About think Differently About
Sheep in religion and mythology
Sheep in Art
Help Our Sheep
Animal Rights and Why they Matter
Sentience in Farm Animals
Farm Animal Facts
Why Animals matter:
A Religious and Philosophical perspective
Animals in art
Portrait Gallery: Animals do Not
all Look the Same
Links: Action You Can Take
A Memorial to Sooty
A Memorial to Joey
A Memorial To Patch
Canada to End Its Shameful Seal Slaughter
https://Stop The Canadian Seal Hunt
Sentience in Farm Animals main introduction
Liberate our sheep and
To add interest I have
interspersed this commentary with thought provoking
quotations from philosophers, ethicists, scientists
and other notable thinkers both past and present.
The soul is the same in all living creatures, although the body of each is
Hippocrates (?460 BC - ?377 BC)
becoming increasingly evident that sheep are
sentient creatures, in fact there is much evidence
both scientific and anecdotal that all farm animals
"The way the sheep's brain is organised suggests they must have some kind of
emotional response to what they see in the world,"
Dr Keith Kendrick
In 1997 a Protocol was formally added to
the European Treaty recognising animals
as sentient beings.
Research is now validating what to many is obvious.
Firstly, what is sentience?
awareness, consciousness and I will use all three interchangeably. Generally Indications of sentience are intelligence,
ingenuity including the ability to problem solve and
to reason, awareness; including self awareness
and awareness of others of ones own and other species, and the ability to
experience pleasure and conversely suffering both on a physical and emotional level. A sentient creature
is aware of his surroundings, of sensations in his own body, such as hunger,
thirst, heat, cold and pain and the emotions relating to these sensations. In simple terms a
conscious, thinking, feeling being.
Animals it is clear fit into this criteria
in a very similar way to you or I, but perhaps different in some aspects.
Animals have their own kind of sentience and because we may not be able to
relate to this does not mean that other creatures are not as conscious, not as
who knows - perhaps even more conscious, for instance animals are in some way
aware than we are, such as what appears to be a sixth and/or heightened sense. For more comprehensive information, definition and discussion of
sentience with regard to farm animals please refer to
I would like to assert that sheep have the above indications of sentience. Lets
look at a few of the characteristics of sentience and how they present in sheep.
Although not included above specifically we can tell
if a creature is sentient if he or she shows
compassion or is able to form bonds with other animals.
Sheep show compassion! Form bonds!
Judge for yourself.
Jeffery Massom in this book The pig who Sang to
the moon tells the story of Rammo,
" a macho two-year old Ramouillet ram"
who formed a special and compassionate bond with
Whisper, a cow who was born blind.
"Rams tend to be loners, and he was a pretty
tough ram, so it seemed unusual that he would take
up with a blind member of another species. But he
"He would graze next to her all day and guide
her about the field, making certain she did not bump
into the fence or posts...When she had a calf ,
Shout, sired by an Angus bull, Rammo behaved
paternally toward the young animal, more so than
even to his own offspring, several bouncy lambs.
Whisper lived to be four years and than died in 1996
of a viral infection. Rammo mourned her a long time,
standing by her dead body, calling and calling.
More later about the emotions of sheep,
compassion, friendship and the formation of bonds
with other species including our own.
Charles Darwin said:
There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in
their mental faculties ... The difference in mind between man and the higher
animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.
intelligence is often seen as an indication of
However it is important to consider that
sentience exists without intelligence, at least
intelligence according to our perception. Always
keep in mind that an animal's intelligence is not
like our own and even amongst our own species there
are various types and degrees of intelligence.
Therefore intelligence as we understand it is not
necessarily a prerequisite to sentience; an animal
does not necessarily have to have complex abilities
to understand, learn or problem solve in order to be
considered sentient, although of course they may and
indeed do have these abilities also. What may appear
to us to be a lack of intelligence may only appear
to be so by comparison with our own. I consider that
all creatures have intelligence of some type and
would not survive without it. However, regardless of
type or degree the recognition of some level of
intelligence adds weight to the concept of sentience
in non human animals, at least according to the
perspective of many people.
