The Angry Corrie 18: Apr-Jun 1994
Wildlife Corner No. 5: Feral Sheep
GOING BY PAST ISSUES, TAC WRITERS are a bit split on the subject of sheep. On the one hand, sheep get our sympathy as fellow sufferers under landowners' beady eyes. Luckily the only Sheep Dip that we are likely to come across is some sassenach whisky, and a bit less poisonous than your average organophosphate. On the other hand, the bastard sheep are so damn numerous that they chomp all the interesting vegetation that might grow on the hills. The statistics say that there are over nine million sheep in Scotland. All I can say is there must be one hell of an insomniac out there...
Unwittingly, the GATT talks, the Common Agricultural Policy, conservationists and vegetarians may change our view of the acquiescent sheep for good. With no more use for sheep, all we will be left with are feral sheep marauding for our pieces.
Sheep have been given a break as the GATT "Uruguay round" has taken so long. OK, Uruguay is not that well off, and buying drinks for over 180 countries at the Clachaig takes some time. This is not to denigrate Uruguayans - understand that they were the first to introduce a welfare state back in the 1830s. (They were a bunch of hackers in the '86 World Cup - Ed.)
Anyway, I understand that the recent GATT agreement means less farm subsidies will be available to farmers through the CAP. Crofters and hill farmers will not get paid for their moonlighting by keeping sheep, and will have to stick to their real job of making the land look pretty for tourists: building dry stane walls, sculpting crafty chairs, etc.
As hinted above, conservationists certainly don't like sheep (except in their jumpers) as all their precious "native woodlands" would get chomped. The reality is, of course, that walking through heather in sandals is a bugger - nice Scots Pine needles would be ideal. And of course us vegetarians have a lot to answer for, not eating our quota of "lambs", with some not even wearing wool.
So we are left with a dying unwanted breed taking to the hills, lurking in rampant birch groves. Feral moans will haunt walkers as a lonesome ram looks for a yew. At first hungry domesticated sheep will try to butt into your dinner halfway up Ben Lomond, as usual. Then, day trippers will be scared back into their cars near Inverewe Gardens. Silent lambs will make mince-meat of your ferret... The Scottish Avalanche and Sheep Information Service will give daily warnings for popular locations. The press will dutifully report deaths at bivouac sites. Perhaps someone will find John Muir trussed up ready to eat later.
Ironically, their very wildness will make sheep an asset again, as the guffawing classes a-hunt them. Soon being chomped by a horde of tycoons will be the most effective way of dealing with the beasts. And shooting or snaring will be equally as painful for the sheep, honest.
Worried? Don't fret about the sheep... watch out for the feral highland cattle...