Sheep are very intelligent animals and are capable of problem solving. They are nearly as clever as pigs, who are smarter than dogs. In addition to excellent hearing and a great sense of smell, sheep feel many emotions, and like humans, prefer relaxed or happy faces to sad or angry ones. Sheep are highly social and like to be in a group. The leader of the flock is an elderly female because of her experience loving and caring for younger sheep.
Sheep farmed for wool can be roughly handled when being shorn, which is traumatic for these sensitive creatures.
Many sheep in New Zealand are farmed for their meat. Nearly 20 million lambs and 3 million mutton (adult) sheep were killed for their meat in 2016. Sheep farmed for food only live a short amount of what their natural life would be; for lambs that is less than a year.
Though there are far fewer sheep farmed for milk in New Zealand than overseas, there are still more than 30,000 dairy sheep. Sheep milk is a growing industry in New Zealand. Sadly, like cows, sheep farmed for milk have to have their babies taken away from them so the milk can be sold to humans. Like dairy cows they can suffer from painful udder infections and lameness (not being able to walk) as well.
Live export for slaughter has been banned in New Zealand since 2003, but live animals are still being exported for breeding purposes. These animals can still face horrifying journeys, crammed on ships for weeks, even months, at a time. These animals are often slaughtered, after giving birth, in painful ways that would be illegal in New Zealand.
Keeping warm without wool is easy. There are lots of warm winter fabrics now to choose from. You could try bamboo clothing which is highly durable, soft and sustainable – and will keep you warm and cosy.
There are lots of great alternatives to sheep meat, milk and cheese. Try our Plant-Based Challenge to learn more.
Eating a plant-based diet is the most important thing you can do to help animals. It's a simple switch, but it makes a big difference. You'll feel great knowing that you are putting your values into action. Challenge yourself to give it a try. We bet you’ll find it tastier and easier than you ever imagined!
As a charity, SAFE is reliant on the support of caring people like you to carry out our valuable work. Every dollar goes towards providing education, undertaking research and campaigning for the benefit of all animals.