Key sheep welfare problems and how RSPCA Assured helps

Key sheep welfare problems and how RSPCA Assured helps

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One of the key health concerns around sheep farming is disease. Diseases in sheep can spread quickly causing sickness and potential lamb mortality.

In addition to this, sheep farmers need to take precautions to prevent flocks from developing foot conditions which, as well as being painful for the animals, can result in lameness. There is also the issue of parasites such as lice and gastrointestinal worms such as liver fluke. 

What makes RSPCA Assured different?

Based on the latest scientific evidence, the RSPCA sets out standards which are far more detailed and stricter than minimum legal requirements. Together with RSPCA Farm Livestock Officers, RSPCA Assured assessors check that RSPCA welfare standards are being achieved on our assured farms.  

Sheep 2

The RSPCA welfare standards for sheep, which must be met for all lamb and mutton products to be labelled RSPCA Assured, don’t allow sheep to be transported for longer than eight hours.

On farms which have been classified RSPCA Assured, detailed health and welfare plans which were pioneered in farm assurance schemes by the RSPCA in the late 1980s must be in place to proactively tackle potential health problems such as lameness and  

Sheep have better lives under the RSPCA Assured scheme

  • At pasture, sheep must always have access to enough shade, shelter, and a comfortable dry area where they can lie down.
  • If and when they are housed, sheep are given plenty of comfortable bedding and sufficient space to lie down in and move around.
  • Sheep are always handled with care and compassion, and they are never transported for more than 8 hours.
  • Stricter requirements are in place around husbandry procedures such as castration and tail docking.

parasites and metabolic disease. These plans must be drawn up and regularly reviewed with the farm’s vet and any relevant persons who are responsible for attending to the animals.


On RSPCA Assured farms, sheep must always be provided with a total floor area at least 1.5 times the bedded lying area. The lying area must be of sufficient size to accommodate all sheep together lying in a normal resting posture.

At all times, sheep and lambs kept indoors must have access to a lying area with sufficient bedding to ensure that the sheep are comfortable and dry.

The ventilation of the buildings must ensure


that the air flow is sufficient to remove stagnant pockets which might otherwise pose a threat of respiratory disease for the animals.


In order to limit the build-up of mud or dung on the fleece, when kept outdoors, sheep must have access to a grass or straw covered area which is dry, well drained and big enough to allow all the sheep to lie down together.

How you can help

The RSPCA does produce welfare standards for sheep, however,  there are only a small number of registered suppliers and unfortunately, no retail products are available at the moment.

This is something we are working on, and we're hoping to be able to offer RSPCA Assured lamb and mutton sometime in the future. If you would like to see RSPCA Assured lamb, you can complete our lobby your supermarket form to let the supermarkets know.

By looking out for the RSPCA Assured label you can easily recognise products from animals that have had a better life and feel confident in your choices when shopping and eating out.

Did you know?

  • Sheep flock closely together when they feel threatened, and try to maintain a 'flight distance' between themselves and a threat.
  • Sheep have good eyesight, a wide field of vision and accurate hearing to spot any potential threats.
  • Sheep wool contains a waxy substance called lanolin, which helps them stay dry during wet weather.
  • Sheep are highly social animals and like to be around other sheep they are familiar with.
  • Sheep are grazing animals. This means they eat grass and other vegetation.