Hug Some Fleece, Share the Peace

The Rise for Animals Team, October 28, 2023

It’s National Hug a Sheep Day(!) . . . and we so desperately long to live in a world where hugs are a primary interaction between humans and these sentient, gentle, complex beings!

But, alas, today’s world sees humans do everything but peacefully embrace sheep. 

We eat them. We wear them. And, we experiment on them. 

In fact, as one of the first “animals domesticated for human use”, sheep have fallen victim to vivisection from its earliest day.  

Many of vivisection’s faceless victims, whose plights find record in historical accounts, were ovine. Dominated and commodified by humans, these descendants of wild sheep and mouflon had – and continue to have – all manners of atrocities perpetrated against them. 

Forced to act as stand-ins for humans, sheep’s bodies have been and continue to be desecrated for innumerable purposes, including human curiosity; surgical, bone, wound, and human disease modeling; medical device implantation; and reproductive, vaccine, and genetic experimentation (including the first mammalian clone in 1996).

In 2022 alone, U.S. animal research facilities reported exploiting almost 23,000 sheep . . .  and this total excludes the tens of thousands used for wholly unregulated “agricultural” research.

In this realm, profit overtly rules, and researchers don’t even pretend otherwise. Their entire focus is on how to manipulate living beings to render them more lucrative victims of the animal-industrial complex.

For example, researchers working for the U.S. government have sought to engineer larger lambs (but the testosterone injected into their mothers deformed their genitals and made it difficult for them to urinate), triplets of lambs (but the associated unnatural gestations and births resulted in horrendous physical and emotional harms to both mothers and babies), and ewes committed to raising their young out in pastures without shelter (but the lambs died from exposure or predation). 

And, adding insult to injury, sheep have been observed to “occupy” a particularly “low rung” in the agricultural research realm – enduring more dismissive and neglectful treatment than even other farmed animals.

Researchers acknowledge sheep’s gentleness and docility (which make them attractive research subjects) but ignore –  if not outright deny – other aspects of their magnificent natures.

Sheep . . .

  • are complex, individualistic, and highly social mammals.
  • demonstrate advanced cognition, including facial recognition abilities on par with humans and nonhuman primates.
  • experience a wide range of emotions, express their emotional states behaviorally and physiologically, and are sensitive to the emotional expressions of others.

Sheep are sentient beings who matter in their own right and deserve rights of their own.

It’s clear that we humans owe sheep a lot more than hugs, but we have to start somewhere! So, today, whether or not you are fortunate enough to be able to hug a sheep in real life, we encourage you to hug a sheep metaphorically by sharing this blog with your network. 

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