that my destroyed flock they killed had indeed been infected with disease"”they weren't) ...and how difficult it must be and announced publicly that they properly compensate producers for their losses. Simply not true.
Armed with search warrants, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency investigators and Ontario Provincial Police raided my home, Michael Schmidt's and two others on August 2nd, 2012.
The CFIA charged myself and raw milk activist farmer Michael Schmidt and 2 others with numerous criminal offences including conspiracy, for allegedly trying to save Canada's heritage sheep and preserve our country's agricultural biodiversity.
If convicted, I face up to 12 YEARS IN JAIL and fines of $1.5 million. Apparently I am FARMED (with truth) & DANGEROUS (to an unjust government).
Now, I face imminent foreclosure and an astonishing $100,000. legal defense fee for the upcoming criminal trial.
If I lose the farm"”they win. And that is just wrong:another wrong added to the CFIA's long list of nonsensical wrongs. And if I lose my spirit?
I keep reminding myself there are far worse things to endure.
The domino effect of the CFIA's invasion meant selling off my heritage turkey breeding stock because I had no way to feed them. My beautiful pastured Tamworth pigs too, and two white Percheron mares. My farm truck died last fall. Then my car followed suit in December.
I tried to make light of the notion of being a secluded hermit with no way off the farm...tried to make it just another challenge. I sequestered myself away.
Christmas was a dismal blur.
All through winter a kind neighbour brought hay to feed the few remaining animals. I had wanted to sell the other sheep because I couldn't afford to care for them"”CFIA wouldn't allow them to leave. Since the firewood ran out I've been burning the little scrap ends from a nearby pallet manufacturer. Some nights it's been 7° Celsius, sleeping in hat and fully clothed layers cuddled up with dogs under mounds of blankets.
To my sheer horror, a rat...a FEW bold rats...appeared in my kitchen the day before the CFIA raided my home with a search warrant as if to herald their arrival. It took a long time to rid the rodents from my life. The CFIA, however, are still in it.
No, it's no way to live.
Depression doesn't introduce itself on arrival. It's the uninvited dark guest that you one day realize has been there for some time. I considered asking it to leave since I realized it moved in with the CFIA.
Since their raids, I launch into anxiety attacks whenever I hear a car (is it THEM again?), with pounding chest pain, shortness of breath, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate and immobilization. It strikes me at any time. I can't look at photos of my now deceased sheep. I break down crying while sorting old pedigrees. I end up in tears when I see something that should be joyful, like the first robins of the year, or the sound of the first spring peepers. I end up sobbing when I realize I can't feel the beauty around me or on the farm anymore. The world has been muddied.
I'm told my symptoms are of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but I still seem too paralyzed watching the downward spiral to alter its course. I must change it now before it's too late.
On the saddest grey days a sprinkle of light rain seems enough to dissolve my frail being into the thawing ground, along with vague images of a former life. But even then, surely I'm stronger than an unthinking, faceless, draconian government body.
Last week an unkempt strange man trespassed on my property, filmed me through my windows, and left a notice declaring the locks would be changed. The bank is moving in.
People ask me how I can stand all the stress and pressure. I'm not always sure I can. But I hold the thought that what the CFIA has done is so very wrong, and what they continue to do is so very wrong.
More people need to know what our government is doing with the power we have vested in them, on the pretence of protecting us. I refuse to believe that the gross misuse of power wielded by this government body might go unnoticed.
First, I need to ensure the farm will not be lost. Then, to raise funds for legal defense against the CFIA's charges, and to raise awareness about how their policies are affecting all of us, and work to get them changed.
The encouragement of all those who have been following this story has been a huge support to me. It constantly reminds me that we are all in this together:no matter how different our personal suffering or challenges. This is not the worst thing that ever happened to anybody, but it IS happening, and it needs to stop.
With your help, we'll breathe life back into this farm once again.
Thank-you so much: please help spread word of this
"I get tired of talking about this situation, even though it takes up every moment of my life right now. It's difficult to keep asking for help...though it's crucial time and need support now."
Q: Did you get your new mortgage details settled?
"No..it's been a long and complicated process and is still not finalized. I'm very concerned it may fall through but trying to remain optimistic."
Q: Do you have enough funds to cover your legal expenses for the upcoming Pre-Trial and Court Trial?
"No. In fact I will have to represent myself at Pre-Trial on July 13th...not a good idea but no funds for lawyer yet."
Q: How is 6 years of stress affecting your health?
"It is a challenge every day. It's a big part of why no regular updates. I would like to give more details about what is really going on, but am torn between being completely open and honest, and being private. It is tragic that so many targets of government end up in the unfamilar place I am in. They bet on it. Bet that you will just want to crawl under a rock when it all seems futile.
I will not crawl under a rock. But I am not coping as well as I pretend too.
Halfway there in this fundraiser and it will all be for naught if I can't stand up, if I can't breathe, if I can't be kind and steward the earth here. That's all I want to do these days...and make the nightmare go away.
Please help me stand back up, and win this. I see a need for a peaceful place like this farm for those in need of healing. The energy here..your energy...can do it.
