Mad Sheep or Moe Lives
Posted by Sue in NH at 2006-09-07 07:28:14
in the NH Union Leader, but it disappeared from the web too fast. Found it in a few other papers, though. Always wondered what happened to the sheep.
Personal observation: I was at a local livestock auction at this time and people were dumping sheep and goats as fast as they could. Out-of-state animals without health certs would disappear into NH livestock dealers trucks just off the grounds and hit the grounds in a NH truck. Some didn’t even bother doing it off grounds. Lot of VT sheep and goats passed through then. People feared the gov’t, not some unproven disease.
I can easily see an animal underground happening should NAIS ever come to pass. One flock caused an instant underground.
Sheep farmer writes about losing her flock
New book recounts USDA seizure in East Warren
September 3, 2006
By Monica Mead Correspondent
Linda Faillace of Warren displays copies of her new book outside her home where 125 sheep were seized by the USDA in 2001 over fears the sheep might have been infected with a variant of mad cow disease.
Photo: Stefan Hard / Times Argus
WAITSFIELD – The book "Mad Sheep" is a saga of love, government conspiracy, civil disobedience and the power of community and family. It's fodder worthy of a best-selling novel.
But when Linda Faillace sat down to write a memoir about the events in 2001 that led to the federal seizure of her family's sheep, she wasn't motivated by fame or fortune. Her impetus was purely personal.
"Basically, Larry (my husband) had said I'd gotten too difficult to live with," Faillace recalled. "He said, 'You really gotta do something.'"
So she set to work putting their story on paper, as much for her own peace of mind as for posterity. And now, just five years after the USDA forcibly removed the couple's 125 sheep on their 90-acre homestead in East Warren, Faillace has a book in hand that details the family's struggle for answers.
In "Mad Sheep," Faillace writes that they still don't know why their flock was targeted by the USDA for testing for the rare brain-wasting disease known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. Since the seizure and subsequent liquidation of the flock at a laboratory in Ames, Iowa, government scientists have determined that none of the sheep had TSE, a condition related to mad cow disease. The Faillaces meanwhile, lost all hope of fulfilling their dream of sheep farming and producing artisanal sheep-milk cheese.
After years of uncertainty and struggle, writing the book was, Faillace says, "really healing."
Chelsea Green Publishing kicked off a national book tour for "Mad Sheep" last week at Waitsfield's Inn at the Round Barn. The barn's renovated interior was adorned with enormous protest posters that read "Crimes of the USDA," "Unwarranted Search & Seizure Perjury," "Never Forget" from that cold day in March 2001 when the community rallied around the Faillaces as dozens of federal agents descended on their homestead.
Today, the Faillaces' farm animals consist of a couple of American sheep, a flock of geese and a dog. They have no plans to farm again, and their lives have changed dramatically. The family now runs a country store specializing in local foods.
Because of the publicity surrounding their case, which went on for several years, the Faillaces have come to symbolize the "average Joes" fighting Big Brother-style, heavy-handed government interference.
"It's more than a tale of government conspiracy," said Joerg Klauck, who attended the book tour kickoff and has supported the Faillace family's ongoing struggle. "It's a tale about this family and about their children and how they worked together against all of this."
The couple's son, Francis Faillace, who recently graduated from St. Lawrence University, is featured prominently in his mother's memoir. Wounds from those days run deep for the 22-year-old.
He said a reporter asked which chapter was the most important to read. "I asked my mom, and she said, 'read Seizure,' so I told him. I picked up the book to read (the chapter) before I went to work this morning, and I didn't get far before I had to put it down."
Francis, like his siblings, Heather, 20, and Jackie, 19, were all involved in the sheep operation. When the USDA came to the family farm on March 23, 2001, to remove the flock with the aid of 27 armed federal agents, 13 government officials, one bulldozer and an ambulance, the Faillaces lost not only 125 livestock and a dream to make high-quality cheese, says Francis, but 125 friends as well.
"It's a chapter in my life that I don't want to revisit," he said.
