Sheep may be transported considerable distances to slaughter, with some journeys lasting 24 hours or more. DEFRA figures up to the end of June 2006 for example indicate that almost 7,000 British sheep were transported to France and Germany in the first half of the year alone.
As of the 5th January 2007, new regulations have come into place whereby vehicles used to transport animals for 8 hours or more must be licensed to ensure that they are equipped with drinking systems and temperature monitors.
Live transport can be extremely distressing for the animals. Millions of sheep are exported each year from Australia to the Middle East. These animals have to endure overseas journeys sometimes lasting weeks at a time. Those intended for religious (ritual) slaughter are killed without pre-stunning when they reach their final destination.
Over 14 million sheep (14,294,600) were slaughtered in the UK in 2010 (15,539,900 were killed in 2009)(1). Sheep are stunned first, unless they are destined for religious (ritual) slaughter. They are then killed by having the blood vessels in their throat slit (sticking). The animal dies by being bled to death.
Sheep are usually stunned electrically whereby an electric current is applied by means of two electrodes in the form of tongs. These are placed on either side of the brain. The current should induce a state of immediate epilepsy (electroplectic shock) in the brain, during which time the animal is unconscious. Stunning may often be ineffective and sheep may regain consciousness during bleeding-out or even before throat-slitting.
Wool accounts for 5-10% of the total value of a ewe. Most British wool is used for coarse fabrics such as carpets, with over 65% of the clip being used in carpet manufacture. Native breeds, such as Scottish Blackface, Herdwick and Cheviot, grow wool which is naturally designed to withstand harsh winds, driving rain and snow. The UK produces 1% of the world’s raw wool, approximately 50,000 tonnes per year(1). The majority are sheared at around 14 months old and then once a year. Lambs of some breeds may be clipped to provide lambs wool. The entire fleece is sheared in one piece. Sheep have been selectively bred to produce a thick fleece and are sheared early summer to prevent heatstroke. Wild sheep do not need to be sheared. Nearly 1/3 of British wool is from slaughtered sheep, this is referred to as skin wool. Other by-products derived from sheep include leather and lanolin. Lanolin (wool fat) acts as a waterproofing wax and is used widely in cosmetics.
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