The National Sheep Association (NSA) is opposing the view released by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and is pointing out the far greater benefits of sheep.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker says: “Sheep play a huge part in regenerative agriculture which in turn contributes to keeping our uplands in a good condition and improving our lowlands in terms of soil quality and a return to mixed farming. NSA also dispute the science on which standard carbon footprint calculations are based for two main reasons; They do not consider full life cycle analysis and do not consider the role of animals, pasture and carbon sequestration; and they confuse what is essentially a natural carbon cycle that has been going for on thousands of years with an industrial carbon cycle that is dependant on the use of fossil fuels and land use change. It is hugely frustrating that a body like the CCC refuses to accept the wider and more natural aspects of the carbon cycle and rarely seeks to address weaknesses in the system.”

NSA says the UK should be seeking to maintain or even increase sheep numbers depending on market demand, but further encourage the distribution into areas that are devoid of livestock in order to provide the multi-functional outcomes that people are interested in today.

Mr Stocker continues: “NSA support multi-functional land use. We support more trees and hedges integrated into the farmed landscape, provided they contribute to a viable business, and we do see that we might need different measures of success for our industry going forward. There are large areas of the UK where grass and grazing animals are absent yet would contribute positively to the environment, soil quality, and sustainability generally. Putting sheep back into arable rotations results in a natural regeneration of soil quality and fertility – something that is sorely needed. It is also true that we could do more with diverse ley mixtures that support invertebrates and pollinators and that sheep love to browse and can gain important minerals and trace elements from doing so. In many cases we have deprived them of those opportunities in pursuit of maximising efficiency.”

Mr Stocker concludes: “Some people seem hell bent on portraying sheep as the enemy, but they deliver far more than just high quality and nutritious meat, and could be argued to be the ultimate in renewable technology.”