Warning, this blog post contains a story and images some readers may find upsetting. Please do not read any further if you are not prepared to see the reality of Sheep Farming In North Yorkshire.
Yesterday, as I am most years, I was invited onto the farm of a close friend. Its lambing time once again and I was invited to go down and get some photographs of the new arrivals.
Those of you familiar with my photographs will have realised by now that I never shy away from reality. My past lambing photographs have always shown the true story along with blood and afterbirth. Sheep farming just like any farming is not as its presented in many of the glossy magazines about life in a National Park.
On my arrival yesterday, the first thing that happened was I watched a cow being put to sleep. The animal had injured its spine and was having trouble with its back legs. The process was quite harrowing to watch. A big waggon arrives at the farm, the driver who is licensed, then shoots a bolt into the head of the cow which instantly falls to the ground.. dead. A rod is then passed down the hole in the cows head, this passes down the spinal column of the animal which makes sure the animal is dead and no longer suffering. The whole process is done in seconds. Thats life. and death I suppose.
Next, the dead animal is winched into the back of the waggon, which contains many other dead animals. Sheep and cattle all piled up. Its not a pretty sight. I had always realised that there was death on farms and that there would be procedures in place for dealing with it, but nothing prepares you for the harsh reality.
I am very pleased I witnessed what happened. I think it makes me value where my food comes from a bit more. For the farmer ? Well its more financial loss than emotional. The farm owner explained that he used to get emotionally attached to his animals, but seeing deaths and the upset it causes him has hardened him over the years.
He explained that you cant get emotionally attached to all the animals as the hard truth is they are bread for food, and may not even make it that far. That doesnt mean the animals arent well looked after and there every need met, as clearly they are.
The team on the farm work hard every day to care for the animals and give them the best life possible. I guess you have to protect yourself emotionally, as we all do in one way or another from the unpleasant and upsetting things in life.
Next we had a wonder around the fields, at last I got so see the beautiful new lambs. New life, born through the day and now taking their first steps on The North York Moors. These are the scenes that most people know. Beautiful fluffy cuddly bundles of joy. But then I noticed something laid on the wall. Reality struck again.
A dead fox, laid across the wall. When I asked about the fox I was told he had killed some lambs, and in fact was actually waiting behind a sheep for the next arrival when his life was ended. Again thats the harsh reality folks. The Fox was killing the livestock so his life was ended to protect the new lambs.
So, all in all, perhaps not your average day on a farm. At times it was quite upsetting, but I came away knowing I had witnesse real life, and I wouldn’t expect to be shown any other.