Cruelty in Shearing: Cause and Effect 

12-Aug-2014

In light, of the PETA report and the horrific videos of cruelty, the industry is reviewing all aspects of the issue. Part of the process includes working out what are the real problems versus what are the 'symptoms' of the problem: A shearer being rough and in the extreme being cruel to a sheep, comes about for two possible reasons: They are a complete 'psycho' and although we may want to joke that there are plenty of 'psychos' around us, the probability of this is about the same as an axe-murderers living in your town. The second and real reason is that they are frustrated people. Where the frustration stems from is one of the first questions the industry needs to ask its self.

What is the Cause?

Without being too clever about this, all of us can list down numerous reasons that cause this frustration: Skill level (training), personal problems, intoxication, fatigue, dissatisfaction with employer, working conditions etc, however the one underlying factor that is indisputable and is mentioned consistently by shearers and shearing contractors alike as being a 'causal factor', is 'full' or 'hot' sheep i.e sheep that have not been 'fasted' sufficiently prior to them being presented for shearing. 

How long is enough?

Most contractors and workers in the industry are aware that the Award calls for a minimum of a 4 hours of 'yarding' prior to shearing. That said, Kangaroo Island contractor, Paul McMahon suggested that the industry needs to acquaint themselves with the NZ Occupational Health & Safety Service's (NZ's equivalent of Workcover) document that was 'signed off' by the NZ Minister of Ag, NZ Vets Assoc, NZ Federated Farmers, NZ Contractors Association and plenty of other relevant industry bodies. This document recommends that full grown sheep should by 'emptied out' for a minimum of 20 hours prior to shearing, a far cry from the 4 hours in the Award. I would encourage members to read the document or at least review the summary table on Page 9. Of course the findings in the document need be put into seasonal conditions such as drought where sheep may be poor. In these circumstances, the appropriate reduction in fasting times should be implemented.  

The SCAA is working with other industry bodies to come up with Code of Practice for the industry that is applicable to all parties including Wool growers and shearing industry workers. The Association is not advocating that extending the fasting period of sheep is the 'silver bullet', however distributing the information in this document to wool growers and tactfully making them aware of the need to present their flocks to their shed as per the summary (time) table, is an essential step in resolving this very serious problem. (And the good thing about this particular solution, is that it is free !) 

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