Federal officials have seized a flock of 234 sheep in Vermont that they fear may be infected with a version of Mad Cow Disease. This is the first seizure of any U.S. farm animals. The Agriculture Department says that the sheep, imported from Belgium, could be carrying a form of the disease.
The sheep were taken to federal laboratories in Iowa, so samples of their brains can be removed and studied.
A second flock of 140 sheep will also be seized. ?We assume they?re coming tonight,? said Linda Faillace, standing in her small barn, surrounded by several dozen sheep. She said she felt ?anger, frustration, disbelief.?
?That?s what makes us so angry,? Faillace said. ?USDA builds up public hysteria over a species that doesn?t get the disease.? But USDA veterinarian Linda Detwiler said the agency stands by its tests.
All three of Vermont?s congressional delegates, Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. James Jeffords and Rep. Bernard Sanders, supported the seizure. They issued a joint statement saying, ?Too little is yet known about this disease, but we do know that it is deadly and that it has the potential to spread quickly, widely and insidiously if not handled early. We wish there was a sound alternative to the removal of these flocks, but there is not.?
The government says the sheep may have been exposed to Mad Cow Disease through contaminated feed before they were imported from Europe in 1966. The owners say the sheep are healthy and have urged that more extensive testing be done before they are destroyed.
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