Already having challenged fate once, with a timely escape from an abattoir sealing her destiny, our brave, yet gentle citrine-eyed beauty Gigi has again battled the odds stacked against her.
Gigi entered our care by way of a rural pound recently and touched our hearts like no other as we set about winning the trust of the terrified Merino ewe. Yet something else was amiss with Gigi and a thorough veterinary examination was called for. With biopsy results confirming our fears, we were advised that Gigi had squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer) of the vulva, something that was going to prove difficult, if not impossible, to treat. With her shortly docked tail exposing this normally protected area permanently to the sun, we couldn’t help but wonder how many of Gigi’s kind have lived this same tale, albeit with a different, more painful ending.
Many people are not aware that sheep are indeed born with tails and with good reason too. Tails not only allow sheep to swat away flies and sweep faeces to the ground, for female sheep the tail also protects the delicate pink skin that lies beneath. It’s true that our current Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep allow for tail docking where there are no other alternatives if the procedure results in “benefits to lifetime sheep welfare, better flock management or a reduced work (occupational) health and safety risk.” These same guidelines also allow this procedure to be performed on lambs under six months of age without the assistance of anaesthetic or pain relief.
The main reason often cited for the tail docking of sheep is that it minimises the risk of fly strike – a very real and potentially deadly affliction that has any sheep carer on the lookout. However, whilst tail docking may reduce the incidence of strike in the breech area of sheep it does not negate it – sadly many a rescued sheep bear testament to this. Indeed, it is our experience here at Edgar’s Mission that the only truly guaranteed method of preventing the debilitating and life threatening impact of flystrike is to check each and every sheep daily and treat accordingly.
And so, it was with hearts in our mouths that dear Gigi underwent her procedure to remove the skin cancer, along with an adequate boundary to ensure all cells were eliminated. We’re pleased to say that Gigi’s surgery was considered a success and for now, it appears this is yet another battle this dear girl has won. If it is even possible, Gigi now holds an even larger part of our hearts, having overcome yet another obstacle placed before her.
In caring for Gigi through her recovery, we were reminded of the terrible paradox we humans have created in domesticating the sheep from the Wild Mouflon though selective breeding all those years ago. It is true, we remain responsible forever for who we have tamed, however in creating a species who we are told requires part of their body removed for ease of management, we perhaps have to ask ourselves, “How responsible is this?”
And whilst this is a paradox we’ll no doubt continue to rub up against in our journey to a kinder world, we must also thank our incredible Five Dollar Friday community who made Gigi’s procedure and recovery possible. Because of you a gentle, brave, determined and now wheetbix-loving ewe has a second chance at the life she fought so hard to save. Because of you, Gigi has the very best chance at a life worth living for many years to come.
To be part of the team giving a second chance to animals like Gigi, please consider joining our Five Dollar Friday community here.