Total War on Sheep


Unto Us a Lamb Is Given

A man of my spiritual integrity does not eat corpses.

- George Bernard Shaw on vegetarianism

My situation is a solemn one.
Life is offered to me on condition of eating beefsteaks.
But death is better than cannibalism.
My will contains directions for my funeral, which will be followed not by mourning coaches,
but by oxen, sheep, flocks of poultry, and a small traveling aquarium of live fish, all wearing white scarves
in honour of the man who perished rather than eat his fellow creatures.

- George Bernard Shaw (again)

Coat of Arms, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

by Horatio Clare

A long and happy friendship existed between men and sheep before the present slaughter began.  So far this year we have slaughtered and burnt 4.5 million of them; it may not be enough.  We are planning to kill or castrate hundreds of thousands more.  The government is awarding itself powers to destroy any it chooses, and no right of appeal will exist.  We have declared total war on sheep.

A relationship 2,000 years in the making has suddenly soured, and there is no question who has come off worse: Humans, 4.5 million; Sheep, one.  (A single slaughterman died during the killing, but no sheep was blamed; rather one Keith Ward, another slaughterman, who denies murder.)

It seems a good moment - perhaps a last chance - to look at the animal on the receiving end of this unprecedented spree of interspecies violence.  You ought at least to know something about these creatures.  You are paying for their destruction (£2 billion in taxes so far this year), and your great-grandchildren, coming across some antiquated storybook depicting smiling farmers and patchwork fields, may well ask you what the white things were.

Historically, the deal between sheep and humans has been very simple: we fed and looked after them, they fed and looked after us.  Ten thousand years ago Central Asians were wearing sheepskins and fleeces.  Five-and-a-half thousand years ago man learnt how to spin wool.  There were small, primitive sheep in Britain before the Romans arrived.  They brought over the large white things, now known as Cotswolds, which were to revolutionise the British economy.

In the Middle Ages we treasured the sheep.  You could eat it, wear it, write on it (skins to parchment), drink from it, or treat it as a friendly, self-propelled cheese factory.  The mediaeval wool trade boomed to such an extent that in the 14th century it provided half the Crown’s tax revenues.  Churches, halls and manors were paid for by sheep.  They were our first international hot seller, and we were not the only nation to benefit.

Cortez shipped sheep from Spain to South America, introducing them to North America in 1519.  The success of sheep-farming among the North American colonists, and the economic power it brought them, enraged the British government.  Amputation was introduced for ‘illegal’ trading.  Resentment at that, and the Stamp Act, led to the Revolutionary War.  In the 20th century, 60% of Australia’s exports came off the back of a sheep.

So, although it may look like an ignorant bundle of wool, its ancestors built nations and started revolutions.  Perhaps a little respect might be in order?

Portland Ram and friend
Source: incredible livestock photos by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.  Visit his site.  I order you.

From the sheep’s point of view, good farmers have been a blessing.  Sure, we have a habit of eating their sons, but we have put millennia of care into the wellbeing of their daughters.  My mother, a hill farmer of consummate skill, is still amazed at the variety of ways a sheep can find to die.  Even the hardy Welsh mountain breed with which I was brought up are susceptible to braxy, pulpy kidney, staggers, pneumonia, pasturella, twin lamb disease, cancer, hypothermia in the winter, maggots in the summer, scab, scrapie, foxes, crows and dogs.

They push their heads through fences and get stuck (the grass on the other side really is greener: sheep invented the axiom).  They climb trees to pick at foliage and get hung up by their horns or legs.  They fall down banks, get bitten by snakes and stung by wasps.  They tumble into ponds and streams.  They gorge themselves on fallen ash leaves, roll on to their backs and blow up like balloons.  They poison themselves on ragwort.  Rams’ horns regularly grow into their own heads, a lethal variation of the in-growing toenail.  They starve, freeze, get depressed and fall ill - but a good shepherd can counter every affliction.

This extraordinary vulnerability and tendency to self-destruction made them the perfect metaphor for man in Christianity.  Jesus was the ultimate Good Shepherd, laying down his life for his flock.  Wherever the metaphor appears in Scripture, love, trust and sacrifice are invoked.  Jesus himself was the Lamb of God.  The line of trust and succour from God to Jesus to man to sheep was comprehensible and logical for 2,000 years; only in our generation has it lost its force, as the shepherd gave way to the slaughterman.

The metaphor for humans is not as unflattering as it might appear.  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.

