Animal Rights:

Factory Farming


Related links: Sentience in Sheep


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Portrait Gallery: Animals do Not all Look the Same


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A Memorial to Sooty

A Memorial to Joey

A Memorial To Patch


To add interest I have interspersed this commentary with thought provoking quotations from philosophers, ethicists, scientists and other notable thinkers both past and present.

Back to Animal Rights Factory Farming

See also  Help our Sheep

Every sheep has a distinct character. For each fearful and stupid animal, there is a curious and affectionate one. Every flock has its leaders: while the rest panic at the appearance of humans and dogs, the leaders work out what you want them to do, and, if it seems safe, they do it. Their confidence inspires the rest.

Horatio Clare

During the course of a Sunday lunch we happened to look out of the kitchen window at our young lambs playing happily in the fields. Glancing at our plates, we suddenly realized that we were eating the leg of an animal who had until recently been playing in a field herself. We looked at each other and said, "Wait a minute, we love these sheep--they're such gentle creatures. So why are we eating them?" It was the last time we ever did.

Linda and Paul McCartney

The normal life span of a Sheep is 15 years

Shocking fact :

In the UK 20 per cent of lambs die from cold, disease and starvation.


Characteristics of sheep

It may surprise you that sheep are intelligent creatures with good memories. Did you know that sheep can remember as many as fifty faces for two years and and specific individuals for even longer? Researchers tell us that Sheep retain the memory of an absent flock member for years.

A lamb identifies her mother by her bleat.

Much like human children lambs are playful; observe lambs frolicking in the grass on a spring day.

A sheep like your cat or dog will respond to his or her name.

Sheep teach and pass on information to other sheep.

Indeed there is much about sheep which will surprise and amaze you, for more information click Sentience in Sheep

In the north of England you may be surprised to see the number of sheep grazing on the uplands of the Northumbrian hills, the Durham and Yorkshire dales, the north York moors and in the lake district in Cumbria. Sheep are also farmed in considerable numbers in the uplands of Wales. To a lesser extent you may also see many sheep farmed in fields in the lowlands of the midlands and the south east.

In the spring you might see sheep grazing contentedly in the warmth of the sun, in fields filled with buttercups, their lambs by their side following their ever attentive mothers. It all appears idyllic and you may be led to think that sheep have suffered less from the growth of factory farming and are free range.

Indeed in many ways it may appear as though sheep spend their lives, albeit shorter than their normal expectancy, in natural conditions, grazing on natural food with minimal supplements and in contact with their fellow creatures, not confined in cages, the ewes rearing their lambs as nature intended. Compared to factory farmed animals it may seem as though the sheep has escaped the misery and abuse meted out to poultry, pigs and cows.

Here is the reality.

“They were shaking, trembling…they could smell the blood, their eyes were absolutely wild. As they went in (to the killing box) some of them made sounds like crying babies. Of course they knew what was happening”.
Eye Witness account

More information concerning the slaughter of sheep:

Each year over 4 million sheep die of cold and hunger, the complications of pregnancy, injury, infestation and illness such as pneumonia and exposure. Each year one million lambs die of exposure. Often blamed on foxes, in reality the high losses are the direct result of neglect and exploitation by farmers themselves. Often cited as a reason why the cruel sport of fox hunting should continue the reality of the situation is that foxes kill only about 1 percent, and that is mostly the weaker lambs who have already succumbed to illness. One reason for the high number of deaths is the lack of shepherds, while the number of sheep have increased the number of shepherds have not. The consequence is neglect resulting in a high incidence of foot rot and serious infestations, fly strike and blow fly due to dirty, faeces clogged and rain soaked wool round the tails, a sight all too common here in the north east.  A sheep so infested can be eaten alive by millions of maggots. In an attempt to prevent fly strike, tail docking is carried out, a stressful procedure for new born tiny lambs. A rubber ring is fitted which restricts the blood flow to the lower part of the tail, which in a few weeks degenerates and falls off. This unpleasant mutilation would be quite unnecessary if there where more shepherds to prevent his occurrence by the simple procedure of checking sheep for signs of fly strike and similar infestations and treating the infestation with a suitable pesticide.  Furthermore if this mutilation is not carried out correctly it can lead to serious injury and even death and may cause serious stress if carried out too early on new born lambs.