It is just like man's vanity and
impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.Mark Twain
Of all domesticated animals it seems that the sheep is considered as being at
the bottom of the rung with regard to intelligence. Sadly a misconception. New
research shows that the humble sheep once considered a stupid creature is in
fact an intelligent animal. Sheep often caricatured as stupid and mindless with a
heard mentally are indeed anything but, research shows that they are very much
like us, they have a sense of self, have a keen sense of individuality but can
also work together as a group, are crafty and feel emotions similar to our own such
as love, loss and jealously. It may surprise you to know that tests show that
sheep mourn absent individuals, and prefer a smile to scowl.
Dr Keith Kendrick, the neuroscientist at the Babraham Research Institute in
Cambridge, who has led recent research, says that the brains of sheep and humans have an astonishing amount in common. Dr Keith Kendrick reveals that current research indicates that sheep have
abilities which are in many ways comparable with humans. Referring to sheep's
memories he says: "It is a very sophisticated memory system. They are showing
similar abilities in many ways to humans "
research also confirms that sheep
have not only remarkable memories but in addition they experience emotions, when
for instance they see a familiar face.
It has been demonstrated that sheep
can recognise up to fifty faces even in profile, for as long as two years, a sure
indication of intelligence. There is evidence that sheep are also able to form
mental images of other sheep in their absence.
"As they stand huddled with the rest of their flock in what appears like a
grazing stupor, sheep may in fact be visualizing long departed flock mates. Or
forming a mental image of an ovine bully causing it particular distress. Given a
sheep's ability for facial recognition, mixing and matching different flocks of
sheep may be quite distressing to the animal,"
Sheep Are Highly Adept at Recognizing Faces, Study Shows.
Dr Keith Kendrick also states:
"If they can do that with faces, the implication
is that they have to have reasonable intelligence, otherwise what is the point
of having a system for remembering faces and not remembering anything else".
"It does beg the question that sheep must
potentially be able to think about individuals that are absent from their
"We [humans] are obviously capable of
conscious perception of faces using this exact same
system in the brain as is present in the sheep.
Therefore, it would be surprising if they were not
capable of some level of consciousness using that
Listen to BBC's Richard Hollingham's interview
with Dr Keith Kendrick and read the article Amazing
Powers of Sheep
News | SCI/TECH | Amazing powers of sheep
Interestingly Dr Kendrick conjectures that sheep have acquired the reputation of
being stupid simply because they flock together, giving the appearance that they
do not have any individuality and are timid, stressful and fearful creatures.
"Any animal, including humans, once they are scared, they don't tend to show
signs of intelligent behaviour,"
| WALES | The 'intelligent' side of sheep
about Dr Kendrick's research, face recognition and
It has been reported that sheep have the
ability to concentrate and can watch
television. Commenting on this unusual
aspect of a sheep's capabilities Jeffrey
Mason in his book The pig who sang to
the moon says: It
certainly strains credibility to think
they 're watching without any mental
activity; after all, paying attention to
what they see is already a form of
mental activity ."
If you do not believe that sheep watch
TV than you are in for a surprise, at
the end of this webpage.
Scientists in Australia have discovered that sick sheep know how to heal
themselves by eating plants that make them well. Furthermore sheep learn
this from their mothers when they are lambs. Research shows that when they have
a choice sheep will return to a plant that has
helped them in the past.
Dr Revell a scientist
in involved in the research studying sheep nutrition
“It could be that sheep need certain medicinal paddocks where we take them
to self-medicate … or it could be that they need ongoing low-level intakes of
certain plants to keep parasites at bay,”
Self-medicating sheep (Media Release)
The link to this reference is no longer available
“The right plants have to be available to the
animals at the right time. We suspect they need
access to a range of different forage plants to
learn which to choose,”
sheep learnt best from their mothers and knowledge
of medicinal plants may be passed on through
generations of sheep.
