Updated: Sun, 01 Apr 2012 11:22:00 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Slaughter looms for rare sheep herd

Slaughter looms for rare sheep herd

More than 40 sheep from a rare, heritage breed on an Ontario farm are to be put to death tomorrow by the federal government.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is euthanizing the sheep because a single member of the flock was sold to an Alberta farm in 2007 and, three years later, tested positive for the degenerative livestock disease scrapie.

None of the other Shropshire sheep at Wholearth Farmstudio near Peterborough, Ont., has ever tested positive for the fatal infection, owner Montana Jones says.

But the federal agency has a mandate to eradicate the disease as well as the power with which to do so.

The breed traces its bloodlines back to mid-19th century England, and at one point was one of the most popular types of sheep in North America, Jones says.

Today, however, there are fewer than 170 of the animals in Canada. Jones has about half of those, with more than half her flock — including five of the country's 21 remaining rams — slated for slaughter.

She's urging supporters to come to her farm Monday morning to demonstrate against the cull. About 4,400 people have signed a petition so far.

Shropshire sheep are known for their high-quality wool and meat, but animals with a particular set of genes are more susceptible to scrapie than other sheep and goats. It's those animals on Jones's farm that the CFIA is targeting.

Scrapie is part of a class of ailments called spongiform encephalopathies and is similar to mad cow disease. There is no evidence it affects humans.

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