Sheep race takes place as pig derby called off
The controversial pig derby was replaced by a sheep race at this year’s Seabreeze Festival in Arklow. After receiving advice about the risk of African Swine Fever, the festival committee said in a statement last Thursday that the derby was postponed and another event would be put in place.
‘On the advice of Minister Andrew Doyle, Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, with the recent threat posed by African Swine Fever to the Irish pig industry, Arklow Seabreeze Festival have made the decision to postpone this year’s Pig Derby from their programme of events.’
However, the decision to hold a sheep race was also controversial with many people expressing concerns about the decision on social media. Five sheep raced a short course on the Main Street last Sunday instead of the pig derby.
Cllr Tommy Annesley, who is involved with the festival committee and assisted with the race, said: ‘The crowd was excited. The sheep played a major part in the festival on Sunday.’
Colm Moules, PRO for the festival committee said ‘the farmer suggested sheep instead. It was a shorter race and he [the farmer] was happy to go ahead.’
Ciara Fitzgerald, who has been campaigning for a number of years to end the pig derby said she was ‘appalled’ by the decision to hold a sheep race in its place.
Speaking to the Wicklow People, she said ‘instead of using this year as an opportunity to explore a non-animal event, they chose to race sheep.’
‘Sheep are known as meek and scare easily. This blatant disregard for animal rights and animal welfare needs to be addressed and stopped. Farm animals belong on a farm, not harassed up and down the street as a form of some mindless entertainment,’ said Ms Fitzgerald.
African Swine Fever is a highly contagious disease for pigs that does not affect humans.
Arklow Seabreeze Princess Jamie McClean during the sheep race on Main Street in Arklow.