When looking at Ireland one of the first things I questioned while driving across the countryside was the amount of unused land and the habitat of the farm animals that inhabited them and why farmers allowed this. In the countryside it could be seen that people owned a lot of land, as homes were generally not close to each other at all. The animals on these properties have room to roam and be free to feed wherever they please on the property. This is something that is much different in the United States as farm animals tend to not have the same amount of freedom and are locked in small pens so they can have as many as possible ready for sale.
While visiting the Killary Sheep Farm, we were able to see how the farmers tend to their land and the animals on them. Tom Nee, the farmer who owned the land demonstrated how his sheep are free to roam around these fields and how he keeps track of them. He has 3 Border Collies that he uses to herd the sheep into pens so he can take care of them. Watching Tom and his dog Sylvie, I saw how he cared for the sheep as he trained his dogs not to bite and to only to direct the sheep to where he wants them to go. When asked about the dogs being happy Tom told us that, “Sylvie is only happy when she’s working and gets upset when she’s not with me.” This was something that made me realize their more than just work animals; they love to be with him.
Sheep are something you will see everywhere in Ireland and which initially made me believe wool must be a major export for these farmers. I always thought the reasons farmers sheared the sheep was to sell the wool to create clothing, which I later found out was not the case. Tom said, “this wool is worthless, you can only get $.25 for this one sheep’s wool, I shear them because they would die if I didn’t.” This explanation is something I was not expecting to hear because I didn’t understand why the farmer cared that much for all the animals he has on his property if these sheep in particular were all meat exports.
One example we saw from Tom that showed us how his animals are treated and have the ability to live a good lives was when he showed up an injured lamb he found in the fields he walks every morning. Tom and his brother were nursing him and two other injured lambs back to health instead of just letting them die. This is not traditionally the same reaction in the United States as the government has more relaxed farming laws allowing animals to not get treated the same way. From what I have seen so far in Ireland, It’s easy to conclude that animals are treated much better than we currently see in the United States.