I recall when we first came to live in the north east how driving through Weardale in the sleet and snow we noticed a sheep all alone just standing there stock still as the wind blew and the snow fell relentlessly. When we arrived at our destination in Alston my husband remarked to the lady in the gift shop how awful it is for sheep in the exposed terrain in all weathers, and she remarked simply that they are used to it. Are they? Do they have a choice? Although sheep are more suited to the dry, rocky land of hill country as opposed to wet damp lowland the life of sheep grazed on hilly terrain is far from ideal. Many sheep are not even given access to basic shelter under a tree or close to a wall, many are confined to open treeless hilly country with no cover of any kind. What choice have they other than to stand stock still, simply sit or even graze, seemingly oblivious. Even in fields in lower terrain life is wretched, confined to a field sheep are not able to find shelter, most fields do not even have a tree.  As a consequence many sheep die before the farmer is aware that there is anything wrong. Don't forget that sheep in their natural state would roam freely and find shelter but confined in a field such is impossible. All animals by nature seek shelter in the wild both to protect themselves from the elements and from predators, taking cover in dens, burrows, forests, or making nests. In the vast majority of cases there is no shelter for sheep. In addition often in the hills with grass "mown" short by ceaseless grazing during the summer months, during the winter there may be little food or even drinking water. Some farmers do provide food supplements or hay but many do not, driving or walking through the hills during winter it is in our experience rare to see that extra feed has been provided.

Remember though that although hills and fields may appear more natural than factory farming these environments are not the wild natural state that we assume. The land has been altered in modern times so that few trees exist even in more natural places such as the uplands of northern Britain.  Also sheep are confined to certain areas and cannot seek the shelter of the sparse clumps of trees or forest that remain. For example in the Yorkshire dales sheep graze on moorland in upper Swaledale where there is absolutely no shelter, see photographs below, whilst fenced off is a forest of moderate size in which they might have sought sheltered in adverse conditions.

Bleak Moor land at times inclement even in summer often bitterly cold in winter with virtually a constant wind . Here there is no shelter for sheep.

Sheep struggle to graze in severe weather conditions, where in the winter time grazing is sparse

There is no shelter for sheep in the bleak treeless terrain of the of the Yorkshire Dales. In the summer tourists including ourselves frequent the Yorkshire dales, the scenery is magnificent and even when it is covered with show on a bright sunny day its spectacular. However the conditions for sheep in this windswept environment with no protection against the bitter cold is a grim existence.

In Teesdale, sheep struggle to find grazing in snow covered fields, fenced off,  the shelter of trees in the background is not accessible to them during the heavy snow of the winter of 2009.

Recently during a trip to the lake district in Cumbria while we walked through torrential rain we came across a Hardwick ewe and her tiny lamb. The ewe was lame and the lamb was bleating pitifully. When we arrived they stood by the gate which led into a field through which we intended to walk, their intent was obvious they wanted us to let them in. As sheep graze freely here in the mountains we where unsure that these two belonged in this field but at least the field provided a little additional shelter as there where were a couple of trees. So we let them in but the mother and lamb became separated and it was quite a time before we could reunite them. All the time the rain poured relentlessly. As you will see in the video below this lamb was not very old, she was such a tiny creature clearly distressed by the misery of the cold and wet. Surely at the very least a warm barn with straw could be provided for tiny new born lambs, and those sheep who are lame, for them to seek shelter in such extreme conditions.  Though I consider it not unreasonable that shelter be provided for all sheep and other farm animals. The quality if this video is not too good I wanted to make a point concerning the misery of sheep and other farm animals left exposed to the severity of the weather without shelter of any kind.

Tiny Lamb Bleats in Torrential Rain

These videos are short and rather shaky, as seeing animals in such a condition was extremely upsetting. However despite such both videos show the awful conditions that sheep have to endure in the frequent extremes of weather we have here in the UK. Surely no one seeing these animals can possibly believe that they are used to such conditions, the little lamb's distress is so obvious. As we attempted to reunite her with her mother I had to pick her up, the poor little thing was covered in mud.

Sheep will seek shelter if there is shelter available to them as you can see in the photograph a little further down.

When we first came to live in the north east and saw sheep in distress my husband would assure me that the farmer checked his flocks daily and tended to any sheep who are ill or injured. The truth of the matter, although of course not in every case, is that this does not happen.