Although no one has ever claimed that sheep are intelligent animals, neither are they fools.  Some seem predisposed to stray.  Once they learn that fences can be surmounted by jumping or crawling, they are unstoppable.  Strays lead independent lives, rearing their lambs on the run.  Incidents of sheep learning to roll across cattle-grids are famously well documented.

They can be very playful.  Lambs run races along the edges of fields.  They love to compete for King of the Castle: any ant-heap will do.  My mother had a yearling (a one-year-old) which had the habit of climbing on to the daily hay bale, apparently for the hell of it.  She was evidently a joker, as most lambs pass through the playful phase and enter a rather solemn period, when they eschew games.

When newly shorn or dashing through a gate into fresh pasture, young sheep literally jump for joy, springing into the air like pot-bellied antelopes.  They form strong attachments: best friends will stick together and remember each other, seeking each other out after periods of separation.

Scientists have recently "revealed" that sheep can remember the faces of up to 50 other sheep, as well as their shepherd’s mug.  This will not come as much of a surprise to sheep or shepherds, who have known it for centuries.  "Sheep must potentially be able to think about individuals that are absent from their environment," says Dr Keith Kendrick of the Babraham Institute, Cambridge.  It’s a fact, Dr Keith.  When you wean lambs from ewes, both mothers and children cry for days.  Their memories last for at least two years, according to the scientists; rather longer than some humans.

The telling phrase in the Babraham report, published in Nature, is that the test-sheep were trained to recognise pairs of faces "using a food reward."  Sheep, as the researchers have discovered, will do absolutely anything for food.

Their emotional sympathy is extraordinary.  Sheep sense human anger or frustration and try to flee.  Good shepherds move calmly and slowly among their flocks, and talk to them.  Sheep will answer.  The ubiquitous bleat of the hungry sheep is only one of many communications.  There are cries of distress, which any shepherd will recognise; whickering, affectionate noises to reassure lambs.  There are curious, interrogative grunts; whistles of alarm or hostility, and groans of pain when giving birth.

Anyone who thinks that sheep are cowards has never tried to capture a full-grown ram for a spot of horn-shortening.  A ewe will face down dogs or foxes when defending a lamb, which is astonishingly courageous, considering her complete lack of weaponry.  And 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.

So when Elliot Morley, the euphemistically titled minister for animal health, announces another round of slaughter, spare a thought for the victims.  As the slaughterman closes in, and the faces of their 50 friends flash before their eyes, the last face may well be that of the shepherd, accompanied by a mournful question-mark.  Where we used to cure, we now kill.  It is a perverse end to a beautiful friendship.

Source: 15 December 2001 © The Spectator

Sheep Put Brave Face on Stress

Sheep became less agitated when shown a friendly face

London - Sheep have shown researchers why stressed-out people are comforted by the sight of a friendly face.  Scientists at the Babraham Institute in the eastern English city of Cambridge discovered that when sheep were isolated, showing them faces of familiar sheep helped to soothe them.  The findings help explain why many people carry photos of loved ones in their wallets, researchers believe.

The scientists, led by Professor Keith Kendrick, placed 40 sheep on their own in a darkened barn and showed them various faces.  Their stress levels were monitored by looking at the number of times each sheep bleated, its movement within the barn and its heart-rate.  Blood samples were also taken to measure the levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which are chemical indicators of stress.  When the sheep were shown faces of sheep familiar to them, they became less stressed, and showed fewer signs of agitation than when they were shown goat faces or triangles, researchers found, according the UK's Press Association.

Prof Kendrick told PA: "Very few experiments have been done with face recognition on species other than monkeys and sheep but we are sure that species which have reasonable face recognition, including dogs, will react in the same way.  Some dogs really don't like being left by their owner so it might by that one way of keeping them calm and stopping them trashing the place is to provide them with a picture of their owner.  In the same way, when young children are first separated from their parents, it may be that providing them with photos of their parents calms them down.  Fear and emotion are controlled) by the right-hand side of the brain in sheep just like us."

The researchers were conducting more tests on the sheep by showing them videos of sheep with different facial expressions, to see what effect this has on their stress levels.  Kendrick said he hoped the findings would help lead to a better understanding of neurological disorders such as Asperger's Syndrome and schizophrenia.

Source: Wednesday August 25 2004

Do the sheep become less stressed when shown a photo of their shepherd?  The article does not say.  And do all sheep like all other sheep?  What if you showed a young ram a photo of one of his rivals?  Nevertheless, the findings are intriguing.  Parents - why take a chance?  Get your children a photo of you to keep with them in the crèche.  It couldn't hurt and might help considerably to ally anxiety and frustration.  Why not try it?