appears not only have have
but, like other animals, they have the capacity to
make a choice, and also they know what is good for
them. Incidentally, the fact that sheep know how to
care for themselves rather undermines the argument
that sheep left to roam wild would fall pry to all
sorts of disease, including parasitic infestation,
clearly if sheep are capable of caring for
themselves to some degree in the way described above
this is clearly not the case. Sheep are only
dependent on man because we have made them so. If
sheep where pastured in fields with the appropriate
plants the argument concerning the need for such cruel abusive
would not be valid. Although it has to be said that
there is no compelling reason to carry out these
procedures as other more humane alternatives are
available, and moreover neither Mulesing or tall
docking has been proven to be effective, causing
more suffering and even encouraging the development
of conditions, such as flystike, which they are mean
Farm animals have been reared for many thousands of years to provide food and
clothing rather than as companions. One of the reasons that many people
consider that sheep do not possess the awareness of their pet cat or dog may simply be due to the fact that
there has not been the interaction on a similar level with a farm animal, such as
a sheep. This
is particularly so in our modern society where most people in towns or cities
never see a live farm animal except as they drive by in the car. Also many farm
animals are factory farmed confined in sheds, never seen in their natural
environment. For clearly
when you associate with any farm animal on the same level as your dog or cat a
similar relationship will develop. Once you become familiar with sheep or indeed
any other farm animal their individuality is apparent.
Our concept of farm
animals, in particular sheep, as dumb and unintelligent is simply a result of
habitual learnt thinking, a kind of cultural concept passed from generation to
generation without much thought or analysis on the part of society in general.
Society often does not question the obvious; for instance, consider that even
ancient Greek society with its numerous philosophers never questioned the ethics of
slavery. Likewise many do not question our treatment of farm animals nor
consider them as sentient feeling beings similar to ourselves.
But things are changing and the
more we become aware and interact with farm animals the more we will realise
they are not automatons; meat, milk and leather producing machines put here for
our use and abuse, but sentient creatures with their own needs and their own
We have seen that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and
faculties, such as love, memory, attention and curiosity, imitation, reason,
etc., of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or even sometimes in a
well-developed condition, in the lower animals.
It is accepted that pigs
for example make fine pets,
although I prefer the term companion animals, and similar is the case with
Sheep. (Not that I approve of keeping companion animals who have had of course
no say in the matter; birds in cages, fish in tanks, dogs dragged about by their
necks on leads is not a natural way for any animal to live, however the lot of
well cared for and much loved cat or dog is considerably better than that of a
In a village in Sussex where we once lived, some years ago there
was a lady who had a pet sheep and she interacted with this sheep in the way
more conventional pet owners interact with their cat or dog. My husband and I
often feed local sheep in a nearby field who are clearly pets, “much loved” as
the owner once explained. These sheep recognise you, they interact with you. An
elderly sheep whom we have fed for many years always rushes over, or sadly more
recently hobbles, when we arrive and he did so even after an absence of nearly
two years when we were not able to go and feed him. He bleats with some clear
annoyance when the horses with whom he shares the field receive food that he
thinks is his and bah’s quite loudly with obvious angst when all the food is
gone. He is a delightful creature with a personality all of his own.
In fact when you take the time to observe sheep it will soon become apparent
that each has his or her own personality, some are quite timid and never
approach you whilst others are extremely curious, particularly tiny lambs. Some
may be slightly more aggressive than others albeit with only frantic bleating,
especially ewes with lambs; sheep are of course never a danger to others of
their species or to any other species and are one of the most placid animals you
can find. Look at the faces of sheep, each is an individual and displays
emotion, some sheep look clearly depressed as is the case with the sheep below,
a forlorn looking creature she sat apart from her fellows, although always in
sight of them as sheep are gregarious creatures.
The capacity to suffer, and
not only physical suffering, is indicative of sentience, you can
tell quite easily that this sheep is depressed, her whole demeanour
reflects a sad dejection. I am a sufferer of depression, I can recognise
the condition in others and this includes other animals. This photograph
was taken in the Yorkshire Dales on a particularly bleak day towards the
end of winter, it was one of many days in a rather protracted spell of
wet, damp and very cold weather. In the elevated hilly terrain of the
Yorkshire Dales the weather is particularly inclement, always a few
degrees cooler than at lower levels and life is harsh for sheep which
graze here and there is little or no protection on the bleak hillsides
with few trees or hedges.
Please click the graphic above
to access a larger image
Like humans sheep exhibit varying degrees of intelligence and ingenuity, such
as the sheep who worked out how to cross a cattle grid, this I will tell you
about in more detail a little further on, while others appear less so such as
the ewe who having escaped her field tried to return through the gap in the gate
which was clearly far too small.
