11 January 2002

Sheep face extended ban from rural shows

By Adrienne Francis

RURAL show organisers are looking at alternatives after discovering that sheep are unlikely to be permitted at some events until later in the year.

Although foot-and-mouth appears almost over, rules designed to prevent a resurgence of the disease mean some sheep classes may be banned.

Paul Hooper, secretary of the Association of Show and Agricultural Organisations, said show organisers concerned about the potential loss of sheep to show programmes were looking at alternative income sources. "The outlook for cloven-hoofed animals is in the melting pot," he said.

Jane Spence, marketing manager for the Royal Show -Britains biggest agricultural event – said organisers were in consultation with DEFRA vets about the issue.

But she is confident that sheep, cattle, and pigs will be exhibited as planned at the show in July. Exhibitors will be refunded if any livestock classes are cancelled, Ms Spence said.

A number of societies are taking a more cautious approach. Jonathan Day, deputy chief executive of Kent County Agricultural Society, said he was investigating other income sources, but added that the society was going forward with "some optimism".

Royal County of Berkshire Show chairman Michael Bowden said he was fortunate that his event fell at the end of the season. "If the reduced numbers of livestock preclude competitive showing, the society would look at putting on an exhibition, which showcased farm animals."

Post-F&M regulations are concerning some show managers who predict the demise of national pedigree livestock circuits. Royal Highland Show Society manager David Dunsmuir is worried about the 21-day rule. Sheep – blamed for the rapid spread of F&M – are a "tricky issue", he added.

Perfect opportunity

Some shows are being rebranded. East of England Show Society manager Alan Webb said he wanted to attract more non-farming members of the public, fearing that fewer farmers will attend after F&M.

"Agricultural shows have been in decline for a number of years now, and this is the perfect opportunity to refocus."

A DEFRA spokesman confirmed that sheep would not be exhibited at any agricultural show until May 1. After then, only pedigree sheep classes would be allowed to continue. Discussions on other sheep classes are continuing. &#42