28 April 1995

Sheep abuse cases dismissed

A CONTROVERSIAL report on welfare abuses in the sheep sector has been dismissed by the industry as emotive and exaggerated.

Animal Aid, an animal rights group, issued the report Silence of the lambs this week. It claims that more than 15% – about 4m – of each years lamb crop die from disease, malnutrition and exposure within a few days of birth.

The group is outraged by mutilations such as castration and docking, and the use of drugs to advance and synchronise breeding cycles. The report, says Animal Aid, "destroys the myths of happy gambolling lambs, contented ewes and idyllic free range farming."

But the NFU, MAFF and the National Sheep Association immediately played down the report. A union spokesman called it emotive and exaggerated. "Animal Aids claims seem to be based on a very small survey. It is not in farmers interests to treat animals badly from a welfare point of view or from the point of economic viability," he said.

MAFF dismissed the claims of widespread abuse. The State Veterinary Service enforced welfare legislation and would prosecute where necessary said an official. The ministry was already revising the sheep welfare code, following last years report by the Farm Animal Welfare Council. &#42