In fact escaping from fields is a special
talent of sheep who seem to find exits in places no human appears to foresee.
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
Janet Taylor founder of
Farm Animal Sanctuary
tells this delightful story in
answer to the question - are they stupid:
“Are they stupid... ? Janet laughs:
“You must be joking. There’s the gang of three and working together they can
open any gate on this farm. They stick their tongues through the holes in latch
gates; if a bolt is stiff, one will lean against the gate to ease the pressure
while another slides the bolt back with his mouth and the third kicks it open.”
a Farm Animal org
This amusing account indicates quite clearly that sheep are not only
intelligent, but intelligent with a good deal of ingenuity, they have an obvious
ability to solve problems and work things out and to also work in groups
indicating communication between them. Even though we may not in anyway be aware
of such communication it obviously takes place as the above clearly
demonstrates. The sheep here have clearly worked out between themselves how to
open the gate.
Sheep also show a good degree
of clever cunning. Sheep living in the Yorkshire moors have worked out how to
cross the cattle grid to raid local gardens, the cricket ground and even the
graveyard in a Yorkshire village. Driven by hunger these clever creatures have
devised a way to cross the grid in order to graze in the gardens of the village
by laying on their sides or backs and rolling over and over. In addition these
sheep have perfected the skill of hurling themselves over fences as high as five
feet and squeezing through tight gaps of little more than eight inches. A
spokesperson from the National Sheep Association commenting on this situation
"Sheep are quite intelligent creatures and have
more brainpower than people are willing to give them credit for."
Read the full story:
BBC NEWS |
UK | Crafty sheep conquer cattle grids
My husband and I have witnessed similar escapades. A ram in the Yorkshire
dales has worked out how to cross the grid which leads from his field into the
lane which affords fresh grazing, he simply and quite nimbly walks across the
grid with far more agility than I could mange.
Surely even the simple action of seeking shade as you can see in the
photograph below when the sun is hot or shelter in inclement weather has to be
figured out, and demonstrates intelligence and the ability to reason.
Sheep find shade on a very
warm afternoon in September
Make no mistake and assume that sheep simply stand firm during hot or adverse
weather and endure it because they are too stupid to do otherwise; this is often
a misconception many people have which gives credence to the idea that sheep
lack intelligence; if shade or shelter is available they will make good use of
it. If you observe carefully you will notice that the only time sheep endure
driving rain, snow or blistering heat is when they are trapped in fields which
offer no protection. So when you see sheep which appear oblivious to all
weathers, in most cases you will notice this is only so because they have no
choice as there is no shelter. Regrettably people misinterpret this kind of
seemingly oblivious behaviour as indicative of a lack of intelligence and
In addition to face recognition of as many as fifty sheep as mentioned
earlier it is now known that sheep can recognise the faces of at least ten
people for at the very minimum of two years, which incidentally is something I
cannot do, having a problem with face recognition. The same Research cited
earlier at Cambridge University demonstrates also that sheep react to our facial
expressions responding more favourably to a smile than a frown.
able to recognise faces that differ by less than 5% so we thought perhaps they
could recognise emotions which are much more subtle," "It turns out they can,
both human, smiling versus angry; and sheep, stressed versus calm."
Intelligence however is not the only criterion which qualifies sheep as
sentient. However sadly - intelligence is it seems, our main yardstick of worth and for many
an important criterion in the consideration of whether or not a creature is
sentient, and not only in the consideration of other animals but also with
regards to our own species.
Sheep have been considered dumb most likely because it is in the interests of
those who exploit animals for profit to encourage this fallacy, mostly notably
the meat industry who wish to promote the misconception that animals are not
Awareness of self and others can only manifest in
a sentient creature.
Awareness of others of their kind, and indeed other species and a sense of
self is also is an important criterion is accessing the presence of sentience. Sheep more than many
creatures are aware of others of their species. Research demonstrates that when
sheep are isolated from their flock they clearly experience stress, this is
indicated by an increase in heart rate, the production of stress hormones and
frantic loud bleating. Although anyone who works with sheep or regularly visits
the countryside does not need the confirmation of test results to notice the
anxiety, and indeed fear, when a sheep becomes isolated from his or her flock.