Despite not being exposed to the severity of the harsher climate of the uplands, sheep grazed in the lowlands have a disadvantage. Notwithstanding the unsuitability of damp lowland for grazing, because they are prone to foot diseases in such environments, sheep are farmed in the midlands, the southern counties, such as Sussex and Devon. Here the lives of these animals is considerably different to their counterparts in the uplands and in these locations sheep are more prone to foot rot.

I cannot see why shelters such as barns cannot be provided for sheep to seek shelter as is the case on some, albeit few, farms I have seen in our locality, where sheep leave and enter of their own accord. People often say that sheep do not make use of such shelter. In my experience this is simply not the case. Two neighbours with small holdings have shelters for their sheep and on cold wet or snowy days other than to feed you will see the sheep taking advantage of this protection when weather is particularly severe.

Sheep seek shelter from the sun on an unusually hot September day

In any of these environments the life of a sheep like other domesticated animals is one of misery, deprivation and pain both physical and emotional. Sheep like their unfortuante counterparts in farms all over the world suffer abuse, are subject to mutilations, neglect, exploitation and finally slaughter.

In nature sheep breed once a year, the ewe coming into season in the autumn and winter.  She has a gestation period of five months which ensures her lambs will be born when conditions are more conducive for their survival; when food is more plentiful and the weather is warmer. Imagine what it must be like for a ewe carrying her lambs in the bitter cold of bleak winter, particularly in the harsher climate of the uplands.

In natural circumstances she will have but one lamb, in nature two lambs is relatively rare as are twins with humans. The fact that you more often than not see ewes with two or even three lambs is the result of genetic selection, intensive feeding,  hormones and other drugs. Triplets bring with them other problems, a ewe has only two teats and she cannot therefore feed three lambs. An adoptive mother must be found, but ewes it seems more likely than not will reject a lamb who is not their own. This results in enforced adoptions. One method is to confine the ewe who has either lost her own lambs or has given birth to only one in a tight fitting pen resembling stocks, tethered by her neck where she is unable to move but with enough room for a lamb of another ewe to suckle. She may remain thus confined for three or four days. Some lambs may be bottled fed by more compassionate farmers. However other methods may be used such as tube feeding where a tube is forced down the throat of the unfortunate extra lamb, a severely traumatic experience as you can well imagine and if this procedure is carelessly carried out injury and death may result. Add all that to the distress already present when the tiny new born lamb is removed from his or her mother. A similar distress of course occurs for the mother as her offspring is taken from her if she is unable to feed a third lamb. Another method is to deceive a ewe into thinking she has given birth to another lamb, after a ewe has lost her own lamb or has had only one lamb. In order to bring this about a shepherd inserts his hand into the ewes vagina to manually manipulated it and the cervix for a couple of minutes, as a consequence she may be persuaded to adopt the extra lamb fooled into thinking that he or she is her own, to add to the authenticity the new lamb is often covered in the skin of her dead new born. 

Over the years farmers have interfered with this natural breeding cycle. High prices are paid for Easter lamb and many farmers have changed this cycle so that lambs are born earlier.  With the use of hormones or by being kept indoors and the control of daylight hours sheep are brought into early oestrus. In nature the decline in daylight hours naturally precipitating oestrus, dimming the light while so confined brings about early onset of oestrus by about six weeks. Born too soon,  some as early as December, many do not survive the harsh weather when these tiny lambs are turned out into the cold. The ewes often in poor condition themselves do not provide good quality colostrum and poor stocking conditions of overcrowding and lack of hygiene in birthing sheds all adds to the mortality rate.

Ewes are "serviced" by a ram, usually about 38 ewes to one ram, however with increased frequency many ewes are subjected to artificial insemination (AI). This is particularly the case for sheep farmed in low lands. This is a very invasive procedure, one of these methods requires surgery, the ewe is turned upside down while semen is injected into her womb. A shocking and unnecessary violation. An even more abhorrent procedure is embryo transfer which requires that an embryo conceived by a "high quality value" donor is "flushed" out and implanted into a lower value recipitant. The semen is acquired by hand masturbation by the farmer. Fairly tame in comparison to the shocking method by which semen is obtained by inserting an electrical probe into the ram's anus directed to the rams pituitary gland. A button is pressed which administers an electrical shock  which makes the ram ejaculate, this can be extremely painful and leave the ram wreathing in agony. Shocking cruelty is it not, few can imagine such being allowed in so called animal loving UK. Sadly it all depends on the animal in question. I fail to understand the need for such procedures as at this time rams and ewes are quite capable of reproducing. But as time goes on if such practices become common, sheep will not be able to reproduce in the normal way, as is the case for domesticated cattle as a result of similar abuse.

