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Sheep welfare issues

Here are some of the reasons why we're worried about the welfare of sheep.


Lameness can be caused by scald and foot rot, both painful bacterial infections that aren't being prevented or successfully treated in many flocks.

Lameness is sometimes considered to be an inevitable part of sheep farming, but foot rot and scald can be controlled and sometimes even eradicated from a flock.

Castration and tail docking

Both these procedures are painful.

  • Young lambs often have their tails docked to help keep their rear ends clean, which reduces the risk of fly strike.
  • Male lambs are often castrated, mainly to make them easier to manage in later life.

Although these procedures are sometimes intended to try to reduce the risk of other welfare problems, they may not always be as necessary or justifiable as some believe. Where tail docking and castration are unavoidable for welfare reasons, we believe pain relief should be provided if a practical method is available.


Sheep are prey animals that can be easily frightened, stressed or injured by inappropriate handling. They should always be handled carefully and considerately, and should not be unnecessarily isolated from other sheep for long periods.


Sheep suffer from both external and internal parasites.

  • External parasites - such as fly larvaes, 'sheep scab', other mites, ticks and lice. These can cause sheep severe discomfort and distress and, in the case of diseases like flystrike, even death if not spotted and treated quickly.
  • Internal parasites - such as worms and liver fluke. Some worms are becoming resistant to anti-parasite drugs, so farmers are encouraged to use sustainable methods to control worms, such as using drugs effectively and only when needed.


In breeds that have continuously growing wool, adult sheep need shearing at least once a year to help reduce the risk of external parasites and keep the sheep comfortable. Shearing has to be carried out carefully and sympathetically to avoid problems such as handling stress and injuries. It's also important to make sure shorn sheep are managed correctly to protect them from weather conditions.

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