Incidentally sheep recognise their own particular flock. Recently in the
Yorkshire Dales a lamb had somehow escaped her field and was frantically running
back and forth, her frenzied bleating echoing round the entire valley until with
some encouragement from my husband she finally found her way into her own field
and was reunited with her flock. Previously her frantic bleating had not abated
by entering a field occupied by a different flock. Another time a sheep busy
grazing failed to notice that the flock had moved on, her distress was not only
clearly audible with frenetic bleating and running with some considerable haste
to join her flock, but the sheer presence of stress in her whole demeanour
couldn't be missed. During research it was found that stress in such situations
was reduced when the sheep where shown pictures of other sheep whom they knew,
being shown pictures of goats a very similar creature to which sheep are closely
related and pictures of triangles did not have the same effect. These examples of
course not only show that sheep are aware of other sheep, but also that sheep
have excellent memories.
A Lamb more than any other baby animal recognises his or her mother. Below is an
observation of this made in the Aberdeen bestiary written in 1200
The lamb is called agnus possibly from the Greek word agnos, pious. Some
think that it gets the Latin form of its name because, more than any other
animal, it recognises, agnoscere, its mother, so much so that, even if it strays
in the midst of a large flock, it recognises its mother's voice by her bleat and
hurries to her. It seeks out also the sources of mother's milk which are
familiar to it. The mother recognises her lamb alone among many thousands of
others. Lambs in large numbers make the same baa-ing noise and look the same,
yet she picks out her offspring among the others and by her great show of
tenderness identifies it as hers alone.
Text f21r The ram, the lamb, the he-goat - The Aberdeen Bestiary.
Sheep like humans have different personalities
and personality traits in
varying degrees. For instance not all sheep are timid as everyone thinks, and
for those who are, again as with people this trait of personality is varied.
Some sheep flee at the slightest noise or movement, whist others are incredibly
bold. The delightful creature below followed us around one day last summer
during a visit to the Cheviot hills. She showed no fear whatsoever. We were able
to feed her and when we arrived back at the car she peered in making us feel
really guilty as we ate our lunch until we gave her my apple slice. One of the
most unusual aspects was the effect her following us about had on other sheep grazing nearby, who observed her boldness and unusual
behaviour with obvious curiosity and dare I say it with some surprise.
Please click the graphic above to access a larger image
Anyone visiting the Horse Shoe pass in North Wales will tell you of the very
bold sheep who graze there and who loiter around the café and souvenir shop at
the summit. The sheep approach you quite freely with none of the normal timidity
which most people associate with sheep. They will even push their heads right
through an open window or door of your car as they fearlessly pursue a tasty
titbit. This year whilst holidaying in the area we saw sheep chasing a group of
children, in a friendly way of course, who where feeding them hoping to obtain more food.
Many years previously we had a similar experience concerning the ancestors of
these sheep. It is clear that these sheep have learnt that in this area there is
a good chance of a free meal, something a little more tasty than grass and they
have also learnt, that at least in this circumstance, to loose their fear of man
and even his dog. Although I cannot prove this it seems clear to me that the
sheep here have passed on such knowledge and behaviours to their descendents.
There are examples of this type of learnt behaviour being passed from one
generation to another in other creatures. For instance swans who reside at the
Bishops Palace Gardens in Wells, Somerset, who ring a bell for food. Swans in the
nineteenth century where trained to do this and now the present generation of
swans continue to do so having learnt this from their ancestors.
At the Summit of Horse Shoe
pass in North Wales sheep have lost their
timidity and will not only approach you when
food is offered but will pester you the instant
you arrive even before you can get out of the
car. As soon as you open the door a sheep will
poke her head inside, as did the sheep in the
photograph below and this was the reason I was
able to get such a good close up.
Here a mother and daughter relax
unperturbed amidst the crowds of
people who stop at this popular
place, including exuberant children and the noise of
motorcycles. The sheep here have learnt that it is safe and they will
not only come to no harm but they can obtain a frequent supply of food
from people who stop to admire the view.
Please click the
graphics above to access a larger image
: You are not advised to feed sheep, this may cause them
harm. We did this before realising that sheep should not
be fed food such as bread, cakes and pastries.
