Sickening footage shows Scottish farm workers punching and kicking sheep

Sheep in Glen FruinWhere sheep may safely graze – part of a flock in West Dunbartonshire where no evidence has been found of cruelty. Picture by Bill Heaney

By Lucy Ashton

Sickening footage has shown workers at 24 sheep farms in Scotland “punching, stamping and beating” defenceless animals and throwing them off trailers.

This has been claimed by campaigners prompting the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to launch an investigation.

PETA Asia, the branch of the organisation which is dealing with all incidents of cruelty to sheep, has launched a formal complaint with the Scottish SPCA after an eyewitness says they documented the horrendous abuse.

PETA say the abuse was witnessed on 24 farms in West Lothian, Fife, Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, East Lothian, Midlothian and South Lanarkshire – but thankfully neither West Dunbartonshire nor Argyll and Bute.

The 12-page complaint includes claims that wool workers “struck terrified sheep in the face with electric clippers, slamming their heads into the floor, beating and kicking them, and throwing them off shearing trailers”.

PETA said the footage obtained by the eyewitness highlights “just some of the cruelty” at 24 sheep farms toured by shearers from a shearing contractor earlier this year.

The upsetting clips seemingly show workers attacking animals, swearing at them, hitting them with sticks and pinning them to the floor by standing on their throats.

Some animals are shown with horrific cuts which are pouring with blood.

The animal rights group says criminal charges should be filed against the workers for apparent violations of laws prohibiting cruelty to animals, where appropriate.

Ardardan 2In August, PETA Asia released the first-ever video exposé of cruelty within the English wool industry, showing similar abuse.  Everywhere that eyewitnesses from PETA Asia and its affiliates go they see the same disturbing behaviour.  PETA Asia Senior Vice President Jason Baker, said: “After exposing cruelty within the English wool industry, we’ve found the same horrifying abuse of sheep at farms in Scotland.  Everywhere that eyewitnesses from PETA Asia and its affiliates go – from Australia and the US to South America and now the United Kingdom – they see the same disturbing behaviour.  The production of all wool – no matter where it originated or what ‘ethical’ or ‘responsibly sourced’ claims are made on its label – spells extreme suffering and death for millions of gentle sheep and lambs.”

PETA said shearers are paid by volume, not by the hour, which encourages fast, violent handling.  They claim it leads to “gaping wounds” on the animals’ bodies.  Shearers stitch these up using a needle and thread – but no pain relief is provided.

Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn, formerly of Milton Animal Res cue Centre in Dumbarton, said: “We can confirm we have received reports of alleged abuse within wool farms in Scotland. Our investigations are currently ongoing.”

The upsetting footage has triggered an SPCA investigation.  Following the release of similar footage filmed secretly at farms in England in August, a statement issued by British Wool said it was “shocked and saddened”.

It added: “We would like to point out that the vast majority of the thousands of shearers in the UK operate to the highest standards of animal welfare, which is an integral part of all our shearing courses.”

The RSPCA, which has prosecution powers, tweeted: “We share Peta’s concerns in particular of the poor handling, shearing technique and aggression shown toward the sheep. Our Inspectorate are now investigating the footage to determine any further action.”

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