Animal rights activists call for sheep racing to be banned at Masham Sheep Fair

Samantha Francis with a successful petition in July this year. Now, the campaign group is calling for sheep racing to be stopped at the Masham Sheep Fair.
Samantha Francis with a successful petition in July this year. Now, the campaign group is calling for sheep racing to be stopped at the Masham Sheep Fair.

A petition by animal rights activists to ban sheep racing from the Masham Sheep Fair has attracted over 58,000 signatures in just eight days.

With only days to go until the two-day event on September 30 and October 1, the clock is ticking for campaigners to succeed in halting the practice, which petition launcher Samantha Francis has branded "unnatural, exploitative and degrading."

With three victories in Woodditton, Moffat and Llandovery under their belt, Lambentations was set up by Samantha and Joshua Francis as a movement aiming to ban sheep racing worldwide.

Samantha said: "Sheep are not runners for a start, they are very quite and timid creatures. Being forced to race is unnatural, people scream and shout at them. It is a very stressful thing to put them through.

"They are already abused for wool and meat, they shouldn't be abused for our entertainment as well. Most people agree that using animals in circuses is wrong, and this is not that big a leap.

"People feel that we can have a laugh at them, but they are some of the softest and gentlest of creatures. They are running frightened, I find it really appalling. You can't know how they are feeling, but they are sentient creatures who want to be left alone."

The petition has attracted support from across the country and the world - a response which Samantha said shows that animal rights is a global movement, where the size of an area putting on an event is not conducive to the reaction.

Samantha said: "I hope that organisers will listen to the complaints of animal rights activists. There are alternatives, they have got so many other things going on at the Masham Sheep Fair, that this element could be replaced.

"Parents could dress up as sheep, or children could take part as a fun activity, just something where the creatures taking part give their consent.

"Having a fun alternative like this would make it an even nicer community event. We want this suffering and stress to stop."

The organisers of the Masham Sheep Fair have been approached for comment.