Having made the above warning, it is apparent
that sheep, like us, prefer
food that is not considered healthy.
They may know what is healthy as in the example
earlier, but rather like us they often choose to
In fact sheep have a great passion for food and will pursue the chance of a
feed at every opportunity sometimes with comical results. As the account of a
hill walker shows.
"A few years
ago I had an experience which I can only describe as
'sheep mugging' whilst trying to eat lunch on Pen Twyn
Glas above Crickhowell. I was literally attacked for my
lunch by a very persistent sheep, she even pushed her
lamb out the way to get at my sandwiches.
My friends were highly amused as she targeted me alone.
They said it was because I was a vegetarian - my
sandwiches contained dairy-free soya cheese spread which
the sheep thought was wonderful! "
What do sheep eat - Walking & Hiking Questions & Answers
Again whist on holiday some years ago during the foot and mouth outbreak when it
was more important to confine sheep to their fields, a local farmer’s sheep in
Northumberland persistently strayed from the field. We once saw them climbing
over the wall despite the farmer yelling at them. They would wander round the
hamlet entering gardens, eating the flowers and other plants without any concern
whatsoever. I recall arriving back to our cottage from a day's outing to find it
full of sheep grazing on the lawn and flower beds, a comical sight indeed, they
simply looked up from their eating but made no effort to move. At first we
shooed them away out of concern for the owner’s garden and all the effort that
was put into it. But after a
the sheep became bold and instead of scurrying away one
morning they simply looked up at me as I tried to shoo them away and carried on
eating. They had long since worked out that they were in no danger and now
therefore ignored attempts to chase them away.
As was mentioned
previously, for an animal to be capable of
compassion clearly demonstrates sentience. Recall
the story earlier of Rammo the sheep. Sheep it seems
experience a whole range of emotions. In his article "Unto us a lamb is given"
Horatio Clare while commenting on the emotions of sheep quotes Dr Kendrick
repudiating the misconception that ewes do not notice
when their lambs are taken from them but instead cry for
"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."
Extract From the Spectator
Love, which was once thought an emotion exclusive only
to man, is not so exclusive after all. Scientists have
found that sheep can fall in love and that they
experience other powerful human-like emotions also:
More comments upon and
quotes from Dr Kendrick's
research in the extract
below from a Times on line
article: How was it for ewe?
Sheep's love lives revealed
by Jonathan Leake, Science
I have to say here that although this research
helps to provide scientific confirmation of the
sentience and intelligence of sheep, and is therefore of
great value in changing people attitudes towards sheep
and other farm animals, some of the experiments, as you
will read in this article where invasive.
And some of the sheep where
"painlessly killed "
afterwards which can never be justified in any circumstance.
In the above article you
will read that research
shows ewes fall in love with
rams, have friends and also
feel desolate when those
close to them die or are
sent for slaughter. Its a
fact ewes are distraught and
when their lambs are weaned
and are taken from them,
most often to be
slaughtered. However without
complex research it is
obvious to anyone who has
the time and inclination to
observe sheep in thier own
environment - or even in
circumstances that are
unnatural and indeed
stressful such as in the
example below of sheep at a
local sheep show - that sheep
display affection and like
you and I have relationships and personal attachments.
Watching sheep you can see that they are friendly
towards one another displaying signs of affection.
Observe sheep rubbing heads, one sheep laying his or
her head on the back of another sheep - just two signs of affection my husband and
I have personally seen.
Sheep at a local sheep show
rub heads affectionately,
notice the look of sheer contentment on their faces
Sheep are often seen resting
their heads on the back of
Library: Vegan Peace
JJ and Bonnie - (c) 2005 by
Wanda Embar, Vegan Peace.