See also:

bulletWatch My Flock - Wanted, shepherd, with dogs...
bulletThey're Using Sheep to Study Gay Behaviour (the next page in this section) - sheepherders had been complaining that they were losing money buying some $350 to $4000 rams who weren't interested in mating.  The point was to find the organic or genetic origin of what they termed for the sheep trade, the "Dud Stud Phenomenon..."

No Fooling

The Sierra Club and the US Forest Service (USFS) were presenting an alternative to Wyoming ranchers for controlling the coyote population.  After years of the ranchers using the tried and true methods of shooting and/or trapping the predator, the tree-huggers had a "more humane" solution.  They proposed that:

  1. the animals be captured alive; and
  2. the males be castrated and let loose again.

That, it was felt, would control the population.

This was actually proposed to the Wyoming Wool and Sheep Grower's Association by the Sierra Club and the USFS.  All of the ranchers thought about this amazing idea for a couple of minutes.  Finally, an old man in the back stood up, tipped his hat back and said, "Son, I don't think you understand the problem.  Those coyotes ain't fooling’ around with our sheep - they're eatin' 'em."

Roo to the Rescue

A man knocked unconscious by a tree branch during the weekend's storms in north-eastern Victoria has been rescued by a Morwell family's pet kangaroo.  The kangaroo kept banging on the door of the family's house in Tanjil South, then led it to the man lying unconscious about 150 metres away. Authorities have allowed the family to care for the kangaroo since it was little, because it is blind in one eye and thinks it is a dog.  Rural Ambulance Victoria paramedic Eddie Wright says the man was taken to the Austin Hospital with serious head injuries.  He says he could have died if he had not been found until later. "The kangaroo alerted them to where he was and has gone and sat down next to him and that's how they found him," he said.  "Especially when you consider it's not a pet as such, it's just an animal that's adopted them over the years and comes and goes as it is free to, they were lucky yesterday it was in the area."

Source: Monday 22 September 2003

Kangaroo Wins Award for Saving Farmer

Canberra - A kangaroo named Lulu is to receive a national bravery award after raising the alarm to save an Australian farmer knocked unconscious by a fallen tree branch.  Hobby farmer Leonard Richards was checking for storm damage on his property at Tanjil South, 150 km east of Melbourne, last September when he was hit by a falling branch.  In a story reminiscent of the long-running Australian children's television series Skippy, in which a kangaroo rescued people in distress in the Australian bush, Lulu began barking until Richards' wife came to investigate, said the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).  She found her husband lying unconscious under a tree, guarded by the kangaroo.  Richards was taken to hospital to be treated for minor head injuries.  The RSPCA has given Lulu its animal valour award to recognise the kangaroo's heroic act with a certificate to be presented to Richards at a ceremony next month.  "What she did really was exceptional," RSPCA spokeswoman Jenny Hodges said.

Lulu was reared by the Richards family, who rescued her from her mother's pouch and fed her on bottles after her mother was killed by a car over four years ago.

Source: 29 April 2004

But They've Been Known to Drive People Crazy...

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Kangaroo under Gonzo's bed
Date: Wed, 29 Jun 2005 11:53:43 +0000
From: max bibby <>

Hola Ruth

We have a problem...we think there is a kangaroo under Gonzo's bed in Katikati...  It's eaten his book and drunk three quarters of his glass of water.  How do we deal with such a nuisance?  He wants to kill it but I'm not so sure.  Will a spoon kill it?  We also have a corkscrew and a pair of shoes and some sugar...  Will that work?  Maybe we should use peanut butter to trap him/her...  It has a killer instinct.  We also have a kiwi; he is strong - maybe he can kill the kangaroo with his beak?  Please, please can you get back to us asap with your suggestions?

We thank you in advance.

Max Gonzo and Simon

Whaddaya think?  Computer generated?  (No, no one I know...)  What do you suppose is the point?

Racking It Up

by Fasih Ahmed

Knox, Pennsylvania - Rodney Miller, a deer farmer, knows how to make a buck.  In 1997, he paid $900 for a 5-day-old male whitetail for his breeding farm here.  "He was just a lil' wee thing," Mr Miller recalls.  Six years later, the animal could be worth millions of dollars, which explains why it's at the centre of a criminal investigation and a nasty court fight, and why it has the world of deer farming abuzz.