We are having a fundraiser on July 10th with supporter Joel Salatin speaking, and so much going on.
Please come to the farm if you can...I would love to meet you face to face and for you to see the farm you have helped so much. If you cannot come, consider a donation to help get the rest of the way there...or buy a ticket anyway for the cause at http://LifeStock.ca. I hope you can come <3
I've always loved this... " Set your shoulder joyously to the worlds wheel"
So that's what I've returned to doing. It's one of two little antique wicker baskets my son gave me when he was eleven. The other one says "Self-made or never made."
After years of CFIA depression induced immobility I do know this much:
Sweat, soil and movement make happy endorphins. Working the earth will heal you if you let it, so let us all look after it.
Thank-you for your continued encouragement and confidence in me, especially when I haven't had it in myself. Happy Earth Day!
I just saw a video that stopped my breath. Humbled. It made me remember my life. March in the late 70's as the California Grays migrated down to Baja to warmer calving waters after months of swimming. I knew what a destination was then too. It was one of my very first travel writing trips, I was young and armed with camera and notepads and seasick pills, just in case.
I met Haleakula and her shiny new tar-black calf bobbing about in a Zodiac. She had been named by a group of university students studying the whales, because of a deep sharkbite wound that had healed over to look like the same-named crater in Maui.
Halea let me reach into the cold ocean and run my open hand over her rubbery surface, inserting herself as a wall between her baby and me. I didn't expect such radiating warmth.
When she rose her nose so high up above the water's surface that her incredibly sentient eye peered directly at me, assessing me, there was an exchange of understanding or natural intelligence that just was so...natural.
It didn't occur to me to be afraid, or worry that this mammoth could kill me with one tail slap. I could see she accepted me.
We'd shut off the engine, and the whales rolled and drifted with the raft of us for almost an hour until the waves slapped us toward the rocky beach. They veered away from the shallows and rejoined the other new moms and calves.
It was unforgettable, which is diferent from me watching this and suddenly remembering my life.
Here's the clip of a happy whale, may the same feeling wash over you when you see it.
I would have written a hundred posts if I had done so for every time I only thought of it in the last few months. But I get tired of talking about it, and living it, and I imagine people must get tired of hearing about it. So I end up staying silent, though there is much to say.
It becomes a kind of thing, because I go to post...need to post, and then stop myself.
But I’m always wonderfully reminded that you do want to hear about it, when so many of you send messages asking how things are going and why have I been so quiet? That is so very touching. :-)
You know what else lifted me? A puppy. And then more death, but not until after it almost finished me off entirely. After that, I understood a little more about living while I’m still here.
This path may not be one I chose, but I’m on it, and there is only ahead and behind now.
But I am running out of time in the criminal case....with the court trial just ahead, we MUST raise the funds for our legal expenses or we WILL lose our lawyer. No maybe about it. Defending myself would be the remaining option which sure, I could do, but I have far more confidence in my lawyer Shawn Buckley.
My son and I and a few supportive friends are organizing LifeStock, a Food & Farm Festival on July 10th. Come celebrate a day on the farm highlighting heritage breeds and heirloom seeds, food, music, health and wellness, life skills, and all proceeds will go toward staying out of jail.
Please, please if you can come, please do!
If you cannot, please help support the event by getting tickets anyway, or becoming a partner and sponsor of the festival. We’ll promote your farm or food establishment or business over the next four months too! Check it out at http://LifeStock.ca .
Thank-you for staying the course with me all this time, even when I get tired of myself.
I've been following your story for some time now. I'd like to consider an article for LEGAL LEMONADE (my trademark), and I wonder if a book/movie might be of more help for you and others. Something along the lines of Civil Action. In that instance the truth did not prevail in the courtroom, but made a significant impact years later when both companies in question were fined $90 million dollars each --A lot of children died, but at least at some point the injustice stopped. You can reach me through viviangreene.com
The CFIA are barking up the wrong tree in their search for an infectious agent in the feed as to the cause of BSE. Also the suggestion that scrapie in sheep is caused by an infectious agent is also highly doubtfull. The science surrounding this BSE/Scrapie predicament is filled with holes. Perhaps they should be asking themselves why BSE is occurring only in western Canada? Might it be due to the fact that all Alberta producers are mandated via the Agricultural Pest Act to take active measures to control warbles in their cattle by spaying, injecting or pouring onto the animal’s spine, neurotoxic organophosphate pesticides? A number of researchers have found that organophosphate (OP) in systemic warble fly insecticide can deform the prion molecule. I am not saying that this practice alone is the problem however it certainly appears that it could certainly lend a hand. I can also think of several invasive veterinary practices used as management tools in the livestock and agricultural industry as a whole that have the potential to stimulate mutation or act as transmissible agents, and it is not unreasonable to assume that such practices could be implicated in the above conditions known as Mad Cow or Scrapie. Thousands of cattle, sheep, and goats are being needlessly slaughtered around the world at the hands of officials who are attempting to justify their actions through fear of disease and/or pandemic, as if to give the impression that they are actually in control of the situation and can prevent it. It would be inconceivable for them to think, that their methodology is in fact responsible for prompting mutations that stimulate disorders such as BSE and scrapie.
