The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian group founded in 1973



Medieval Sheep Drive - a day we will never forget

From the Summer 2006 edition of NOWALE's action magazine:

On the 14th of June we received a telephone call from our contact Judi Hewitt in North Wales. Judi was extremely concerned and alerted us about an article in the Daily Post in North Wales regarding a 'Sheep Drive' taking place in London on 17th of June. Judi explained the whole situation as she knew it. It was at that moment that the reality of the horror began to dawn. Was it possible that sheep were really going to be taken from green fields and herded through the streets of London in the 21st century?

It was thanks to Judi that the 'Sheep Drive' was brought to our attention. We then spent two days informing other groups who were unaware of this. It was our understanding that this archaic event was organised by Bennets Associates of Architects - it was London's Architecture Biennale Sheep Drive' and was launched by architects Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano.

The Worshipful Company of Butchers were excercising an ancient rite giving them the right to drive sheep through the streets of London...What about the rights of the sheep not to be exploited? Sadly the Bishop of Southwark also took part in the ceremony which appeared to give credence to the whole sorry spectacle. It was the Bishop who sent the 'sheep on their way'. At 9:45 am everyone involved in organising the 'Sheep Drive' gathered on the lawn in front of the penned sheep, with the media and TV clamoring to take photographs and interview all concerned, focusing on the Bishop, which made this 'Drive' even more repugnant. By this time hundreds of people assembled to watch the proceedings, take photographs and to follow the sheep on their hideous journey, laughing and joking at the sheeps' expense.

Fully fleeced, the sheep were penned outside the entrance to Southwark Cathedral, with the sun beating down, without shade after being trucked all the way from Cumbria, for what appeared to be the amusement of the Bishop, his followers, the organisers, and the Worshipful Company of Butchers - all seemingly suffering blind indifference to their part in the suffering and exploitation being inflicted.

The sheer stupidity - the total indifference of the whole sordid event was truly breath taking! NOWALE and supporters, with other like minded individuals gathered with banners to voice their opposition at the churches involvement. At approximately 10:15 am the sheep were eventually sent on their way by the Bishop of Southwark, followed by members of the Worshipful Company of Butchers. It was painful to watch as approximately 25 panic stricken sheep were herded from the pen into the waiting crowds. Completely terrified by everything that was alien to them, looking for a means of escape, running in all directions. As they were forcefully herded through the narrow walkways several sheep again tried to break free, as the long ritual began. They were followed by - and forced through thousands of - people, ever increasing their terror.

Protestors were sickened by the number of people along the route that gathered to follow the sheep on their nightmare journey. Hundreds converging from all directions as the wretched creatures became ever more alarmed and confused. The appalling suffering and fear of the sheep meant nothing to the thousands of people which followed this 'Unholy spectacle,' a throwback to the Middle Ages. It appeared to be an amusing day out for all - unconcerned and without comprehension to the exploitation taking place.

Originally, the Salvation Army were going to be involved, when the sheep reached their headquarters on route, the Salvation Army's brass band was going to play, 'The Lord is my Shepherd'. NOWALE rang the headquarters immediately and spoke to two people at length, saying how dismayed we were to learn of their involvement in the exploitation of God's creatures, and that playing, 'The Lord is my Shepherd' only added insult to injury and pointing out that this archaic event held no place in the 21st century.*

However, the small piece of news at the end of the day was, that after consideration and considerable pressure from NOWALE and supporters, along with our Patron Rev James Thompson, the Salvation Army decided to withdraw. Evidently not completely, since stands displaying pictures of a sheep's head supporting the 'Drive' was stationed outside the Salvation Army Headquarters.

When the sheep reached the end of their hour long journey after being paraded through the streets of London, on hot pavements, through crowded markets, crowded streets, with the added trauma of noise and fumes from London's traffic and forced across the Millenium Bridge, (halfway over the bridge the TV interviewed the Sheriff of London, asking what was the point, and why today? (We couldn't hear his reply) Eventually ending up at St Bartholomews Fair, where the sheep were again penned for the amusement of the crowds - to be gawked at for the rest of the day.

It was extremely evident that the sheep, fully fleeced, were in great distress, shocked and bewildered by their sickening hour long harrowing ordeal. Panting like dogs, in soaring temperatures of 80+ degrees, raising their heads desperately trying to breathe and grouped together in fear. It was highly likely, after witnessing their condition, that at the end of the march, some sheep would not survive a further journey. Their fate after the exploitation, was a further journey back to Penrith or slaughter!!

We learnt that people had travelled down from Yorkshire to support this, with one saying that, "The sheep love it, they enjoy walking". The seemingly arrogant and callous indifference of all involved added to this deplorable spectacle. It was a cruel, pointless execise merely demonstrating once again, that man has the power and control to exploit defenceless animals. We were greatly shocked. It was truly a barbaric Medieval spectacle, a disgrace to all concerned, made worse by the Bishop's hypocritical participation, trivialising the whole sorry saga.

We must ensure that this event is not repeated in two years time.

Write to: Rt. Reverend Thomas Butler,
Bishop's House,
Tooting Bec Gardens,
London SW16 1QZ.

NOWALE, Bicester, Oxfordshire, OX27 7LA.

*...or indeed the nineteenth! The Salvation Army were reminded of the outspoken vegetarianism of their founder; General William Booth, his son Bramwell and many of the early Salvation Army Officers: 

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