Baa-ned! Festival sheep race scrapped amid 'cruelty' claims

Credit: Nel Pavletic/PIXSELL/Pixsell/PA Images

Festival organisers in Carmarthenshire have scrapped a 'sheep race' amid concern over the animals' welfare.

The baa-rmy chase was planned as part of the Llandovery Sheep Festival, described as 'the best woolly fun you'll have this year'.

But a petition calling for the 'cruel' event to be banned has attracted more than 60,000 signatures, prompting the festival to confirm it won't use real sheep to race.

Instead, members of the public will take part in a chase down the street - dubbed the drovers' derby.

Samantha Francis, 42, of St Ives, Cambridgeshire, who set up the petition, said: "Using animals for entertainment sends us back to the dark ages and is inexcusable.

"Sheep are not playthings here for our amusement at their expense."

The updated petition now reads: "Wow! After this petition showed organisers the level of opposition to sheep racing, Llandovery Sheep Festival have told us that they have decided not to use real live sheep in their sheep race this year, citing animal welfare concerns.

"They have some other plans afoot which sound like fun, so please show your appreciation on their Facebook page, and if you're local do attend their event on 23-24 September."

John Robins, of Animal Concern Advice Line, said "I am very pleased this race has been cancelled.

"The natural habitat and behaviour of sheep does not include being chased down a main street while being cheered on by a crowd of 5,000 people.

"Sheep racing clearly breaches animal welfare laws and is by no means the comical entertainment you might first think it is. The animals used would be terrified."

A spokeswoman for the festival said: "In previous years' sheep races we applied the highest standards of animal welfare and complied with all regulations.

"But we accept the rights of others to disagree and became aware of calls to cancel the race."