There are lots of ways to help sheep, whether you eat meat or not. Sheep are very shy so tend to not come up to you in fields, unlike cows. But sheep are intelligent (they have the same IQ as cattle) and curious creatures who have been proven to recognise smiling faces. There are big welfare issues, including live transport and ritual slaughter. Also see ideas for better farm animal welfare.
There are over 1 billion sheep on earth (most live in Mongolia, New Zealand, Australia, China and Turkmenistan). Ewes are extremely good mothers who in a field of thousands of sheep, will recognise their lambs simply by the sound of their bleats. They can see 300 degrees to see predators without turning their heads, and even if grazing low down, can still see what’s going around them, thanks to their rectangular eyes.
Helping Sheep in Fields
- Don’t disturb sheep in fields, they are nervous creatures who can miscarry, if scared. Open Sanctuary suggests leaving sheep to walk away if you see them (back off slowly from rams as they may charge, if you turn your back). If you see one on its back call the farmer or go and right it yourself or it will die (sheep can’t get back up alone). This often happens if sheep are pregnant or when rain has soaked the wool (once upright, hold the sheep until the rain drains away).
- Keep dogs safe near livestock, to protect both creatures. See how to find good dog walks for tips on following the Countryside Code: in summer – keep dogs on short leads on open access land between 1 March and 31 July, and see The Ramblers Association for info on safe dog-walking near livestock. Obviously keep dogs on leads near sheep.
- If concerned about any sheep or barnyard creature, report to RSPCA (this can be anonymous).
- Support your local sheep sanctuary. These include Sheep Sanctuary (Yorkshire), Fleece Haven (Devon), Sheep Ahoy (Kent) and The Farm Animal Sanctuary (Worcestershire). Thank Ewe!
Other Ways to Help Sheep
- Buy tees, hoodies and beanies from clothing brands that help animals.
- Only give to humane charities. This is kinder and more effective. British Heart Foundation recently did an experiment that involved putting plastic bags over the heads of ewes and lambs, to suffocate.
- Buy instruments free from ‘cat gut’ (from sheep).
Vegan Alternatives to Lamb
- Vegan ‘Rack of Lamb’ (Gourmandelle)
- Vegan Greek-Style Roast Lamb
- Vegan Lamb Burger
- Vegan Donor Kebab & Vegan Kebab
- Gaz’s Meaty Vegan Kebabs
If you eat lamb or mutton, look for brands that say ‘outdoor pasture, ‘grass-fed’ or ideally ‘certified organic’. Although we see sheep in fields, a small percentage (still hundreds of thousands) are factory-farmed. The same info applies for if you buy sheep milk or cheese.
If you are Muslim, One Arab Vegan has info on how you can still be vegan, Ramadan & Islamic vegan lifestyles). Find recipes in the book Vegan Recipes from the Middle East. Or try My Dad’s Not Mutton Mushroom Curry.
A Short History of the World According to Sheep is a fascinating read, that will change the way you view our woolly friends forever. England has millions of sheep grazing our lands, and whether you refuse to eat them or wear wool (or whether you do eat them and wear wool, but want better welfare for them), this book is going to make you love sheep for the rest of your lives.
From the plains of ancient Mesopotamia to the vast sheep farms of modern-day Australia, sheep have been central to the human story. These remarkable animals are far from stupid, and even have rectangular eyes to see who is approaching from behind. This book weaves a colourful and vivid tapestry of engaging anecdotes and extraordinary ovine facts, to celebrate how sheep live alongside us in the countryside.