As bizarre as it may seem castration of ram lambs is carried out for a number of reasons even though most will be killed long before they arrive at sexual maturity. One reason is to prevent unwanted unplanned breeding. Another is that castration is supposed to reduce aggression and a third is that castration results in quicker growth and better meat quality. The blood supply to the lambs testicles is reduced by the use of a tight rubber ring, as a result they atrophy and drop off within a few weeks.  Like the similar tail docking mutilation mentioned previously, castration particularly may result in serious injury if not carried out correctly.

As already mentioned but it is something that needs to be repeated, ewes are manipulated hormonally to produce triplets or even in some instances quadruplets, here ewes are than more intensely farmed indoors as they would not be able to cope with so many lambs in harsh weather. This causes much suffering for the ewe and increases the chance of complications.

Why you might ask?

The obvious reason of course is profit. The most profitable produce of ewes are their lambs to provide meat, unlike the middle ages when wool was the main stay of the economy, wool is a significant second and in comparison to meat, negligible. Only 5 to 10 per cent of the total income per ewe comes from wool. It is more than likely that your woollen coat or jumper is wool used from slaughtered sheep mostly lambs, twenty seven percent of all wool comes from slaughtered sheep.

...there is absolutely no doubt that they know when death is upon them. When they believe all is lost, lambs go completely limp in the hand.
Unto us a lamb is given by Horatio Clare

You can read the article Unto us a lamb is given by Horatio Clare by clicking the following link to an RSPCA newsletter, you will need to scroll down:

The life of a tiny lamb is short, in general only about four months unless he or she is required for breeding. Some are killed after only 10 weeks.  Ram lambs not required for mating are killed within a day or two after being born. Ewes are killed from four to eight years after their breeding days are over. The meat from older sheep is called mutton and is less popular than lamb and used for processed foods. 

The wool that sheep produce of course is not as nature intended and here again man has interfered. Did you know that sheep once had an outer coat of hair and kemp, with wool making up a fine undercoat? As a consequence of selective breeding the amount of wool has been increased and the amount of hair decreased. Previous to domestication sheep naturally shed their wool, however after much selective breeding many sheep no longer retain this natural ability and need to be shorn, an unpleasant and stressful procedure which contrary to popular belief sheep do not enjoy. In many instances sheep are roughly handled. In Australia shearers are paid at piece work rates, so much per sheep. Consequently shearing is carried out in the shortest time possible, many sheep are roughly handled and sustain cuts and abrasions on their faces. In addition sheep are often too closely sheared leaving them susceptible to sun burn. Also it is becoming increasingly more common to shear sheep in the winter, the idea being that sheep will eat more to keep warm and therefore produce more meat. Twice yearly shearing is supposed to improve wool quality. Winter sheared sheep then need to be housed in barns, the idea being that winter shorn sheep, now derived of their protective wool, will head for barns and huddle together to keep warm and put on weight. Odd isn't it how farmers can provide barns when it suits their need for further exploitation of sheep. However in reality this results in sheep suffering with cold, also the accumulations of urine and faeces in such close confinement cause disease such as foot rot. A bizarre idea, and utterly cruel and exploitative treating animals as though they are little more than commodities regardless of the adverse effect such treatment has. Of course the above is a generalisation, not all farmers carry out such treatments or shear their sheep in winter or neglect their welfare but there are many that do and there is nothing illegal about most of the aforementioned practices inflicted upon sheep.

Ethically however it is quite another matter. Christians often compare God and indeed Jesus to a shepherd who protects his flock. This was how shepherding was seen in those times as caring for the welfare of the flock, not abusing and exploiting them with terrible inhume cruelty, cruelty which we allow to exist simply as a result of our ignorance, as so many of us it seems are unaware of what happens to sheep and other creatures. 

