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Ronnie Cummins and Other Reviewers: Mad Sheep--Explosive New Book Exposes USDA's War on Small Farmers and Consumers

Mad Sheep The True Story Behind the USDA's War on a Family Farm By Linda Faillace

Contact: Alice Blackmer  703-443-9418

A gripping story of one family's fight against the USDA

MAD SHEEP is the long-awaited story of a family farm destroyed by the USDA in its effort to protect beef industry sales from the threat of Mad Cow disease. It is an unforgettable chapter in the latter-day history of the family farm.

Linda Faillace, scientist, farmer, wife, and mother of three tells the harrowing story of corruption, gun-toting federal agents, and heart-breaking loss with amazing clarity and skill.

Though no sheep had ever contracted Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or "mad cow" diseases, the US government at the behest of the US beef industry decided to show the world that it was serious about preventing an outbreak of the disease in the United States. At first blush the connection between the Faillace operation and this governmental goal seem unrelated. They would remain so, even as the USDA began putting together a trumped up case against the Vermont operation. First, officials claimed there was a possibility the Faillace sheep had scrapie, a disease similar to BSE that infects sheep. They decreed that the sheep would have to be destroyed.

But the Faillace's had documentation to show that their sheep came from scrapie-free flocks. Linda and Larry, scientists both, studied BSE and scrapie disease extensively while working at the University of Nottingham in England. They were able to present concrete evidence that it was impossible for their sheep to have BSE. But Linda Detweiler of the USDA - now working for McDonald's and Wendy's - and the agency she ran refused to budge. The Faillace sheep were slaughtered to prevent the spread of BSE in America .

Larry and Linda Faillace dreamed of having a small dairy sheep farm where their children could work along side them and create a family business. They discovered a niche with high-yield dairy sheep from Europe. They carefully researched and untangled all the regulations regarding the importation of sheep and soon had a thriving entrepreneurial business. Then, one day, the needs of big business and government corruption colluded to bring their operation to a screeching halt.

The USDA created a straw man to protect the beef industry‹that straw man was a family. This is their story.

Linda Faillace worked as a secretary, store clerk, lab technician, song writer, piano teacher, and astrologer, before embarking on a career in sheep farming and cheese making. The Faillaces live in Warren , Vermont.

Available September 2006 | Hardcover | $25.00 | 1-933392-09-6 | 6 X 9, 352 pages For more information, please visit ___________________________________________________________________

Foreword to the Book by Ronnie Cummins

Warning: reading this riveting tale of good and evil will make you angry. After a few chapters, you will likely suffer from a deep sense of disillusionment and an uncontrollable urge to speak out or strike back. As this twisted and wicked pastoral unfolds, outrage after outrage, it will become increasingly clear that this is not just a tragic case of administrative bungling or faulty science on the part of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).

What we are confronted with in Mad Sheep is a government conspiracy. A politically inspired ritual of fabricated charges, manipulated science, and doctored evidence. A modern witch-hunt to sacrifice the innocent in order to protect the massive profits and scandalous practices of the guilty. A diabolically orchestrated, media-scripted search and destroy operation in the Vermont countryside, designed not just to murder some innocent sheep and thereby exorcize mounting consumer fears about food safety and mad cow disease, but also to turn us all into sheep, to fan the flames of fear and ignorance, and to foster our continued dependence on an abusive Big Brother government that has promised to protect us from the contemporary terrors that lurk, well, nearly everywhere.

In their highly acclaimed 1997 book, Mad Cow USA: Can the Nightmare Happen Here, John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton recount how they used a Freedom of Information Act investigation to pry loose secret planning documents from the beef industry and the USDA. These liberated documents included a "crisis management" plan for how to manipulate public perceptions and concerns surrounding a likely outbreak of mad cow disease in the United States. A central part of this plan was to keep quiet about the fact that leading experts on mad cow disease, such as Dr. Clarence Gibbs and Dr. Richard Marsh, had warned government officials as early as 1989 that a form of mad cow disease was likely circulating in U.S. cattle herds, and that the extremely risky, profitable practice of feeding blood and slaughterhouse waste to animals needed to be halted immediately.

