Cambridgeshire

'Cruel' sheep race pulled from Woodditton village fete

Sheep racing in Woodditton Image copyright Care2Petitions
Image caption Sheep racing has been part of Woodditton's village fete for two years

A parish council has pulled a live sheep race from its annual fete over claims the event is "cruel" and "terrifying" for the animals.

The race in Cambridgeshire sees 50 sheep run around a 70m grass track with stuffed toy jockeys on their backs.

However, a petition raised by local campaigners garnered almost 40,000 signatures in a matter of days.

Woodditton Parish Council said it was "conscious of the need to treat animals with care".

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The annual fete in Wooditton takes place on 9 July and the sheep race has been a feature for the last two years.

Image copyright Samantha Francis
Image caption Campaigners started a petition after seeing the event advertised locally

Samantha Francis, who lives locally, started the Care2 petition after seeing a road sign advertising this year's event.

"On 9 July sheep, who are timid, nervous and easily frightened, will be made to race and jump along a race course, in the heat, with a teddy bear tied to their back, while a noisy crowd shout and cheer," she said.

"This must be terrifying for them.

"There will also be a barbecue so they will also be able to smell the dead flesh of their fellow creatures being cooked."

Image copyright Care2Petitions
Image caption The petition was successful in getting the race dropped from the annual fete

In a statement, a parish council spokesman said that in previous fetes "the races were organised and managed superbly and without incident by the professional shepherds".

He added: "The sheep used were mature ewes, not in lamb, and did not carry 'jockeys' of course. The races were straight, with proper barriers and no hazards for the sheep."

But the spokesman said the parish council had decided, along with the owners, not to proceed with the race this year.

"We wouldn't be involved in anything we remotely regarded as cruel," he added.

"But clearly some people do have other views, which we understand."

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