Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ulverston area — sheep, dogs and thieves.

When we moved to Ulverston in 1985, the first people we got to know were our neighbours and dog walkers (followed by friendly shopkeepers and counter assistants). A smile and hello from the doggy people we met while exercising our Golden retriever (followed by our Border Collie) were great blessings as they gave us a sense of belonging. Likewise the cheery 'good morning' of those who served us in the shops, and even the greeting of us by name in the bank and Building Society.
We may not have our roots in this area but are associated through family ties, especially to the land.

The farmers have been through severe times over the years and extra paperwork adds to their burden. Now they have to guard their stock from gangs of thieves who rob them of their livelihood. Whether rare breed or common stock, it does not matter to them. Money is their only god and him only do they serve. Shame has no meaning — getting caught, to them is their only folly!
What happens to the poor animals? Are they slaughtered away from prying eyes, without the benefit of humane methods? Unless they are sold in the usual markets, by one illegal means or another, I can't see an alternative. We have no idea what suffering these animals go through. Well, it's for certain, we keep an eye on the field gates near to us, especially if we see a van parked.

Another matter. I love dogs, I miss the ones we used to have and often pat the friendly ones we meet when out walking. (One lovely old spaniel grins and sits on my feet) I like sheep too, in the spring we delight in the lambs that frisk in the fields. Sadly, dogs and sheep don’t always mix. When dog owners allow their pets freedom to run wild when out walking, sheep are highly vulnerable. This should not happen.
Last month a dog (or dogs) savaged two sheep grazing in a field not far from the town. It looked like the dogs had tried to tear the legs from the sheep. As well as terrified, the poor animals must have been in agony. The wounds were ghastly and yet the dog owner left the sheep to suffer and die. The farmer could have been contacted, even if a name had not been left. Callous? What do you think? At least, when on holiday, when we found a lamb wounded and another with its eyes pecked out, we quickly found the farmer to alleviate the suffering and save further lambs from the crows.
Notices are sometimes around fields warning dog walkers to keep off the land, or keep to footpaths. especially where there is valuable livestock. It is an offence to allow a dog to run loose. On the whole, farmers are pretty good, especially if we stick to footpaths. Or if we keep dogs well under control on common land.
Sheep-worrying does not just take place in the spring. Nor does worrying only involve sheep, it can take place amongst any valuable stock. Best to keep dogs off grazing land and on a leash while walking country footpaths, otherwise the dog owner is more guilty than their pet if an incidence occurs.
To those who think their dog would never attack any person or animal, be assured ‘friendly’ dogs from three months to twelve years will attack sheep for the sheer fun of it. This has been proved by extensive studies carried out in Australia and elsewhere.
Leaving aside, the legal aspect and cost to farmers, dog owners should consider the suffering experienced by sheep when attacked, and the fact that once a dog has tasted the meat it is likely to attack again. Farmers are allowed to protect their livestock — dog owners beware!

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