By the late 1990s, as scores of Europeans who had eaten contaminated beef from mad cows began dying from a fatal brain-wasting human disease called new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD), USDA officials began to implement their crisis management plan. As wary Americans began to learn about mad cow disease and animal cannibalism and cut back on their beef consumption, something had to be done to restore consumer confidence. Since stopping the feeding of animals to animals and ordering universal testing of cows for mad cow were deemed serious threats to industry profits, the USDA's public relations specialists came up with diversionary tactics: round up imported livestock across the country and harass family farmers like the Faillaces, all in the name of preventing mad cow disease in America.

Meanwhile the disinformation flacks at the USDA, aided by public relations firms and the news media, worked to sweep under the rug the alarming fact that U.S. corporate agribusiness was doing exactly the same thing that Europeans had been doing to spread mad cow disease‹feeding cattle, pigs, chickens, households pets, and deer and elk on game farms billions of pounds of blood, slaughterhouse waste, animal fat, and tainted manure every year.

The Faillace's sheep were absolutely healthy and presented no risk whatsoever to the American public. But the Clinton and Bush administrations wanted a scapegoat. Never mind that the imported sheep on the Faillace farm had been quarantined and certified by European Union authorities as having never consumed slaughterhouse waste. Never mind that these sheep had been tested for scrapie, so-called mad sheep disease, and found healthy. Never mind that a breed of imported sheep on the Faillace farm, East Friesians, has never in recorded history suffered from a single case of scrapie. Scrapie has been endemic in U.S. sheep herds for decades, and as Stauber and Rampton point out in Mad Cow USA, the USDA has done little or nothing to help U.S. sheep farmers eradicate the disease.

Blame Europe and a small group of stubborn Vermont sheep farmers for endangering public health, and maybe people wouldn't notice that American agribusiness had continued importing hundreds of millions of pounds of bargain-priced slaughterhouse waste from the UK for eight years after the outbreak of mad cow disease in 1989. Maybe people wouldn't notice that the 1997 FDA "feed ban" on feeding ruminants to ruminants is full of holes (allowing cattle blood, cattle fat, poultry manure and slaughterhouse waste from pigs and chickens to continue being fed to cows). Maybe consumers would forget that Europeans have boycotted U.S. non-organic beef and poultry‹routinely laced with antibiotics and hormones‹since 1988.

As for those farmers and consumers who won't behave like proper sheep, who refuse to shut up and swallow the official story: harass and threaten them, seize their animals, ruin their reputations, and destroy them financially and psychologically.

Linda and Larry Faillace, and their children, Jackie, Heather, and Francis, along with the Vermont consumer and farm activists who stood by them, are not only good shepherds, they are national heroes. USDA bureaucrats like Linda Detwiler, CDC bureaucrats like Lawrence Schonberger, indentured politicians, and their puppet masters behind the scenes‹the leaders of the corporate-industrial agriculture and pharmaceutical complex‹are the real offenders.

After campaigning in the trenches for thirteen years to get the USDA and FDA to stop the hazardous feeding of billions of pounds of blood, slaughterhouse waste, and manure every year to farm animals, and to require mandatory testing of cattle for mad cow disease at slaughter, I had lost or repressed some of my anger and frustrations. But then I read this book, and like post-combat stress, a flood of memories rushed back.

Hate mail arriving at my Washington office in 1993 along with a series of anonymous telephone death threats to my colleagues, just after we launched a national campaign against McDonald's and filed a legal petition to stop the feeding of animals to animals. A creepy ex-military intelligence agent provocateur who infiltrated our campaign and followed me around Washington, posing as a representative from the World Council of Churches. A private investigator in Wisconsin reporting that our office telephones were tapped, probably by the beef industry. A national news producer sheepishly apologizing to me for "alterations" in the script of a nationally televised ABC News story on mad cow disease that aired in 1997‹following what he described as a "call from the White House."