Picture taken at Farm
These affectionate siblings
curl up closely to one
another in the warmth of the
Sentient Sheep in the
photograph gallery to view
and download similar
photographs showing sheep
As we have already seen compassion, also indicative of sentience is clearly present in
sheep. Compassion like intelligence though varies in degrees in all creatures
including humans. Whilst training dogs for the blind it has been observed that
some dogs are more compassionate than others, some simply cannot be trained to
assist blind people as they do not have a great enough degree of compassion. The
fact that such emotions vary in other animals as they do with humans is to my
mind clear indication of not only sentience but individuality, a
characteristic which most people wrongly seem to consider as not present, particularly
in farm animals and most
It is said that sheep have no feelings
and that if one of their number falls and cannot get up the others simply ignore
him and carry on grazing in total disregard. This I can most assuredly tell you
is simply not true. During a holiday to the West Country my husband, son and I
observed a lamb fall to the ground in a nearby field. The poor little creature
struggled to get back on his feet, his hooves flailing in the air. Sheep
find it difficult to right themselves if they fall on their backs, they seemingly
have a weak hip and are unable to get up and will die within an hour if they
receive no assistance. Sometimes in older sheep this may happen simply after
laying down on their side. Now the flock did not simply move on oblivious to the
plight of the unfortunate lamb and leave him to his fate, rather several ewes
tried to push him up with their snouts. It was a
struggle but finally to our profound relief, as it would mean us climbing over
the fence to take action, the lamb finally struggled to his feet. On another
occasion whilst visiting the Cheviot hills in Northumbria a lamb got himself
struck lower down the hill. The other sheep including his mother could do very
little to help, but nevertheless they did not move on and instead peered down
the hill with obvious concern and remained there until the lamb finally found
his way to the top.
The evidence that sheep can make friends with other creatures both human and non human
Read this heart warming story from What the Animals Teach Us
Kathy Stevens, Catskill Animal Sanctuary.
"When Rambo, a large Jacob sheep,
arrived, he was so dangerous
that our safety was at risk.
He'd stand on his rear legs,
charge, and attempt to send us
flying with his massive horns.
"Oh, it's the breed," we were
told by a woman who raised
Jacobs. "I've had to put down
almost all my males." Today,
Rambo wanders through the
barnyard, greeting other animals
and following us as we feed. At
night, he walks to our
director's house and stands
outside her office window,
calling to her to come out and
keep him company. When she walks
the farm late each night, he
accompanies her. With guests, he
is gentle and affectionate,
often leaning against a thigh in
hopes of a head scratch. He
seeks out Dino the pony, who
gently nibbles on his wool,
licks his face and horns as the
two stand head to head.
Surrounded by love, Rambo has
dropped his defences."
Isn't it amazing how sheep are transformed when we take the time to really
get to know them
The question is not, "Can they reason?" nor, "Can they talk?" but rather,
"Can they suffer?"
The Capacity to suffer is
indicative of sentience; to feel pain one has to be aware. Animals feel pain,
surely this is common sense. It is clear that animals feel pain in the same way
as you or I and this why there are laws that prohibit cruelty to animals because
it is generally accepted that animals feel pain. At least it is concerning
animals we keep as pets. However in farming this consideration seems less so.
There is often little consideration given to the inescapable fact that farm
animals feel pain, and often very painful procedures are carried out on all farm
animals including sheep, one of which is Mulesing. This
is a practice which obvious to anyone is extremely painful.
Mulesing is carried out without anaesthetic during the procedure or pain killers
of any kind afterwards, during mulesing skin and flesh is cut of with a pair of
shears around the lambs backside, it takes between 22 and 30 days to heal.
And sign a petition
More about mulesing on this website:
This produces a bald breach area which is said to prevent fly strike by
stopping the accumulation of faeces and urine which attracts blow flies to lay
their eggs. Fly strike is a truly awful blight, the sheep can literally be eaten
alive by maggots. However the cure is as bad as the disease and in some cases
may cause the disease itself as of course open
wounds are susceptible to infection or infestation. There are other
more humane alternatives, such as pesticides and simply checking that sheep are
not infected see
The point is that contrary to what is often claimed, although it is plainly
obvious to anyone with any common sense, there is scientific evidence that sheep
do indeed suffer both during and after these procedures.
Farm animals including sheep are like us in many ways,
the most important of which is that they all have a
brain and a nervous system, just like you,
your cat or dog, therefore it is common sense that if you or your pet feel pain then so do they.
