Easter sheep race held for 30 years scrapped after threats from animal rights group

An Easter sheep race which has run for 30 years has been scrapped after farm owners received threats from furious animal rights campaigners and "eco-terrorists".

The animals jump over a series of Grand National-style fences to reach food left at the end of the course, but organisers say they are not coerced in any way.

The event has now been axed after activists and vegans targeted the farm, branding the event "evil" and "inhumane".

Hoo Farm, in Telford, Shropshire, has been entertaining families with their Bank Holiday sheep racing tradition since 1991.

Hoo Farm called off the sheep race after staff received threats. Credit: SWNS

Owner Will Dorrell, 27, has made the decision to cancel the event due to fears for his and his staff's safety after they received physical threats.

Dorrell, who has been running the family-owned business for the last 15 years, said: "We have been branded 'scum', 'vile', 'evil' and 'butchers' and had threats of physical violence.

"Some have suggested coming down with bolt cutters and setting the sheep free - some have threatened violence towards the animals, which is ironic considering they promote animal welfare.

Farmer Will Dorell. Credit: SWNS

"But none of them know how it works and I have been completely transparent and invited them down to prove there is no cruelty or abuse involved.

“They had no interest in that but a petition was launched which attracted quite a lot of signatures in a short space of time.

He added:"Sheep naturally run and jump and we don't use whips or smacking or anything like that - just some treats at the end of the course".

The decision follows a 35,000 signature petition organised by animal rights group Lambentations, which says sheep racing goes against the 'timid nature of sheep'.

Campaigner Samantha Francis, who started the petition, is "very pleased" with the decision to scrap the sheep race.

"We do not believe that animals are ours to use for entertainment - or for any other reason," she said.

"As for the abuse that Hoo Farm claim to have received, Lambentations in no way takes part in, advocates or encourages threats of any nature to anyone. However we have received abuse too."

A spokesperson for The Vegan Society has also welcomed the outcome of the campaign after claiming that the sheep had been "exploited".

“We welcome the decision to cancel the event and view the large petition and public opinion as a sign of the growing compassion towards animals in our society," they said.

"We share the viewpoint with the local campaigners that animal racing of any kind is exploitative and veganism is about more than not abusing animals but also not using them for any purpose".

Mr Dorrell maintains he is "100% happy" that the race does not cause the animals any distress or anxiety.