Hi my name is Mike. I think this is terrible and no one should have to go through what you have gone through. I love the breed and would love to help save them. If you have any which I could purchase from you I would do the duty of raising a fine flock on your behalf and try to get other people to see the good in these sheep and the good in you and your love for the sheep. sincerely Mike Damm. e mail me @ firstname.lastname@example.org I hope all works out I really do.
I have been following your story for awhile, decided I needed to make another donation. The world needs the kind of farming you and other farmers provide. Our foods are contaminated and void of nutrition from big business farming which grows crops with GMO's and poisons, our meats with all kinds of drugs and hormones. So sad our politicians are so easily bought by big business farming and Monsanto. My prayers are with you, we need to hold onto natural and organic farming practices.
Before you need to go to court, have you thought of consulting with your lawyer to give you pointers? That should be a lot cheaper than having a lawyer in court. I hope you win. It is in all our interests ...as farmers and as consumers. I am praying for you.
I can't believe such a beautiful and strong woman can be treated this was. Your sheep are a rare beauty as you are too. Stay strong!
I have seen at least two farms in my area go into foreclosure and immediately, a solar farm appears. Coincidence?
Montana, I wrote to scotia bank and got a form email in return. I can't see in your current updates if you were able to keep the farm; please share what happened! Sending love n strength :)
I've posted 3 comments that have yet to post for some reason very strange I wanted to say we wish we could help with money and all but were praying and will share you're story. It's heartbreaking and so sorry you're going through this. Just awful .. I wanted to ask you advice my wife is running a campaign also on here under oral bone surgery her name is Sher Pierce and campaign is in City: Regina , Saskatchewan (Canada). She is in need of a surgery so badly and her campaign is not having any luck what so ever even lowered 3K of the needed funds to see if that was maybe the problem of 7,595.00 being too much tontryband raise then I saw your story and was well my jaw dropped. So happy for you and glad you've found some help. You seem very knowledged and very intelligent I was wondering if you could help my wife. It's heartbreaking cause ppl wanted a photo of her bone loss for proof and instead it backfired on her she's been made fun of instead of any help with donations or sharing her story. Please let me know if you have any ideas of how to get her campaign out there and I will also share your story. God bless you
This whole story smacks of Harper era domination and bullying. Surely if we can believe the new government's positions on decent treatment of farmers, the environment (diversity) fair laws etc etc, the new cabinet may well be appalled by these oppressive actions. Montana and friends, have you made this story known to the new justice minister, the new agriculture minister, minister of the environment, and Justin Trudeau himself ? Please do ! It could possibly bring a swift end to this persecution !
Has anyone contacted documentary shows like W5, 16x9 etc to get this story more widely known ? Viewers surely would send support for court costs if they knew the story !
There are other resources at Scotia. Check them out here : http://www.scotiabank.com/ca/en/0,,355,00.html Also, have you thought about going on TV, as on a show like MarketPlace or other (I don't know the shows in Ontario). I emailed DS's office, with a copy to you. Good luck!
I read your story and it really touched me. I am so sorry for your loss. Farm life like you have built, especially encouraging biodiversity through raising rare animals, seems like such a peaceful, true life. I am sorry the government has raped your home, your livelihood, your sanctuary. These are the stories that social media should be used to fuel, and bring awareness to. I wish you all the best with your plight, and hope you find peace again after all these struggles.
Hi Montana, I have plenty of spare geese, but no Buffs :( I think I'm too far away, anyway. Geese seem to like cars and trucks, I don't know why. But you should be careful because they like poking around behind the bumper and can damage the wiring for the trailer lights among other things. They also really like chewing on the stems of the tires to the point of letting air out of the tire. So you might want to try to keep the goose away from your truck. Or at least check your tires each time you get in the truck so you don't drive off on a flat tire.
"Scrapie is a disease that develops slowly. Clinical signs are only seen in adult animals, typically between two and five years of age, and in some animals, the disease has taken up to eight years to develop. However, once an animal appears ill, it will die in one to two months" so what exactly is the reason to kill the sheep, and what specifically is your alleged crime?
I have watched this from the beginning. This is purely CFIA ego. They were WRONG about your herd (not ONE instance of sickness). This is because someone in Canada - likely close by... is attempting to irradicate Scrapie globally and is making an example of you. It seems that their policy is to destroy every animal within a certain radius in the event of possibility. But there was no sickness so why do they continue...??? because you DARED to stand up for your livelihood? where do we live????? this is an outdated idea - and the more they are proven WRONG by their own methods, the more the world watches. They have misused funds, bungled their case, and refuse to stand down. These sheep are endangered - and rare - and resilliant - and beautiful - just like the sheperdess that guarded them with her life - David would be proud of you Montanna - indeed you face Goliath
It's heartbreaking what you are going through, and I think of you being in the dark place that you are , knowing how it feels. I send you a bit of money and my love. Helga Ballin
Why are rare breeds used for meat? Why couldn't your sheep just be classified as wool producers? I think the authorities had no option but to kill as per international agreements to contain the disease...but why have your sheep in the food chain? Such rare specimens should be used for wool production only to avoid future problems and risks.