There is so much evidence concerning the
sentience of farm animals including sheep and If you
need persuasion other than common sense please read
the section on this website:
Sentience in Farm animals
In addition to scientific evidence there
is so much anecdotal evidence that is truly overwhelming which leads to the
conclusion that sheep and indeed other farm animals are sentient. People
understand this given the opportunity to get to know these gentle creatures as
was the case for a Pennsylvanian farmer and his wife,
whose sheep farm was next to a farm sanctuary. After
visiting neighbouring OohMahNee Farm animal sanctuary and helping feed new born lambs, gradually the perspective
of the farmer and his wife changed and they saw their live stock as sentient
creatures, individuals capable of both joy and pain with interests of their own.
Finally they gave up the business of farming and gave their entire
stock to the Farm sanctuary.
The more time the couple spent next door at the sanctuary, the more they
changed inside. They began to see animals as living, feeling creatures, rather
than tools of production. They started building relationships with their own
sheep and realized that farm animals do feel joy and pain, and that they do have
their own interests. They learned, first-hand, that animals enjoy life and fear
death, just as people do.
When the farmer and his wife helped raise and bottle-feed two fragile,
newborn lambs who had been abandoned by their mother, they felt closer to their
animals than they ever had before. When they witnessed the stillbirth of a lamb,
or saw one of their flock taken by a predator, they allowed themselves to feel
sadness. Most importantly, the farmer and his wife no longer felt comfortable
sending their animals to slaughter.
Finish reading this heart warming story.
Pennsylvania Farmer's Compassionate
Decision Brings Nine Sheep to Live at
In the next story not only can one man's
pet sheep watch TV but he is an all
round intelligent and friendly creature,
truly sentient. Proving the idea that
if you get to know sheep as individuals
you will find some amazing characters
far more clever and aware than most of
us have realised. This story clearly
shows that given the opportunity a sheep
really is no different than your cat or
Rescued as a lamb the now 22 stone sheep
is quite at home in his rescuer's home
where he is now as much a part of the
family as a more conventional pet. The
sheep, a ram named Nick Boing likes to
sit and watch TV and go for a ride in
the car, says his owner:
intelligent than your average sheep that's stuck in a
He's in the house and
in the car and meeting people over the park and around
"He's part of the
family. He comes in every evening, head-butts the
off the settee and watches TV.
"If the biscuit
barrel is out he'll butt it on the floor because he
knows the lid will come off.
"Come 11pm he'll have
a swede or an apple and then he's out for the night.
Please read the full story:
Sheep is unusual new house pet |
The old assumption that animals acted exclusively by instinct, while man had
a monopoly of reason, is, we think, maintained by few people nowadays who have
any knowledge at all about animals. We can only wonder that so absurd a theory
could have been held for so long a time as it was, when on all sides the
evidence if animals' power of reasoning is crushing.
experience anything a creature has to be sentient,
if we can see that an animal experiences pleasure
this is added evidence that he or she is sentient. I
think there can be little doubt in anyone minds that
sheep experience pleasure. Who has not seen spring
lambs gambol, indeed who has not seen a fully grown
ewe suddenly leap and frolic.
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
Watch these delightful videos of lambs playing, surely
there can be no doubt that these creatures are
YouTube - Baa Baa Black Sheep Have you any wool
Lambs enjoy playing King of the castle as you can
see here on another U Tube video:
YouTube - Lambs Playing King of the Castle
Notice how the little lamb jumps through the gap in
the bars to join in the fun.
I think the day is coming, a day long overdue, that
the true nature of farm animals will realised, and
that in time we will treat sheep and other farm
animals with the respect and compassion that they
are due and allow them the right to life without
negative interference and molestation.
Shame on such a morality that is worthy of pariahs, and that fails to
recognize the eternal essence that exists in every living thing, and shines
forth with inscrutable significance from all eyes that see the sun!
Artur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
References and links
Some of the information above was gleaned from the sources below
where you can find more information about sentience
Sheep Are Highly Adept at Recognizing Faces, Study Shows
Veganism - Compassion
Sheep might be dumb ... but they're not stupid | UK news | The Observer
us a lamb is given by Horatio Clare.
The link to the original article in the
longer functions the extract below
appears on various website on the net.
15th December 2001,
When you wean lambs from ewes, both
mothers and children cry for days.
……………. 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
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
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
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
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
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
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other matters, please read