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Vt. Sheep Expected To Be Seized

March 23, 2001

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) _ The owners of a second flock of sheep feared to be infected with a version of mad cow disease continued their push to stop the seizure of the animals, but they had little success.

Larry and Linda Faillace said they had been notified that U.S. Department of Agriculture officials would arrive at their farm Friday to take their 125 prized East Friesian milking sheep and ship them to Iowa for slaughter.

The notification came hours after the Faillaces’ lawyer, Davis Buckley, suggested that officials first complete tests on another confiscated flock to determine if the sheep are actually infected.

The 234 sheep seized Wednesday morning at the Greensboro, Vt. farm of Houghton Freeman reached a USDA veterinary laboratory in Ames, Iowa, on Thursday. They were to be destroyed and have their brains tested for one of a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, 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 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 the 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.

At the Faillace farm on Thursday evening, friends, family and neighbors gathered to lend support to the sheep’s owners and hold a candlelight vigil for the sheep. The family did not know when agents would arrive to take possession of the flock.

The Faillaces and their supporters have maintained throughout a two-year legal battle with the USDA that there is little solid scientific evidence that the sheep are carrying a TSE.

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On the Net:

USDA: http://www.usda.gov/

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