Shearing is a stressful procedure for sheep. The animals are herded by sheepdogs or people, whom sheep are naturally fearful of. This is followed by isolating an animal from the flock, which causes stress in these highly social animals, that are naturally a prey species, fearful of separation and capture. The sheep are then manhandled into awkward and uncomfortable postures, often on their backs, to have their wool coat shorn.
Most shearers are skilled, but the job is very physical and paid by volume rather than hourly. As a result, shearers handle as many sheep as possible in a working day. Tired shearers may become frustrated. When frightened, animals baulk. Video footage has shown Australian shearers punching sheep in the face, kicking them, and subjecting them to even worse, unacceptable abuses.
After shearing, sheep experience the shock of cold – particularly those shorn in winter, in cold climates such as New Zealand’s southern or mountainous regions.