The King’s School in Sydney came under fire yesterday as ABC’s 7.30 programme broadcast a shocking video which shows students tackling sheep, apparently as part of a rugby exercise.
The students were filmed violently grabbing, tackling and throwing sheep to the ground – then dragging them across a paddock as the animals struggled, panicked and tried to run away. Terrified sheep were also pinned to the ground and held down as part of the “game”.
A teacher’s voice can be heard encouraging the children, at one point commanding:
“Flip ’em boys, flip ’em!”
While one student struggled to crash tackle a sheep who was desperately trying to escape, a teacher could be heard laughing as the students around him continued to chase and torment the frightened animals.
After this story broke, many people took to social media to express their outrage. But disturbingly, sheep farmers, shearers and others involved in the industry had something more positive to say on the matter.
And for those who are appalled by the abuse in the video, the comparisons made by these individuals should serve as a chilling reminder of what happens to sheep used for their wool around Australia:
Dr Tim Hawkes, the school’s headmaster, also attempted to defend the activity in a statement:
At the Camp, the boys did a number of team-work and strength-building exercises as well as improving their rugby skills.
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.
They had to go into a paddock, secure some rams and take them to an imaginary shearing point.
The task was supervised closely by the farmer who gave instructions to the boys as to how this task should be done.
Essentially, the task involved capturing a ram, putting the ram on its back and dragging it to a corner of a paddock.
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.
A record of the training was posted on a closed Facebook page so that the boys, and their families, had an account of what was generally considered to be a successful camp.
I am satisfied that the activity was properly supervised and that no animals or boys were hurt.
Sheep are sensitive, gentle animals who feel pain and fear just like we do. Abusing them to practise “rugby skills” is no more acceptable than abusing them to produce wool or killing them for meat.
Additionally, research in psychology and criminology shows that people who commit acts of cruelty to animals often go on to commit violent acts against their fellow humans. When we teach children to treat animals as anything less than the feeling, thinking individuals they are, we are putting other animals – including humans – in danger.
The world’s most notorious serial killers – including Jeffrey Dahmer, Dennis Rader and Albert DeSalvo, better known as the Boston Strangler – have long, documented histories of harming animals. In Australia, murderers such as Paul Denyer, John Travers and Ivan Milat tortured and killed animals before turning to human victims.
The RSPCA are now investigating this case.