Why is the ‘individual’ penning of sheep cruel

Individually penned sheep suffer terribly as a result of this cruel practice.

Sheep that are confined to small individual pens continually chew on the wooden slats and the strands of wire which, enclose them. They display repetitive body movements which are classic stereotypic behaviors caused by a barren environment, and this leads to chronic boredom. Shedded sheep are denied all opportunity to express their natural behaviours such as socialising and grazing in a natural environment like the paddock.

Shedded sheep have been observed swaying from side to side in their pen. Elephants display the very same behaviours when they go are enclosed in small areas for long periods of time and unable to escape from their abnormal environment. Similarly, big cats pace and bears bob up and down when locked in cages.

For this very reason circuses are an unpalatable activity and zoos have come to the realisation that caging animals is totally unacceptable in what is now a much more animal friendly society.

So why is this industry permitted to continue? Several reasons. In Australia the farmed animal industry wields a great deal of power. If it can make a dollar at the expense of the animal; with freedom to deny, to restrict, to treat animals in any way it wishes, then there is no doubt it will do so.

Despite continued requests that these sheep sheds be inspected by animal welfare advocates so that the welfare of the animals can be determined, access has been denied.

Is this the reaction of an industry with nothing to hide?

Studies show that Shedded sheep display the following abnormal behaviors:

  • wool biting
  • chewing slats, bars, buckets or pen fixtures
  • mouthing air and repetitive licking
  • increased vocalisation
  • panting (without heat stress)
  • obsessive movements such as rearing, butting, leaping and weaving


  • sheep suffer acute stress due to change of environment and diet
  • sheep are stressed by the lack of flock structure and space to move
  • chronic stress may come from continuing poor nutrition, noise, bright lighting, changes to routine or poor stockmanship
  • stress continues because sheep cannot escape from the stressors
  • long-term confinement and chronic stress lead to changes in a sheep’s normal behaviour.


  • vitamin and mineral deficiencies can develop
  • 5–15% of sheep do not adjust to being indoors and some stop eating
  • sheep cannot form social groups or establish a personal zone
  • normal sleeping, drinking and digestion are affected by chronic stress
  • sheep that are stressed are likely to suffer from disease and parasites
  • pens are too small for natural movement — stretching, lying down, turning around, walking and running
  • foot problems are common from constantly standing on hard surfaces
  • bacterial infections can result from an altered environment in the gut
  • stones in the urine may result from not drinking enough water
  • sheep suffer without temperature control in sheds — they cannot flock together to keep warm in the cold and, in the heat, rugging sheep can lead to overheating

Many sheep individually penned at a Victorian (Australia) ultra-fine wool facility, display many or all of the above abnormal behaviors, the facility is called ‘The Horsham Wool Factory’.