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In Vermont, Mad <I>Sheep</I> Disease?

The sheep don't look mad, but fear of a deadly disease has doomed them. The government is set to destroy them because they may have an illness similar to Mad Cow Disease. As CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports, the farmers who tend the sheep say the animals are pure as snow; it's the government that's gone mad.

The farmÂ's in Vermont, not Britain. The animals are sheep, not cows. But the government's position is familiar: It wants to destroy them.

"It makes us feel obviously outraged, upset, let down, like you really canÂ't depend on the government at all," says Dr. Larry Faillace. He owns 120 of the sheep... condemned not because they have mad cow disease, but because tests show they could.

"I realize itÂ's a really emotional thing to the owners," says Dr. Linda Detwiler, a veterinarian with the U.S. Department Of Agriculture. "While we're really sympathetic to the owners, we've got to look at this big picture."

The big picture was painted five years ago in England, where cows started turning up sick with a neurological disease. More than 50 human deaths were traced to meat from the cows. The worry is that these sheep ate feed made from sick cows. Dr. Faillace isn't buying it. "Killing a flock of perfectly healthy and valuable sheep is not the way of protecting the American public, and they know it," he says.

Faillace imported the sheep from Belgium for their extraordinary milk capacity. His tests show his sheep are clean. "Slaughtering the sheep is the government's payback for European Union restrictions on American cattle imports," he says. "This is a form of retaliation against the E.U. And itÂ's not going to be some foreign disease thatÂ's going to kill our sheep. ItÂ's going to be politics."

The government wants to slaughter by Friday and is promising fair market value for the sheep.

"WeÂ're charged with keeping our livestock healthy," says Dr. Detwiler. "So to take that risk to introduce it into the livestock and subsequently the publicÂ… I think in this case.. this action is very warranted.

But for this Vermont farm family, itÂ's not about money.

Once again, rural Americans feels strong-armed by the federal government. It seems thereÂ's nothing Larry Fallacie can do to save his flock.