We recently celebrated Chinese New Year, with a few simple stir fries and such that even I couldn’t screw up, and welcomed in The Year of the Sheep. It got me thinking of how people view sheep. Would you be proud to be born in a year of the sheep, or a little embarrassed? Because the word sheep has become short form for those who don’t think and simply follow the crowd, we tend to be rather patronising towards our fleecy friends. Yes, sheep can act a bit stupidly when they’re in a crowd, but then, so can humans. Who ever looked at footage of a riot or of an entire stand-full of people chanting offensive songs at a football match and thought ‘Well, there are some obviously highly evolved individuals who cannot only think for themselves but are also clearly very intelligent.’? No-one, that’s who.
Sheep are seen as a bit dim, pretty inoffensive and even quite picturesque when roaming a hillside in the distance. Unfortunately, the cuteness of the gambolling lamb doesn’t stop the sheep from being one of the most abused animals in Britain. Recent secretly filmed footage at a slaughterhouse in Yorkshire reveals horrific cruelty towards sheep that is both shocking and sickening. This is why compulsory CCTV in all UK slaughterhouses must be brought in.
Although it’s not just in the slaughterhouse that sheep face appalling treatment. Ironically, because of their cognitive processes they can be used for research into human neurological disorders. They are also used for research into other diseases for which they suffer enormously. One of these is heart disease and the experiments done by the BHF have been widely criticised. As I’ve said elsewhere on this website, experiments on animals are patchy in their results at best, and no substitute for research that studies humans themselves in the forms of genes and cells.
Sheep also suffer to produce woolly jumpers and carpets. Recent undercover filming highlighted horrific abuses in the wool industry in Australia. You see, just like the meat trade, workers are encouraged to ‘process’ as many animals as possible in an hour to maximise profits. As you can imagine, this doesn’t lead to the sheep receiving care and gentle attention – quite the opposite.
Thankfully, there are plenty of wool alternatives for shoppers and knitters alike so there’s no need to put sheep through this grief. There are also many sanctuaries, including this dedicated one in Devon which may change your mind about those idyllic hillside scenes. And just to finish off, here’s some happy footage of a sheep who, having been raise alongside dogs, jumps about and plays and basically behaves like a big, woolly canine. Sheep are intelligent, fun, joyful animals who are sadly mistreated because of their gentle nature. Maybe next time someone calls you a sheep, you’ll say thank you.