Of the two sheep breeds they tended, East Friesian and Beltex, Linda admits she had a soft spot for the latter. "They looked like little pigs when they were sheared," she said. "We'd have people stop near the farm and ask about the sheep and the pigs."
Linda Faillace said the Beltex are an especially friendly breed, and one ram in particular, Moe, was a frequent companion. "He hung out with me a lot."
The Faillaces bottle fed the lamb after he was shunned by his mother and put him on the sun porch where he kept company with the family's pet rabbit and guinea pig.
Like the rest of the herd, all of which were given congenial names like Kanga, Upsala and Mrs. Friendly, Moe was taken to Iowa and destroyed.
Though the event left an indelible mark on the family, they have moved on.
The Faillaces started a new family enterprise, a country store called The School House Market, after they stopped farming. The store specializes in Vermont-produced goods.
Larry and Jackie, who became a proficient cheese maker at age 11, teach cheese-making classes at the store and produce curd under the name Three Shepherds' Cheese.
Jackie and Heather both attend Middlebury College on full scholarships. Francis, Linda said, left with a healthy dose of skepticism for government, and decided to major in political science.
Linda is readying for a whirlwind book tour as far afield as Washington, D.C., and Oregon. In a small, rented space in Waitsfield, away from day-to-day pressures, Faillace put angst to page starting in March last year. The memoir traces her life from her work as a lab assistant to British doctor Eric Lamming, whose research focused on BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or mad cow disease), to the unrelated, much-publicized USDA seizure of the family flock less than 10 years later.
"Ignorance is very comfortable," she said, recalling that being well-armed with knowledge of BSE and animal science (husband, Larry, has PhD in animal physiology) did little to prepare her for the reality of bureaucracy.
"With everything, with the current climate with the government and the abuse of citizens' rights and learning about the politics of food," she said, "I want peoples' eyes open."
Faillace says the government abuses she writes about have little to do with political affiliation and much to do with self-serving mid-level bureaucrats and corporate interests taking precedence over the rights of small farmers and citizens.
"My goal is to get the local movement out on a broader scale, so we'll have these little interconnected pods of folks all over the country exchanging information."
Linda says she still doesn't know why the family herd was targeted and who was behind it. "We don't have any concrete answers and plenty of theories," she said.
One of the main antagonists in Faillace's book, the USDA senior staff veterinarian at the time, Dr. Linda Detwiler, has since resigned and now consults for Wendy's and McDonald's, Faillace said.
Standing in front of friends, fans, and family at last week's book-tour sendoff, Faillace blushed and flashed a radiant grin as she told the crowd about a movie deal under discussion. "We'll get you the details as time goes on," she said.
As the new author stood under a spotlight a simple white poster with moss green block letters outlined in black became visible: "Moe Lives."
Response by Buggy at 2006-09-08 13:55:54
"I'm from the government and I am here to help you." The 11 most scary words in the English language.
Response by WD at 2006-09-09 08:59:17
Yeah, mighty nice of them to bring 27 armed helpers, wasn't it. Must have been some really mad sheep. Funny thing, you never saw that one on CNN either. Of course, that's not real news you know. They think news is what some idiot wore to an awards show.
Response by grady at 2006-09-09 09:19:54
Was this the imported flock I remember reading about in the paper and seeing on the news??
Response by grady at 2006-09-09 09:59:27
If we resist, will the government kill us??
Response by Sue in NH at 2006-09-09 20:19:33
27 armed federal agents against a small farmer.
Some of the sheep were imported. All had already been on the farm long enough to give birth. Moe was born there. Other sheep were born there. Notice they are calling Moe a ram and not a lamb. On the ground long enough to mature.
Now that NAIS is no longer a big state secret there has been speculation that it was a depopulation dry run.
Response by Sue in NH at 2006-09-09 20:42:27
Time Line from the book
1990-1993: We work at the Univ. of Nottingham in England; study BSE.