In addition to farming the sheep is a much abused animal. For example sheep shows, which can be exploitative and a difficult experience for sheep even though as prize winning show animals they are treated with more care and attention. Nonetheless such is stressful for sheep often confined in pens with very little room, poked and prodded and occasionally rough handled to make them cooperate.  Often kept out in the heat of the sun for a couple of days, for eight hours or more, such as in the case of the Masham sheep show, a popular attraction in the Yorkshire Dales.

Sheep at Mashan sheep show appear well cared for although they where at times pushed and shoved about. Certainly their lot in life is more favourable than that of a farmed sheep and some of their owners are fond of their sheep. Nonetheless it is still exploitation. Standing out  in the warmth of the sun for two days surrounded by noisy crowds, blaring music, being poked and prodded by children, barked at by dogs, it is a stressful experience. Do we really have their right to control an animal's life in this way? My view is no, most certainly not.

After all these abuses more misery awaits sheep and lambs as they are sent to market and finally to the slaughter house.

About 80 percent of sheep will pass through a sheep market to be slaughtered, fattened up or transported. Often tiny lambs no older than a couple of days can be seen struggling to cope with the harsh conditions standing on concrete floors for hours terrified. Many may even have been separated from their mothers. What a fearful life this must appear to be to these innocent gentle creatures.

But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy.

In some parts of the world, in the USA for example it is becoming increasingly more common to confine sheep in sheds much in the same way as cattle, pigs and poultry. In these conditions sheep have to spend their days on metal slated floors which results in lameness, here they never see the light of day or feel the warmth of the sun on their backs.

Photographs courtesy of Farm Animal sanctuary. Farm Sanctuary | Watkins Glen, NY

Licensed under  Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic

For more sheep farming photos:

Feed lots normally associated with cattle are increasingly being used for sheep . Although not a method of farming here in the UK, sheep are kept in feed lots in some countries, including Australia and the USA.

Here sheep are crowded in to dusty, arid and grassless feed lots, whatever grass there once was has now gone trodden underfoot. All that remains is dust in dry weather and a muddy quagmire in wet weather. There are no trees to shelter from the heat of the sun or from the relentless downpour of torrential rain.

Here these poor creatures cannot graze naturally, instead food they do not normally consume is brought to them in order to quickly fatten them up for slaughter. Due to lack of movement, restricted by such close confinement they put on weight more quickly. Feed lot sheep, as with feed lot cattle, are reduced to little more than meat producing machines where in the misery of overcrowding, with no shelter or comfort of any kind they await their fate in the abattoir, or in the case of Australian feed lots to be transported over seas. More about live transportation later.


Sheep are crammed into feed lots ,their natural life denied them, here they await slaughter fed on unnatural feed. In Australia sheep are kept in feed lots awaiting live transportation over seas, during such transportation they will suffer more abuse in shocking conditions. 

Although feed lots are not used here in the UK I have often seen sheep confined in pens with nothing more than mud upon which to sit and rest, no grass, just thick mud. Also sheep are let into fields to graze upon crops of turnips or Swede as you can see from the photograph below, although not closely confined as are their counterparts in feed lots there is no grass for them and in wet weather there is no where to stand, sit or sleep except in thick mud.

Sheep graze on swede in a field of dirt , there is no grass for them to sit or lay down. Their is no shelter from either the heat of the sun or a downpour of rain. When it does rain, which it does frequently here in Cumbria, the soil quickly becomes muddy.

The picture below in a series from Animal Sanctuary, shows you the plight of a  "downed sheep"

What is a downed animal?

Until compiling this webpage I was not aware of this particular form of cruelty, and no doubt this is the case for many people as it is just so utterly inhumane that you cannot imagine that the laws of so called civilised countries allow this to happen. I guess though if they allow Mulesing well... they will permit any form of neglect and abuse.

A downed animal, sometimes called downers, is a sick animal, it is a termed used by the meat industry to refer to animals who cannot even stand on their own because the poor creatures are so sick, diseased or disabled. They do not receive any consideration let alone veterinary care, instead they suffer dreadful abuse, left alone to die slowly and painfully as the sheep in the photo below. Each and every day thousands of animals in factory farms and stockyards suffer this shameful neglect

Why don't they at least humanely put the poor suffering creature to sleep? The answer to this question is that there is no profit in doing so. Instead the sick animal is dragged off to the slaughter house. 

