In 1986, when I became editor of the University of Guelph student paper, The Ontarian, we were still using that old aggie joke, Guelph: Where men are men and sheep are afraid.
Yet in Australia, in 2016, sheep do need to be afraid.
Farming and animal welfare groups have slammed a Sydney school after vision emerged of students tackling and wrestling sheep and rams during a rugby training camp.
The ABC obtained videos showing first and second XV players from Sydney’s prestigious King’s School in Parramatta chasing rams in a farm paddock and dragging them into designated squares before flipping them over.
The videos were reportedly posted on a Facebook page by teacher and coach James Hilgendorf and ex-professional Hugh Perrett, but were taken down when the ABC contacted the school on Wednesday.
RSPCA chief executive Steve Coleman was disgusted by what he saw.
President of the NSW Farmers’ Association Derek Schoen said farmers would have watched the vision “with horror”.
“This is unacceptable animal husbandry practice. You’d never treat your stock like that and I would say most concerned farmers would view that with a bit of horror,” Mr Schoen said.
“It’s distressing to the animals. It will make future husbandry practices more difficult with the animals — they’ll remember what has happened in those yards.
“To have rams running around with a whole lot of school kids I think is just plain stupid.”
Understandably, viewers who saw the footage on ABC on Thursday night were outraged.
Despite this response, the school’s headmaster Dr Tim Hawkes said he had no problem with the practice.
“A strength and team-building exercise devised by the farmer involved the boys having to undertake a task not dissimilar to that undertaken by shearers,” Hawkes said in a statement to the ABC.
“The task was supervised closely by the farmer who gave instructions to the boys as to how this task should be done.
“The two rugby coaches involved were assured by the farmer beforehand that the activity was safe and all the more so because he would be supervising it carefully.
“No animals were injured in the exercise. Neither were any boys.”
To head-master Dr Tim Hawkes: Your title says it all.