9/93: We move to Vermont
1993-1996: We work with USDA to import sheep
1996: We import sheep from Belgium and The Netherlands
7/13/98: We import sheep from New Zealand
7/14/98: USDA (Detwiler) wants to kill our sheep over concern of BSE, but no sheep in the world has ever had BSE.
7/20/00: We take USDA to court. USDA asserts, “The farmers have no rights.”
3/23/01: With 27 armed federal agents, USDA invades our farm and seizes our entire sheep flock.
3/28/01: USDA kills all our sheep.
6/01-7/01: USDA uses 3 different tests, and all our sheep test negative. USDA refuses to release results.
8/01: USDA puts our farm under a five-year quarantine.
10/01: British study on BSE in sheep is found to be invalid.
4/02: USDA claims Rubinstein found 2 positives.
6/03: Rubinstein’s lab is shut down for gross negligence.
7/03: Detwiler resigns from USDA.
12/03: First case of BSE in the U.S.
11/04: U.S. cow tests positive for BSE, but USDA refuses to release results.
4/05: Second Circuit Court orders federal district court to reopen our case.
7/05: Second case of BSE in the U.S.
9/05: Court documents reveal USDA quarantine was never legal.
2/06: Federal District Court rules in favor of USDA.
3/06: Five-year quarantine on our farm is lifted.
3/06: Third case of BSE in the U.S.
2006: Detwiler becomes a consultant to McDonald's and Wendy’s.
The book is available from Chelsea Green publishing.
I think I will buy it. I know it will upset me.
Response by JWM at 2006-09-11 13:31:22
Like all things... there is another side to the story.
The sheep were imported from countries that had BSE. AT THE TIME it was believed BSE was acquired from rendered sheep with scrapie. This finding was later proven false and was the result of grabbing the wrong sample in a lab, but it was thought to be true at that time.
The Fallices were given a one-of-a-kind special provision to import these sheep which included terms for monitoring and testing the flock for possible TSEs. Not just anyone could import sheep at that time. It was my understanding the Fallices had some special connections in Washington.
The Fallices were asked to hand over the sheep after necropsy on one animal found some TSE like irregularities in the brain.
The Fallices were offered 4.5 million dollars or $30,000 per head of sheep as compensation.
I have a *real* hard time believing this was insufficient to re establish their flock, goals, and dreams.
If I recall, there were two other flocks involved, and those both complied. No armed agents were involved and no force required.
The need to forcibly take the sheep was created because the Fallices refused to abide by the conditions under which they had agreed when given the special permit to make the import.
The unwillingness of the Fallices to abide by a contract surrounding the importation of the sheep will affect whether or not the rest of us can import sheep under similar provisions in the future.
I have a hard time believing this issue was about the taking of beloved pets. Surely the Fallices could find some pet sheep in the USA without having to go through the trouble of importing them. The pet angle is just their attempt to tug at your heart strings. Emotional ploys are usually the last resort when the facts just don't support the argument.
Response by Dale Wagner at 2006-09-11 15:54:59
That is how I remember the story, Janet.
Response by WD at 2006-09-12 14:12:07
It sure would have been nice to have some of that info in the original post.
Response by Monty at 2006-09-12 17:19:48
Bad lab work?
I remember the time when I was shacking up with my kid brother Bob in San Diego. He was in the Navy and worked a part time job in a lab. On a certain Sunday there was to be a big football game televised and he wanted help at the lab. "Me? Do blood work?" "No sweat." We stopped on the way and picked up a 12 pack. I questioned that move and was assured that the office was closed and we did need to get primed. He taught me how to do various tests, run centrifuges and such. We had great fun. Kick-off time approaching, beer dwindling, we skipped the tests and made random checks on the results sheet. I wonder what those poor people endured. Oh well! Glad they weren't sheep!
Response by JWM at 2006-09-13 10:23:39
Having worked in a lab before, I'm amazed your brother was not fired.
The sheep were not seized due to bad lab work. They were seized due to an abnormality found in one of the flock members that was suspected of being a TSE. The result of the testing has not been made public.