Pennsylvania has way too many deer - more than a million - but finding a buck in the wild with antlers worth mounting can take forever.  Entrepreneurs such as Miller breed huge-antlered deer that can be hunted for thousands of dollars each in fenced preserves.  Miller, one of Pennsylvania's 726 licensed deer farmers, had high hopes for his new fawn 6 years ago, and named it Goliath.  The farmer and his wife, Dianne, say they came to think of Goliath as both an investment and a member of the family.  As a yearling, Goliath was underweight but had an extraordinary 21-point rack.  That is, his antlers had 21 branches.  By the next year, Goliath had grown into his name, weighing 250 pounds and sporting what experts say was an unprecedented 28-point second-year rack.  Bucks shed their racks each winter and usually grow back bigger ones the next summer.  The biggest rack on record at the time was a 44-pointer found in 1981 on a full-grown deer nicknamed the Monarch, who had died of natural causes in the Missouri wild.

The Millers began harvesting Goliath's sperm for breeding.  And word spread that Goliath might be one for the whitetail record book.  Then, before dawn on 20 October 1999, the unthinkable happened.  Goliath was deer-napped.  "When I came out to feed the deer, I saw a doe running about, outside of her pen," Miller recalls.  Inside the enclosure, somewhat bigger than an acre, he discovered 16 deer missing, including Goliath.  "I was hysterical, to say the least," he says.  The Millers organised a search party but after 5 fruitless hours, they called the state police, who got the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the FBI involved.  Investigators found truck tracks near a hole cut in the chain-link fence.  Marks on the ground suggested that Goliath had been drugged and dragged away in a tarp.  "It was a professional job," Miller says.

Over the next 3 days, the Millers recovered 15 does, but not Goliath.  They offered a $100,000 reward, but the trail grew cold - until this past summer.  On 29 July, 4 local deer farmers embarked on a cross-country sperm-shopping trip.  Before leaving Pennsylvania, Andrew Foor, Harry Strawser, William Swarey and Russell Walk decided to visit another local legend, Hercules, a 52-point whitetail living on a Reynoldsville deer farm.  The owner, Jeffrey Spence, told the visitors that they had arrived just in time.  He recently had agreed to sell Hercules for $110,000 to a Missouri deer farmer who was on his way to pick it up.  Spence escorted the visitors to Hercules's pen.

"When we went in, we didn't think the buck would be that big," says Foor, one of the visitors.  But "this was the biggest buck any of us has ever seen."

Spence also showed off some of Hercules's previous racks.  Oddly, there was no 1st-year rack, while the second, 3rd and 4th-year racks had been sawed off.  The 5th-year rack had been shed naturally.  The 6th-year rack was on the buck's head, still covered in the velvety sheath that wraps newly forming antlers.  The 4 men became suspicious.  "Sawing off the antlers means you're trying to hide something," says Strawser.  They knew about the famous missing buck Goliath.  They didn't voice their suspicions to Spence but casually asked him for some of the photographs of Hercules they noticed lying on his porch.  They drove immediately to the Miller farm, 30 miles away and asked the Millers to show them pictures of Goliath.  They compared photos.  The resemblance was unmistakable.

There was no time to spare.  The Millers hired a lawyer, who sued Spence the next day in the Jefferson County Court of Common Pleas.  A judge ordered Spence to surrender the deer to the Millers, at least temporarily, until the suit could be litigated.  That afternoon, a convoy, led by Miller's pickup towing a 2-horse trailer, descended on Spence's 40-acre property.  A deputy sheriff presented the court order.  It took 6 injections to sedate the buck, now a massive 375 pounds, and 4 men, Spence included, to heave it into Miller's trailer.

But Spence didn't give up.  He had accepted a $20,000 down-payment from the Missouri farmer, and in return, shortly after the 4 deer farmers' visit, gave the man the buck's 2nd and 5th-year racks.  Within days, Spence had his lawyer, Troy Harper, file a motion demanding the deer's return.  Messrs Spence and Harper decline to comment on how Spence came into possession of the deer.  The lawyer says the buck he refers to as "Hercules/Goliath" was in his client's "proper possession."  As for the sawed-off antlers, Mr Spence says farmers sometimes do that to prevent injuries when bucks butt heads in vying for does in mating season.

In mid-August, a court-ordered DNA test was conducted.  It compared flesh from the disputed buck and scrapings from its sawed-off 2nd-year rack with scrapings from Goliath's 1st-year rack and a DNA sample Miller had kept.  Two weeks later, an Oklahoma lab told both sides that the DNA matched.  Harper contends the DNA test was flawed and wants another round.  A hearing on his motion to have the deer returned to Mr Spence is scheduled for 27 October.  Meanwhile, the state police are conducting additional tests, says a spokesman who otherwise declines to comment.