"Under current law, most downed animals are still sent to slaughter for human food—in spite of their tortured condition. Sadly, even sick and suffering animals spell profit to many in the meat and leather industry. Profit, not humane considerations, guides industry practice. From the industry perspective, there is no financial gain in euthanizing a suffering animal, but if that animal can be dragged, pushed or prodded onto into the slaughterhouse, a profit can be made. Because of this simple economic fact, there is little doubt that the abuse of downed animals is widespread across the country."

You may read the full article At Furry Friends Stand Up Against Animal Abuse! Unfortunately this article and the website is no longer available.

Generally this is a little known form of animal abuse from which mad cows disease may have originated. Mad cow disease, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), is thought to have originated from the remains of diseased sheep, downers, being fed to cattle. Why? As a cheap protein supplement the purpose of which was to fatten cattle up quickly for slaughter.

Look at this poor sheep left to die, alone in a Texas stockyard. A sad and lonely way to die after the misery and abuse meted out to her and others like her throughout her short life. See the complete and shocking series of photographs of abused  sheep, including sheep who have died during transportation
sheep_NHSS-sheep-007_1 on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

"Animals who died during transit are thrown on deadpiles like this one behind Lancaster stockyards in Pennsylvania. The still living sheep at the far right, Hilda, was rescued by Farm Sanctuary".

Photograph courtesy of Farm Animal sanctuary. Farm Sanctuary | Watkins Glen, NY

License under  Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic

For more sheep farming photographs:

Live transportation

Live exportation is another endurance test for both sheep and lambs. The EU allows sheep to be transported without food or water for periods of 14 hours in cramped conditions with no room to turn round or sit down. After an hour's rest sheep may well have to suffer a further 14 hours of similar treatment.

The UK Export about 800,000 live sheep each year for slaughter abroad. Australia is however the largest exporter of livestock.

Australia transports every year approximately 6.5 million live sheep to the middle east, North Africa and south-east Asia in the most appalling conditions imaginable.

Prior to the initial long transportation by road or rail sheep are confined to feed lots for two weeks, fed on dried pellets to get them used to this type of food, as this is the only food they will receive during the long trip by sea to their destination.

In extremely confined conditions of three sheep per square metre they are crammed into pens on multi decked ships. Sometimes these decks are enclosed, in such circumstances the temperature and humidity rises causing much suffering for these poor frightened creatures; many will die from heat stroke, pneumonia, dehydration and starvation.  Here they stand cramped unable to move and have no choice other than to stand or lay in their own excrement which accumulates alarmingly, you can see this and the other awful conditions sheep endure, including lambs born on the ship, in the links below.

Revealed the cruelty of live export
For 60 years, cruelty to animals on live export ships has been kept secret.

Animals don't belong here: World-first footage Animals are suffering and being cooked alive on live export ships. Help shut down this illegal cruelty


Live export ship cruelty sparks a WORLDWIDE outcry

These cramped and filthy conditions often result in sheep  becoming trapped in excrement and under decomposing carcasses which are sometimes left to accumulate. Stuck in the vast accumulation of their own excrement, sometimes a foot deep with only six inches of headroom above and unable to move they may be trampled to death by other traumatised sheep struggling not to fall whilst trying to reach what little food and water is available. The problem is that live export vessels are equipped to feed only a portion of the sheep at one time, this causes competitiveness as the hungry animals struggle to get what little food there is and during feeding the desperate animals loose their footing and are crushed to death or suffocated as already explained.

These pens are not cleaned until the voyage is over and the sheep have been unloaded. The average voyage lasts for about 20 to 35 days, more if things go wrong and there are delays in offloading. Each sheep produces 500 grams of manure each day! Imagine the conditions for these poor suffering creatures. The accumulation at the end of the average voyage is over 1000 tonnes of waste.

But their suffering is even more shocking than that, left in their own excrement, in high temperatures hungry and dehydrated, the horror is compounded by disease and the terror of being thrown overboard alive to drown or be eaten by sharks, and even more horrific - sick sheep may be put alive through a mincer. That's right, sheep who are sick are thrown down a long chute whilst still alive to be ground to death, shred to pieces in a mincer! There is no time nor the inclination to even euthanize them first, here their is no compassion for these sentient feeling beings.

