7th June 2012
The Unsinkable Molly Brown
Thursday May 31st 2012 was ‘A Night to Remember’ for all the wrong reasons. A horrific truck rollover on the Western Ring Road saw around 400 sheep fall onto the Princes Freeway below, leaving many dead and injured as countless people around the globe reeled in horror at the images of the stricken sheep. Molly Brown, so named after Titanic survivor, the unsinkable Margaret ‘Molly’ Brown, is thought to be the sole surviving sheep of the carnage. Her uplifting story of beating the odds, not once but twice, as the truck was abattoir bound, hit the headlines as she recovered under the care of the Lost Dogs’ Homes in North Melbourne.
With her story touching reaching the masses and touching hearts aplenty, many dreamt that Molly would be rewarded for her bravery and her will to survive by being given the chance to live out the remainder of her days in a sheep’s paradise. If Molly could speak ‘human’ we are sure she would have told us all the very same thing; that she had run for her life and fought against the odds because she believed in the dream that a better world for sheep is possible. And so, with Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary selected as Molly’s new place of residence, the dreams of one sheep and the dreams of many came true.
Now Molly Brown, the gentle Merino ewe, will live out her days surrounded by equally lucky sheep who have also found solace at Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary. Molly’s trip back to the sanctuary was like no other she had ever experienced. No multi-tiered, open air livestock transporter for her but rather a custom fitted, temperature controlled Kindness Van, complete with her very own ovine chaperone; the amazing ambassador sheep, Timmy!
In the month of April 2012, for every minute of every day, 47 sheep or lambs were slaughtered in Australia, all only ever being known by a number and never being considered anything other than a production unit. That one sheep managed to escape her predetermined fate has got to be a reason for hope and a reason to never stop dreaming. Molly’s beating the odds on that fateful night has done much more than save the life of one sheep as it gave people something to believe in, a reminder that things can get better – that we can do better. People empathised with ‘those poor sheep’ and imagined what it would be like to be in a similar situation themselves. Those same people then came to the realisation of what it means to be a sheep, a creature just like us who feels fear, terror and panic, who want to see the sun shine, hang with their buddies, eat when they are hungry, drink when thirsty and above all else, to feel safe.
That sheep are intelligent, friendly and emotional animals is not lost on anyone who has the opportunity to really get to know them. They can recognise the faces of their buddies, even after a period of years, and can distinguish between friendly and gruff human expressions. They can learn their name and respond to it when called. Recent studies have shown that sheep have performed at a similar level to monkeys and humans in learning tasks! Something many have never thought possible. But Molly has proved that the impossible is possible given a chance!
The Lowdown on Sheep
- Sheep were domesticated 10,000 years ago in Central Asia.
- The Asiatic Mouflon is thought to be the sole ancestor of modern sheep.
- Sheep are social animals who prefer to live together in groups called flocks.
- The average lifespan of a sheep is 10 – 15 years, although they can even live to be as old as twenty if given the chance.
- Although grazing animals, it is legal in Australia to house sheep in intensive farming systems where only 2.25 square metres of space is required for each individual.
- Australia is one of the world’s leading producers of lamb and mutton, the largest exporter of mutton and live sheep, and second largest exporter of lamb.
- The majority (80%) of the 100 million sheep in Australia are of the Merino variety, farmed mainly for their wool.
- Unlike goats, horses and camels, sheep do not run feral in Australia as they do not have the ability to survive without human intervention. This evidence goes against claims that sheep are well adapted to the extremes of the Australian climate.
- Australia sent just under 2.5 million sheep overseas as ‘live’ exports in 2011.
- The Middle East took over 99% of the Australian sheep that were live exported in 2011. This is despite many receiving countries having low or no enforceable animal welfare laws. The majority of the animals are slaughtered without stunning. Stunning is standard in all Australian abattoirs (with the exception of halal facilities).
- The vast majority of animals exported live travel by sea on long haul journeys that cause stress, injuries, illnesses and disease, and many animals die en route each year.
- Only if more than 2% of live exported sheep suffer death is the incident considered to be ‘reportable’ by the industry.
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