No need to be sheepish about animal welfare
This week, a small group of highly trained sheep are commuting to Central London for an important assignment in the Royal Parks.
As a Westminster-based communications consultant I was of course delighted to go and meet them. These native breed South Downs sheep have been called in by Her Majesty’s park managers for a spot of conservation grazing in the wild meadows of Green Park. These particular sheep are rather expert gardeners and their skilful nibbling cuts back the aggressive grass creating opportunities for wild flowers to thrive. They gently tread the wild flower seeds into the soil and throw in a little natural fertilizer for free.
I was there for a meeting with our non-executive director Tim Morris who is a trustee of one of the charities that has helped bring the sheep to town. Tim also had a hand in breeding one of the members of the woolly workforce as also he does a spot of light sheep farming at his home in Hertfordshire. It is always difficult to find good meeting venues in central London but the hay bales in the shepherd hut were very conducive to our high level strategic discussion. There was a very friendly receptionist called Mavis who skilfully combined venue management with occasional sheepdog duties.
This is apparently the first time that sheep have been grazing in the Royal Parks since the 1930s. Sheep are occasionally seen strolling across Tower Bridge as the freemen and women of the City exercise their historic civic rights but they don’t often make it into the rest of the capital. This visit is long overdue and has prompted huge interest from the broadcast and print media and the hundreds of tourists. The sheep are so well-behaved that they have even been allowed onto the hallowed turf of the roundabout in front of Buckingham Palace.
All this celebrity sheep action serves as a great reminder that we remain a nation of animal lovers and none more so than the people who look after them for a living. Tom Davis from Mudchute Farm who brought the sheep to town clearly cares deeply about the welfare of his animals and looks after them extraordinarily well.
On his 32 acres on the Isle of Dogs he brings a little bit of the countryside closer to the commercial centre of Canary Wharf, keeping the city more in touch with the rural community that keeps it fed. From our experience of providing communications support to a number of clients working in the animal world, it is almost always a good idea to engage with the wider audience. Britain has an excellent story to tell about animal welfare standards and bio-science sector and some of the best advocates are the animals themselves. If you happen to be near Green Park this week, do pop in and say hello to Tom, Mavis and their marvellous sheep.