Sheep from Vermont Farm Confiscated
Friday, March 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
EAST WARREN, Vt. â€“ Federal agents arrived at a farm early today and began seizing a second flock of Vermont sheep suspected of having been exposed to a form of mad cow disease.
The owners had fought to keep the flock, urging officials to first complete tests on the other confiscated sheep, but their request was denied.
At dawn today, police accompanied agents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture past about two dozen protesters. Some protesters wore on their faces red dye similar to that put on sheep being hauled away.
The 125 East Friesian milking sheep will be taken to a USDA veterinary laboratory in Iowa to be killed and their brains tested for one of a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or TSEs, a class of neurological diseases that includes both bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, and scrapie, a sheep disease not harmful to humans.
The first flock, 234 sheep seized Wednesday from a farm in Greensboro, reached the USDA lab on Thursday.
"We are very sympathetic to the owners. This is very difficult for them. This is very difficult for us as well. However, it is our duty, it is our mission to protect American agriculture," said USDA spokesman Ed Curlett.
Owner Larry Faillace said his family was cooperating with agents, but not helping them in hauling away the sheep.
"We've never had a positive result on this farm," Faillace said as agents loaded sheep onto a truck. The government "has never wanted to do anything except kill these animals."
Three Faillace children,Jackie, Francis and Heather, each held small lambs born just recently and marked with red dye, holding them up for reporters.
"This is not justice," said Francis Faillace. "Where are our rights?"
The government says some of the sheep may have been exposed to mad cow disease through contaminated feed before they were imported from Europe in 1996.
Nearly 100 people in Europe have died of the human form of BSE since 1995, but no cases have been confirmed in the United States.
Although they aren't sure whether the Vermont sheep are infected, USDA officials have argued that even the remote chance that they could be carrying a mad cow variant poses too great a risk.
Thursday evening, friends and neighbors gathered to hold a candlelight vigil for the sheep.
The Faillaces have maintained throughout a two-year legal battle with the USDA that there is little solid scientific evidence that the sheep have TSE.
In a separate case, federal officials are monitoring two cows in Minnesota for signs of mad cow disease, although they have shown no symptoms, said Linda Detwiler, the U.S. Agriculture Department's chief expert on mad cow disease.
The cows are being monitored because the USDA doesn't know whether they were given feed contaminated with the disease before they were imported at least five years ago, apparently from the Netherlands.
The USDA had traced the cows years ago and quarantined them, Detwiler said.
Detwiler said she believes that in addition to the two Minnesota cows, 22 cows were imported to Texas and four to Vermont.