At that time (and still not fully answered) it was unknown if it was possible for sheep to acquire or spread Bovine Spongiform Ecephalopy (mad cow). As of today there has been no sheep found with BSE. However, there was one goat in France found to have BSE.
The erroneous conclusion that rendered sheep with scrapie could cause BSE in cattle was the result of grabbing the wrong sample jar in a lab in the UK. It directly has no bearing on this case, other than lending support to concerns that sheep could spread BSE. This concern still remains neither proven nor disproven.
Response by Virginia Gal at 2006-09-13 13:28:20
They were offered $30,000 PER SHEEP by who? The USDA?
Our USDA? Something ain't right. Can that be?!!?
Response by Sandra at 2006-09-13 14:53:57
Janet, you left out a lot of details that don't quite jibe with your theory that these farmers were unreasonable and pretty much deserved the screwing they got from the USDA and the court system. These people spent YEARS complying with all the special requirements to import these sheep to this country. The reasons for the difficulties had nothing to do with BSE or scrapie; they had to do with these being dairy breeds of sheep, and the cow dairy industry had/has a vested interest in preventing the development of any competing source of milk or dairy products. It cost many thousands of dollars to import each of these animals, then thousands to quarantine them, then the ongoing costs of having Big Brother looking over their shoulder and at all their records, plus the fortune it took to set up the USDA acceptable dairy facilities and equipment. I bet $30,000 per dead sheep would have covered about half of their investment. Only a fool would say thank you to an offer like that. And if you factor in the lost profits from the extremely profitable sheep cheeses... I hope you see my point.
When a government entity pretends to be relying on scientific data (laboratory test results) to justify invading your home with loaded weapons, stealing and killing your livestock, and destroying your business, then they refuse to share the scientific data they swore was the goal of the whole operation (BSE test results), it is easy to see that the government has lied, is lying and will continue to lie and cheat and steal and abuse the rights of citizens for as long as we continue to sit quietly by and accept it like... well, like sheep going to slaughter.
Response by JWM at 2006-09-14 02:16:29
I am not defending everything the USDA did. My guess is that in hindsight they panicked, which explains why they don't want to reveal the results of the testing they presumedly did. I also believe that the Fallices knew in the bottom of their hearts that their sheep were healthy and that it was not necessary to destroy the flock, and I presume that is why they stood their ground.
But none of that matters. There was a legitamate concern (one wether that had a TSE-like abnormality) that has to be taken in the context of the time (that we did not know half what we do now about BSE). Anyone importing genetics from Europe is aware that if anything irregular shows up the USDA can come and destroy the animals. That is the risk you take when you import. If you don't want that risk, then don't get into the import business.
The only role that the cow dairy industry has in all of this, is that the cattle business in this country is vastly larger than the sheep business, and has a lot more to lose should BSE enter the country via sheep. As it turned out, BSE came in via cattle through Canada. At the time this went down, there was thought to be no BSE in the country and again, it is important to take this in context.
The seizure of the flock has nothing to do with perceived competition from dairy products. At a yield of 2-5 lbs of milk per sheep per day, the sheep dairy biz is not going to even make a dent, not to mention that no other imported flocks have been taken.
Last time I looked into importing live sheep, the cost was under $10K per head.
I wonder how many of the people who are screaming about this, will be the first to whine about our govt should they or their animals be affected by a new disease that enters the country via imported animals?
Response by WD at 2006-09-14 10:12:13
30 grand per head of sheep covering only half of their investment ?
If the 30 grand per head (125) is true, then that is close to 4 millon, unless I transposed a zero.
How much cheese and mutton would you have to sell over what period of time to make a return on that, much less double?
Anybody who farms here got a few mill to invest in a flock of anything?
Response by Luke T. at 2006-09-15 17:17:39
I remember this well. It's not that far from me. I hear they tested neg across the board. I would almost bet the lab was shut down to keep them quiet.
Response by ShivrinFarm at 2006-09-20 09:35:43
Yes, they turned down several million for their small flock. And it is likely that the book only tells one side of the story.
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