Shutting down #lovelambweek before it even starts. These lambs are only 6-8 months old when they are sent to slaughter to end up on our plates. During those short months, they endure plenty of suffering. Their tails are cut off (docked) when they are very young either by banding (where an extremely tight rubber band is placed around the tail until the tissue atrophies and falls off, days or weeks later) or cutting, which is arguably less painful but increases the risk of infection. Males are castrated in the same fashions, with the same risks. No matter the method, both are very painful to the lambs and can cause extreme stress, serious injury, or even death if done incorrectly. Tail docking is done in part as an attempt to prevent fly strike and blow fly infestations—where flies lay eggs in the wool of the sheep (most commonly if it is dirtied, feces covered, or there is an open wound) and maggots hatch which will eat into the lamb’s skin and flesh. Another process to try to prevent these infestations is something called “mulesing,” where strips of flesh around the lamb’s buttocks are cut off. This stops wool growing in that area and prevents feces and urine from collecting and attracting flies that might lay eggs there. This barbaric practice could reasonably be avoided, however, if the sheep were attended to and checked for signs of infestation.
In the UK, many sheep and lambs are raised in the open moors and pastures, which are very wet and lack proper shelter. In this environment contagious diseases like foot rot are common, causing lameness and sometimes leading farmers to eradicate an entire flock. The weather and lack of appropriate housing for sheep is also a major issue. Naturally, sheep would only go into estrus in the fall and give birth in the spring, but in order to have lamb year round, we keep them in controlled lighting to trick them into estrus at other times of the year. Because of this, lambs are often born in the winter when food is sparse on the moors and weather is at its worst. Approximately 20% of lambs in the UK will die of exposure due to these conditions. (Caption continues in comments)