At sea, sick or injured animals are often thrown down chutes leading to a macerator that grinds them up and dumps their remains into the sea. On a recent episode of Australia’s 60 Minutes, an experienced rancher and veteran of many live-export voyages stated that these chutes can be nine stories high and that animals are often alive when they are thrown into the grinders. He explained, “What they do is, when they die and they’re out at sea, they drop them down a big laundry chute into a mincer at the bottom and it just smashes them up and squirts them out the side into the water. … It’s just like a laundry chute, opening door on each floor and you just drop them down. And in quite a lot of cases, the sheep are still alive. In theory, there is plenty of time to cut their throats and kill them first, but they just get put in the chute alive” (Carleton 2003).

Also see The Wool Industry:

Included in the link above is further information about the live transportation of sheep and a video: Pink Speaks Up For Sheep, the first section is a report  about mulesing  - more on mulesing on this website Help Our Sheep  - the second describes live export.

You will also find further information about the live transportation of sheep in the link below:

In these appalling conditions 10,000 sheep die during transportation, about half of the total deaths is by starvation.

Upon arrival, delays result in further deaths; about 20 percent die in the unloading process. These ships often stop at four or five different ports which add extra time on board for the last sheep by as much as nine days. Some times the ships remain in port for weeks at a time (16 weeks in one instance) in cases where there are disputes, for example where there are claims that the sheep are diseased. The air flow is reduced now the ship is in dock and the increase in heat and humidity and lack of water results in further fatalities. The journey is of long duration which prolongs the suffering of course and increases mortality rate. The length of time from uploading to downloading is approximately 47 days:  loading about 5 days, the voyage 32 days and unloading up to 11 days, more if there are delays, such as in one case where sheep had to wait 80 days in temperatures of 100 degrees before being unloaded. 

Here is an instance of delays resulting in a further increase of suffering and mortality

"In 2002, 14,500 sheep reportedly died from heat stress while in transit to the Middle East. Their carcasses were thrown overboard. Between August and October of 2003, more than 50,000 sheep suffered aboard the MV Cormo Express when the Saudi Arabian government refused to accept the sheep because too many of them were believed to be infected with "scabby mouth," an infectious disease that results in sores and scabs around the animals' mouths. After nearly two months aboard this ship, with very little food and water, often in temperatures exceeding 100°F, the African nation of Eritrea accepted the sheep for slaughter.;id=12553

Now having endured the appalling conditions of their transportation they are often dragged and rough handled, thrown into the backs of trucks. Most are kept for a few days in feed lots. Here 3 percent of them will die, many sheep are thereafter slaughtered but some will remain in feed lots, these unfortuante animals will face death by having their throats slit whilst still conscious for religious sacrifice. In Australia, Muslims accept prior stunning as long as the animal is unblemished however this is not the case in the middle east. It is far less cruel of course to cut the throat of an unconscious animal to reduce pain and stress. A conscious animal will feel the pain of the cut and the terror of bleeding to death.

The following extract reveals shocking cruelty to sheep.
In late 2003 more than 50,000 sheep languished at sea for months aboard the Cormo Express, an Australian “live export” ship.

Refused port by at least fifty countries, the sheep finally landed in Eritrea.

After the beleaguered sheep touched soil in the impoverished North African country, their throats were cut, one by one. That is, those who were still alive. Almost six thousand of the animals had died slowly and agonizingly beforehand aboard the ship.

They died of starvation, heatstroke, dehydration, or when their bodies could no longer take the stress of being locked in darkness amidst thousands of pounds of their own excrement, 100-plus degree heat, and no ventilation.

It was a direct result of the multi-million dollar a year wool industry.

An extract from The Not-So-Good Shepherd
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Also see for more information, photos and videos and action you can take:

Many of the websites cited above include action you can take to stop this dreadful cruelty, which like any other cruelty to any creature should not be allowed to take place or condoned by any civilised country. Note as you will see in some of the websites listed above cattle also are subjected to the misery of live export.


I do not like eating meat because I have seen lambs and pigs killed. I saw and felt their pain. They felt the approaching death. I could not bear it. I cried like a child. I ran up a hill and could not breathe. I felt that I was choking. I felt the death of the lamb.

