South Scotland

Cruelty campaigner targets Moffat sheep racing event

Sheep racing Image copyright Michael McGurk
Image caption The races have been held in Moffat since 2012

A petition has been launched to have an annual sheep racing event in Moffat scrapped on grounds of animal cruelty.

Protestor Samantha Francis got a similar event cancelled at a church fete in Cambridgeshire after gathering nearly 40,000 signatures.

Now she has turned her attention to the races due to be held in August in the Dumfries and Galloway town.

However, organisers have insisted animal welfare is a top priority at the Scottish event.

Ms Francis has been successful in getting Woodditton Parish Council to drop the event from its annual fete.

Image copyright Michael McGurk
Image caption Large crowds turn out to see the race each year in the south of Scotland town

She is now seeking similar action in Moffat.

"I think all racing involving animals is cruel so yes I do believe sheep racing is cruel," she said.

"No-one asks the sheep, they're made to run - often they are chased to get them to run because I don't believe they run over great distances naturally.

"These sheep are coming from farms, I believe, so basically what we are doing is we are telling them to entertain us and then we are slaughtering them and eating them.

"It is taking the mick, really, I think, to be honest."

'Risk reputations'

The Moffat sheep races take place on the town's High Street and attract thousands of visitors.

Organiser Sarah Ottewell strongly defended the event and how the animals are treated.

"I don't think Moffat Promotions Group would have the support of the local farming community and the sheep farm who supplies the sheep and the sheep handlers and shepherds and everybody who helps with the event if it was cruel," she said.

"They wouldn't risk their livelihoods and their reputations being involved in something that could be seen as cruel."

She added that checks on any animal welfare issues had been made before the event started in 2012.

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