And more. Fruitlessly petitioning the Centers for Disease Control to make the human equivalent of mad cow disease, Creutzfeldt- Jacob Disease (CJD), an officially reportable disease. Petitioning the CDC, again in vain, to require autopsies for a significant number of the 50,000 Americans who die every year from Alzheimer's disease, to determine whether they actually had CJD (CJD is often mistakenly diagnosed as Alzheimer's, because its symptoms are similar). Watching the Bush administration USDA blame the Canadians for our first mad cow cases, and shortly thereafter threaten a Kansas meat packer, Creekstone Farms, for the "crime" of wanting to test all of their cows at slaughter for Mad Cow disease.

No wonder millions of Americans no longer trust the government or the media. No wonder millions of consumers are turning away from industrial meat and food and voting with their pocketbooks for healthy, sustainable, locally produced organic foods.

But voting with our consumer dollars is not enough. The mad sheep battle described in these pages is not an isolated case. Armed with $90 billion in taxpayer money each year, the USDA is waging war against all of us‹consumers, family farmers, farm animals, and the environment. The direct and collateral damage of this war includes rampant water, air, and food pollution; an epidemic of cancer, birth defects, obesity, and hormone disruption; pollution by genetically engineered crops; an unsustainable, massive venting of climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases; pesticide and antibiotic contamination; proliferation of junk food; systematic exploitation of small farmers, farm workers, and slaughterhouse workers; and the dumping of millions of tons of subsidized crops and meat at below the cost of production on developing nations, thereby destroying the livelihoods of millions of small farmers and rural communities.

It's time to follow the example of the Faillace family. It's time to stand up and fight, not only for ourselves, but also for future generations.

Venceremos! We Shall Overcome! Ronnie Cummins Organic Consumers Association

July 2006 ____________________________________________________________________________ Booklist 9/15

If this were a novel, you probably wouldn't believe it. But the story of a Vermont farming family driven out of business by a government agency is true - and truly frightening. When the Faillaces (author Linda and her husband, Larry) went into the sheep-farming business, they followed every USDA guideline. Then, once their operation was running, that same agency told them their sheep would have to be destroyed because they might spread "mad cow" disease. Despite the Faillaces' abundant proof that their sheep were disease free - and, moreover, posed no risk whatsoever - the USDA forcibly shut the farm down. The agency's actions ultimately had nothing to do with the health of the Faillaces' sheep but much to do with the health of the American beef industry, which could be adversely affected if people believed there was mad cow in the U.S. The author has every right to be bitter, but she maintains an even tone, presenting us with the evidence and letting us see what happened and why. But if you can read the book without getting mad, you're not reading it carefully.
- David Pitt

"From the hearthside warmth of children farmer-entrepreneurs to the arrogant, hardhearted, tyranny of government bureaucracy, Mad Sheep touches the soul with tears and righteous anger. Though it reads like a fiction political thriller, this story of intrigue, bureaucratic falsehoods, and tyranny is true. Linda Faillace gives Americans yet another reason to mistrust every official announcement from the United States Department of Agriculture."
- Joel Salatin, founder of Polyface Farm and author of You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise, recently profiled in The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

"[Mad Sheep] shows how far a corrupt government agency will go to protect industry. This is a truly Kafkaesque story."  
- Dr. Tom Pringle, founder, Sperling Foundation

"Mad Sheep documents the ugliest display of governmental ass-covering and the manipulation of questionable scientific data for political purposes that I have ever read. It will make your blood boil."
- Gene Logsdon, organic farmer and author of The Contrary Farmer among many others

"Mad Sheep will enrage you. The real crazies in this true and tragic tale are the bureaucratic bullies who tortured and tormented heroic Vermont farmers while allowing a deadly dementia‹mad cow disease‹to emerge in America . The sheep are dead, lives destroyed, mad cow disease here, and the worst is that these bunglers are still running the show."
- John Stauber, co-author, Mad Cow U.S.A.