Ok, so I don't normally get all fired up about these sorts of issues, you know, the ones where uninformed extremist ridiculous groups jump up and down and cause a stink but this one is close to my heart and everything else. It is what keeps me and my family fed, clothed and a roof over our heads.
This gorgeous shearer here is my husband....mutton chops and all. This is what he does for a living.
Here he is again. Looks pretty damn uncomfortable doesn't it.
This is a photo of him dragging out the next sheep to be shorn. Heavy? Yes.
Then this is what he does next...after dragging it out...
So....take the catching, dragging and shearing and multiply that by say...ummm...200 times in a DAY...yes, I said in a day, and that is my husband's job. This is the job of shearers everywhere. Doesn't look easy now does it. Once my husband did this 280 times in a day, his current best day, and no doubt one day he will hit his 300. (I'm so proud of him! He works so hard.)
You also need to understand how difficult it can be to shear. The sheep weighs a lot, and I mean a lot, and then it will wriggle when being shorn, which adds another level of difficulty on to the process for the shearers. In Summer it reaches unbearable temperatures in the shed, it is back breaking work and the sheep don't always behave. Come on, they are sheep. They aren't that smart. This is the reality. Then put into the equation that the shearer has a handpiece in their hand that has sharp cutters on it. Then add the fact that this handpiece is switched on and is actually quite dangerous. (ie. I have heard a story about a shearer who was working and the sheep kicked his hand, which was holding the handpiece, which then stabbed into the shearers neck, and he bled to death on the boards.) Tell me now, if the sheep is wriggling and kicking and is a risk to your well being are you going to give it a pat and ask it nicely to calm down?
No, there is no need to bash the crap out of the sheep but a certain element of man handling has to happen, not only for your safety but the safety of those around you. This includes the rouseabouts, the wool classer, the other shearers and anyone else in the shed.
It annoys me when groups decide to sneak in and collect footage over months and try and find the isolated incidents that make shearing and the whole wool industry look barbaric. You know what would be barbaric? Having no wool industry. Not only would my family have to go on welfare (would you, the taxpayer, like to pay for me to live??) but these sheep wouldn't fare too well either.
Have these animal activist people thought about what would happen to all these sheep if the wool industry was banned? I highly doubt it. Do they realise that farmers wouldn't let their sheep roam free growing all the wool they liked so they resemble hippies with dreadlocks? All that wool would be really really heavy, hot, uncomfortable and not to mention maggoty. Do these people understand what flies do? This gets back to the whole mulesing debate really but when flies lay eggs they hatch in to maggots, which get into the folds of the sheep's skin, and then they have a good old munch on the sheep. While it's still alive. Nice hey?
The reality is that if the wool industry is banned then all the sheep would have to go to market to be sold and then eaten..but of course the market would be flooded so they wouldn't be worth anything and it would cost the farmer more to send it on the truck to the market to be worth bothering with, soooooo.....all the sheep would be systematically shot. In the head. Having seen this done dear animal activists I can tell you, it's not pretty. It's also pretty traumatic for the farmers who have to carry out this horrible act.
As well as shearing we also earn an income from our own flock of sheep.
They are well looked after. This includes my husband shearing them (started yesterday so that he could give them a de-lousing treatment..which was expensive, but we care about the health of our animals and the quality of the wool they produce), and when they are lambing he will go out at night in the cold and shoot any foxes that are trying to nab the babies.
Farmers care about their livestock because this is where they make their living. They are not going to mistreat something that provides them with their income otherwise it will stop providing them with an income. If this sounds like we are 'using' animals then get over it. This is a fact of life. The alternative is the pointless slaughter of countless numbers of animals. If animal activists what to get active about something then why not worry about the human race instead. Go help the enormous amount of homeless people or sick and starving children in Third World countries. Get your priorities straight for goodness sake.