Vaslav Nijinsky

Most sheep in one way or another unless they die of natural causes end their days in the slaughter house or the equivalent, even ewes who have born several lambs now exhausted and worn out from the abuse of artificial insemination and multiple births are not spared, once their reproductive days are over, ewes are killed.  

And like pigs, cattle and poultry their arrival at the abattoir means more fear and pain. Do not be deceived into thinking that the death of an animal is painless.  And bear in mind that no matter how awful life is no creature wishes to die, particularly in such circumstances.

Often the word humane is used when referring to the type of death which a farm animal meets at the slaughter house. But what exactly does the word humane mean? The dictionary tells you that humane means kind, merciful. Here are a selection of definitions from on-line dictionaries. Word reference. com, humane: marked or motivated by concern with the alleviation of suffering. The free On-line dictionary, Humane: Characterized by kindness, mercy, or compassion.   Merriam Webster 0n-line Dictionary, Humane:  marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals.

What happens to sheep at an abattoir is anything but humane.

Before being killed an attempt is made to temporarily render sheep unconscious with a head-only electrical stun, a pair of electric tongs is placed on either side of the animal's head and a current of electricity is passed through. Electricity is extremely painful, even a mild static electric shock can be painful, can you imagine a current of electricity right through your head?

VIVA estimate that each year as many as 400 million sheep regain consciousness before they die. In some circumstances sheep may be skinned alive.

"The MHS says that the interval between stunning and knifing can be as high as 70 seconds for sheep. Another study found that the average interval was 21 seconds. Sheep take an average of 14 seconds to lose brain responsiveness if both carotid arteries (the major arteries that supply blood to the head) are cut. UK law only requires one carotid artery to be cut and in this case sheep take an average of 70 seconds to lose brain responsiveness. Yet an electric head-only stun only lasts between 20 and 40 seconds.

Viva! estimates that 4 million may regain consciousness each year before they die and we have video footage showing sheep regaining consciousness as they bleed to death. If only one carotid artery is cut, sheep may not be dead after the required 20 second bleed out time and they will therefore be skinned alive.

Researchers at Bristol University found that after an electric stun, sheep are not able to feel pain but they are have periods of being fully aware of their surroundings i.e. they can still feel fear and they are conscious whilst hanging upside down on the killing rail, bleeding to death. They could not prove whether the electricity has an immediate effect and Dr Harold Hillman, Director of the Unity Laboratory of Applied Neurobiology, says that when animals are stunned, they suffer extreme pain. They are unable to cry out or move because the massive electric current paralyses them. His evidence is based on reports from human torture victims."

Does this sound humane?

The only option to so called humane slaughter is no slaughter, there is no such thing as humane slaughter.

For more information about cruelty and abuse of sheep in the farming industry both here and aboard see Help Our Sheep here on this website.  Where you will learn about the horrors of tail docking, castration and the notoriously cruel practice of mulesing, which involves cutting chucks of flesh from a sheep's hind quarters without anaesthetics, painkiller or antiseptics and other abuses of sheep.

This poor little lamb has undergone Mulesing. This defenceless creature has been mutilated, her skin and tail have been cut with shears . No anaesthetic is used.

This Photo from  Animal Activism Queensland - AAQ

Sheep are not breeding meat producing machines but thinking feeling sentient beings. Such practices are abusive and traumatic, plain and simply cruel.

Change begins with you

There are many ways to stop this cruelty, the easiest and most immediate is to stop eating the flesh of sheep and lambs, stop wearing wool or drinking sheep's milk.

For other actions such as petitions and campaigns please visit the following websites.

References and Links :

References and more websites of interest where you can take action and get involved in campaigns and find out how to become vegetarian or Vegan. Please be sure to visit the websites included below if you have not already done so

First read this heart warming story about a sheep farmer and his wife who after visiting a neighbouring farm sanctuary gave up farming and donated their entire flock to the sanctuary.

References and Links :

End Live Export

Help stop sheep cruelty

The suffering of farmed sheep

Farm Sanctuary

Viva! - Vegetarians International Voice for Animals...

Viva! Walczymy o konie i inne zwierzeta : . VIVA Poland

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

Important please note:

I am not an animal expert of any kind just your average person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in mind that the information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but of course possible.

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