In court papers, the Millers say Mr Spence told them that he had sold some of the deer's sperm and had used some to impregnate 40 or so does.  Their suit demands that he turn over all of Goliath's sperm and progeny and any money he made from selling them.  Sperm from a prized deer can fetch as much as $3,000 a dose, deer farmers say.  Mr Miller figures Goliath is good for 100 doses a year, maybe more.  Even its racks are worth major money, perhaps as much as $500,000 for the current one, experts say.  If Goliath lives another 6 productive years, he could earn several million dollars.

The drama has taken a toll on the buck.  Deer shouldn't be tranquilised more than 3 times a year.  This one was drugged twice in 7 weeks, most recently to clean an antler infection.  "Goliath is not out of the woods yet," says Mr Miller, who has quit his job at a modular-home factory to tend his farm full time.  "It's been tough on him."

Source: The Wall Street Journal Friday 3 October 2003

Why would men spend $500,000 to buy a deer's cast-off antlers?  This is beyond belief.  Are giant antlers some sort of Viagra-substitute?  And hunting a domesticated deer in a fenced enclosure is worth thousands of dollars?  Something is sadly lacking in these men's lives.  Hunting in this way must fulfill the same type of urges for some men that reading romance novels fulfills for some women - it provides a rich fantasy to augment the mundane reality of their lives.

Goliath died on 6 December 2004 (if you're interested).

Oh!  Deer!

A young deer runs past traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge as a patrol car, right, follows; it safely makes the other side as traffic comes to a halt.

Deer Crosses Golden Gate Bridge

by Peter Fimrite

It's a first!  Animal dashes from Marin side through San Francisco toll plaza...

A deer joined the morning commute into San Francisco, bounding onto the Golden Gate Bridge and loping across the entire span as bridge officials and motorists watched in amazement.  It was the first time anybody can remember that a deer or any other animal has made it from one side of the famous bridge to the other in one piece.  It took the deer less than 10 minutes to commute from Marin County to San Francisco, where the animal zipped through the FasTrak lane at the toll plaza, took the 19th Avenue exit and then disappeared into the Presidio.

"When I first saw the deer, I thought, 'Maybe it's a dog' - then I said, 'Oh my gosh, that really is a deer,'" said Amorette Ko, the executive assistant to the general manager for the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, which has offices at the toll plaza.  Ko grabbed her camera and snapped three pictures as the deer ran by.  "That deer was really galloping," she said. "It's so amazing. We've had lawn mowers go across the bridge, but never a deer."

It all started at 8:50am when the deer, believed to be an adolescent, was spotted on the side of the highway, trapped between a fence and the moving cars.  Bridge spokeswoman Mary Currie said the animal apparently had come from the Marin Headlands, jumped over a concrete railing and gotten confused trying to figure out how to get home.  "Before we could get to it and help turn it around, it got out into the lanes," Currie said.  Traffic in the 4 southbound lanes and 2 northbound lanes was quickly brought to a halt by the California Highway Patrol.  The frightened deer, followed by a lane diversion truck and a patrol car, galloped across the span in the southbound lanes.  "Once it got to the toll plaza area, we tried to divert it into the maintenance area near the administration building, but at that point it got spooked, ran to its left across all the lanes and passed through lane 11, a FasTrak lane," Currie said.  Since the animal was not wearing a transponder, Currie said, "It came through as a toll violation."  However, she noted, "We will be waiving that violation."

The animal took the 19th Avenue exit, where it managed to find its way into the woods.  Traffic was stopped for 20 minutes, and the carpool hours were extended from 9am to 9:30am to accommodate the increased congestion, Currie said.  "This is very, very, very rare.  There have been deer that have made it as far as the north anchorage before being successfully diverted, but to my knowledge, this is the first time a deer has made it all the way across."  Currie said dogs and cats had occasionally jumped out of cars on the bridge, and "most" of them survived.  "Everyone here is really thrilled that the motorists were so cooperative, and we were able to finally get the deer diverted off the roadway," she said.  Rangers for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area are keeping an eye on the area where the young deer ran into the woods to make sure it does not try another crossing, perhaps in an effort to get back to its family in the suburbs.  Michael Feinstein, the GGNRA spokesman, said the animal would be lonely because there hasn't been a deer population in the Presidio for years.  Roadways also zigzag through the area, so cars will also pose a danger.

Feinstein said rangers will try to capture the deer if they can get close enough and return it to its Marin County home, but he wasn't holding out a lot of hope.

E-mail Peter Fimrite (a Chronicle staff writer) at

Source: San Francisco Chronicle page B2 Wednesday 19 May 2004 © San Francisco Chronicle; photo courtesy of the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District

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