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
The judge ruled.
Is it over? Likely, not quite. Will let you know more in the days ahead, while I consider how to express my gratitude a little better.
Meanwhile, I think she caught a tear in my eye, and Murdoch is grinning. :-)
Here is Laura Berman's photo taken outside the court after the Judge's ruling that Michael Schmidt and I will not proceed to another 8-weeks of Superior Court (pre-trial motions plus 6-week judge and jury Criminal Trial) previously scheduled for April 2017.
Reasons for Honourable Justice Laura Bird's decision included her concern that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and their Crown Prosecutor Damien Frost and lawyer Mindy Caterina were apparently unable to prove that the scrapie infected Alberta sheep was from my farm.
She referenced internal CFIA emails which had been withheld, despite lawyer Shawn Buckley disclosure requests spanning over 2 years. They included a document written by a former CFIA investigator way back in 2011 before the charges even existed.
I'd been telling CFIA they were wrong since way back at the beginning in January 2010, that my sheep didn't have scrapie.
The investigator reported to his superior that reasonable and probable grounds to pursue me, my sheep flock and farm (as the Alberta scrapie source) did NOT exist.
In his memo the "issue of significance" arose concerning the validity of the Alberta CFIA lab tests, continuity, testing procedures and labelling and packaging of the samples.
There were 53½ months between the charges and the expected completion of the trial, which she determined to be an unreasonable delay due to the Crown's failure to provide full and complete disclosure in a timely manner.
Emerging from the courthouse Michael and I, Shawn Buckley, Karen Selick, Geneviève Eliany and Robert Pinnell were greeted by hugs and cheers, and Elwood Quinn's grinning heritage Shropshire ram Murdoch. /
by Laura Berman Photography ( http://greenfusephotos.com)
Link to National Post article by Adrian Humphries: http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/shepherd-wins-six-year-legal-fight-to-keep-flock-of-rare-sheep-from-government-slaughter
The CFIA killed over 100 healthy rare Shropshire ewes, rams and newborn lambs stemming from their tragically wrong assumption that the Alberta scrapie positive sheep was from Wholearth Farmstudio. All seized were negative in live scrapie testing, then killed and tested negative again after they were killed and beheaded by CFIA for post-mortem testing.
Last Day in Court?
After 56 court appearances, will this be the last? Or the 6- week judge and jury criminal trial set for April 2017?
Please attend the hearing virtually if you cannot make it there in person, details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1241409522584761/ and share with friends.
For those that are new to this case...here is a summary.
"Seven years ago in January of 2010 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) shut down shepherdess Montana Jones' Ontario heritage farm on "suspicion" of a sheep disease called scrapie.
Despite live testing indicating they were negative, CFIA ordered that all of her rare Shropshires with the most valuable old genetics be killed.
When CFIA arrived to destroy them in April of 2012, the sheep were gone with a note in their place signed by the "Farmers' Peace Corp" saying they were being protected until proof of disease was provided.
Ultimately the flock was found on a distant Ontario farm, so the CFIA immediately killed all the pregnant ewes, rams and at least 16 newborn lambs. All tested negative for scrapie.
**A total exceeding 100 Shropshire sheep have since been killed by CFIA— ALL were negative for scrapie in post-mortem test results.**
Montana Jones, Michael Schmidt and Robert Pinnell were criminally charged with conspiracy, obstruction and more for their alleged involvement, and were facing up tp 12 years in jail if found guilty.
The Canadian Constitution Foundation stepped up to support the case with Karen Selick, regulatory and criminal lawyer Shawn Buckley and Genevieve Eliany providing legal counsel.
The case dragged on with various delays, including a Crown application demanding that Jones and Schmidt not be permitted Selick or Buckley as their counsel of choice. Nor would the Crown provide, and still has not, the full disclosure requested.
After four and half years awaiting trial, the three accused were slated for a 6-week judge and jury trial starting April 17th 2017.
Then CFIA recently dropped all charges against Pinnell, despite his early video statement that he was responsible for moving the sheep.
Jones has never received compensation for the sheep that the CFIA destroyed, or other losses resulting from their actions, despite claiming they do compensate producers.
A crowdfunding site https://www.gofundme.com/FarmedAndDangerous was set up to help prevent Jones from losing her farm while she's been without income and facing several personal challenges stemming from the loss.
The Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF) raised the majority of funds for legal defence, and donations to https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-defend-farmers-charged-in-rare-sheep-case#/ are hoped to cover the remainder.
Jones says she will help to raise more if needed and cannot imagine where they'd be without the support of CCF and the thousands contributing to the cause.
Jones and Schmidt just finished three days in a Defence motion hearing at Oshawa's Ontario Superior Court of Justice, for Honourable Justice Laura Bird to determine who caused the delay, the CFIA's prosecuting Crown Damien Frost or Defence Counsel?
The motion was brought under subsection 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees a person charged with an offence "the right to be tried within a reasonable time." Recent jurisprudence from the Supreme Court of Canada has held that 30 months is the presumptive limit for a reasonable delay.
Justice Bird will render her decision on Monday, November 28, 2016 in Newmarket Courthouse at 50 Eagle Street West, Newmarket, Ontario at 9:00 a.m. SHARP.
Supporters, observers and media are invited to attend and hear the decision. Please be there for 8:30 am. As Justice Bird has other matters to attend to at 9:30, so she will proceed sharply at 9:00 a.m.
Media can contact lawyers Shawn Buckley at 416-315-2244 ,Genevieve Eliany at 416-315-2244
or Karen Selick at 888-877-2154.
The CFIA ultimately destroyed my rare heritage Shropshire sheep who then tested negative for the disease. They've also successfully destroyed seven years of my life.
I still steadfastly believe that the scrapie infected sheep found in Alberta was not mine at all, but a U.S. imported Dorset ram. There is much supportive evidence, and I've looked forward to this trial so it would be proven in court. I never imagined it could go on this long, nor anticipated the effects on me personally.
We are in court again today, over 50 court appearances to date!
It is the final day of a 3-day hearing in Oshawa Provincial Court for a judge to determine if the criminal charges laid have taken an unreasonable amount of time to reach trial.
I've not been functioning well, and the farm is still shut down. My hope is for a fresh clear future for Wholearth Farmstudio once we're through this, whenever that may be. Please help us get there.
Thank you for your long love all this time, and for believing that truth will out.
Please send your support, best wishes and donate if you are able. We owe our remarkable legal counsel for their incredible work to date, and to see this through.
Much love and gratitude
"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 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
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.
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 @ email@example.com I hope all works out I really do.
This story broke my heart. I love sheep and used to raise them. To hear that a rare breed was treated in such a manner made me tear up and then to find out that none of them where even sick! The rules need to be changed and to be treated as you have been is inexcusable. You really need to make a big social standing. Hit YouTube and all the other social sites as well. This is the first time I heard about this. I know many people that once I told this too where just as upset as we had something much the same affect us here as well. My heart and prayers go to 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 !
Hi I try to donate but it seems the it is something wrong with the donation page!!
This is animal cruelty. This is human cruelty . Too bad the governments do not go after drug dealers with such fervor . Hang in there . Many people recognize this abuse .
Wonderful news, Montana! I hope you can now begin to rebuild your life and farm, knowing how much you have done for the cause of special breeds farming. You are so courageous.
Having donated to and followed your story along sections, I am so pleased to read that an official is making sensible and fair judgements on your behalf at last. The appalling injustice of your story has clearly given you untold grief and stress but it also shows what a strong individual you must be to have endured it all. I really hope you find complete resolve, full compensation and the continued strength to rebuild all that you had before this saga started. It deserves to be made into a film and it needs those government perpetrators to be socially recognised and chatised for their actions against you. They need exposing in order to protect others from such terrible circumstances. Good luck to you and all you achieve in the coming years, may you find peace and forgiveness toward all that has befallen you.
That all sounds very optimistic! I am really hoping that it will be dropped and they will leave you alone. That does not bring back your sheep or take away the horror and trauma of it all, though. Do they have PTSD help where you are in Canada? I think the crown should have to pay for it for you! If I ever get to Canada, I would like to meet you in person, but I hardly leave Southern California, so don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen. I really admire how through it all, you were able to hang on. If you get more sheep, will they come and kill those, too? Bless you with some good luck for a change.
Hi Montana. I have contributed in the past and just want to understand and be clear. Regarding any of the sheep you raise, you don't exploit them for wool or meat? You do not sell them to people who will exploit them? I do not support the use of animals for human greed. We don't need to eat animals to be healthy...I support a vegan ethic.
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 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 :)