Did you know there are more sheep than people in Scotland? Figures show there are 6.59 million nationwide. With a mix of both lowland and upland sheep, flocks are a common sight across much of Scotland’s countryside.

Year-on-year, our inspectors visit more and more sheep farms to make sure welfare needs are met. Since 1999, our partnership with Quality Meat Scotland has helped us to drive up welfare standards in sheep farming.

What welfare standards should sheep have?

Sheep have the same rights as all other animals in that they should be able to enjoy the ‘Five Freedoms’. This framework is the basis for assessing the welfare of sheep. These freedoms are:

  • Its need for a suitable environment – by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area; 
  • Its need for a suitable diet – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour; 
  • Its need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns – by providing sufficient space and proper facilities; 
  • Any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals – by providing company of the animals’ own kind, if appropriate; 
  • Its need to be protected from suffering, injury and disease – by ensuring conditions and treatment to avoid suffering, including mental suffering.

What do we expect of people who own sheep?

The volume and type of sheep owned, the suitability of the land, the competence of the shepherd and the quality of stockmanship are all key factors in caring for sheep properly. Anyone involved should have a full understanding of the Five Freedoms.

Sheep should always have access to feed and fresh, clean water and have a diet that allows them to maintain full health. The shepherd, and anyone employed by them to work with the sheep, should be able to notice any signs of ill-health and check on the condition of all animals in the flock every day.

Got concerns about sheep?

If you have seen a sheep or flock and are concerned about their conditions or welfare, call our confidential animal helpline to report it. Get in touch on 03000 999 999 and one of our experts will take down all the information you have and ask an inspector to look in to it. 

As well as preventing cruelty, we work alongside farmers to make sure they can manage their flock properly to ensure the highest welfare standards possible are met.