A raiding party of twenty agents from three different agencies descended on Michael Schmidt’s Ontario Farm at 7 this morning with a simple message: he could be looking at 14 years in jail in connection with conspiracy charges associated with the scrapie sheep case from last April.
The agents didn’t actually have any kind of indictment or charges, just a search warrant that gave them authority to confiscate the four computers at his Glencolton Farm, and to copy all the information from all iPhones they could find. But the warrant indicated that the search was in connection with potential conspiracy charges for Schmidt’s suspected involvement in the sheep case. The agents were from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), as well as provincial and local police, and they made sure to relay to Schmidt the penalty if he’s found guilty of such conspiracy.
The agents also had authority to confiscate all electronic equipment, including the videos or other equipment of anyone who wanted to record the events. When Schmidt’s wife, Alyssa, began to take photos, they confiscated her camera. A guest from Germany staying at Schmidt’s farm had his iPhone confiscated when he began recording the search.
“This was something new,” Schmidt told me, about the confiscation of electronic equipment. He should know–he’s probably had half a dozen or more raids at his farm since the first one in 1993, mostly in connection with raw milk sales. He has recorded videos of the searches in the past. “They are getting careful–too many pictures are getting out” of raids and enforcement actions. As a result, there are only a few still photos of what occurred during the seven hours the agents were at his farm.
The agents raided the farm of Montana Jones as well, and were still there by late Thursday evening. She runs the Ontario farm whose sheep were targeted for destruction in April in connection with an investigation into scrapie among the sheep. She questioned the accuracy and authenticity of testing that showed one of her sheep had scrapie. Before the sheep could be confiscated, they mysteriously disappeared one night, and an organization, “Farmers Peace Corp.”, took credit for their disappearance.
Raiders also appeared at the Ontario farm where the sheep were finally found in late June.
According to Schmidt, “They are looking at me as the leader of the Farmers Peace Corps.”
The 31 sheep were thought to possibly harbor scrapie, a fatal degenerative disease that can spread among sheep and goats. When 28 sheep were found by Canadian authorities in late June and slaughtered and tested, they were negative for scrapie.
In a June video statement in which he compared the targeting and slaughter of the rare sheep to Nazi Germany’s genetic engineering, Schmidt gently challenged Canadian authorities over their handling of the case. While denying direct involvement in the affair, he said, I am aware that I as a consequence to my public statement might be subject to an investigation and possible charges related to the sad sheep saga. I am determined to support the brave work of those who have risked their personal safety and security to try to protect those sheep with the hope that conclusive evidence would have been provided by the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) in order to return the sheep for orderly slaughter if found infected or for further testing Whatever will evolve I am honored to be a part of this brave action, as I have taken on the role as liaison for the Farmers Peace Corp.
By 3 p.m., the agents had departed. “We are back to milking the cows,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt’s two sons, 3 and 5, probably enjoyed the events more than anyone. “They were all excited when they saw all the police.”
Schmidt was calm. “I had proposed a dialog to find an alternative to killing off the rare sheep breeds,” he said. “This is their response.”
Until Thursday, Schmidt had been totally preoccupied with the devastating drought ravaging mid-North America. His farm’s pastures have been dried out, and hay is very difficult to obtain because it is in such high demand.