I was passing a farm gate when I saw something unusual. A single ewe accompanied by two grown lambs was walking slowly across the field. Some way behind, two more ewes and a single lamb were following. Further back still there was another group of ewes and a small bunch of lambs, and they were all walking slowly and in single file with their heads bowed.
I’ve never seen sheep behave like that before and there was something intensely sad about it, a sense of their having been somehow dispossessed. They reminded me of how I imagine a group of highlanders might have looked crossing the mountains on their way to the coast, having been robbed of their homes and livelihoods by unscrupulous landlords during the Highland Clearances. Two of the lambs stopped and looked at me, which further intensified the sadness, and I wondered whether the flock had been separated into those animals which are staying and those destined for collection. I suppose it’s easier than doing it when the wagon turns up.
There is something sad about the farming of animals when you’ve watched them grow and suckle and frolic and play and develop personalities. I could never do it.