Lori Marino and Debra Merskin, Intelligence, complexity, and individuality in sheep


Sheep evolved from the mouflon as mountain animals, able to escape predation by leaping between rock ledges. Their defense was their agility. Humans brought them to the plains, where the agility was less useful, but their lack of aggression, speed or weaponry against predators made them a prime target to become one of man’s meat providers. A perfect animal in many ways, with extraordinary perceptive powers and some remarkable cognitive skills, they are often treated with complete disregard for their welfare. Yet sheep themselves won’t tell us this, for a sheep that alerted others to its weakness really would be stupid. Scientists must ask why we sometimes treat them as non-deserving of moral consideration when it comes to their use in agriculture.

Author Biography

Clive Phillips, Professor of Animal Welfare, School of Veterinary Science, University of Queensland, does research on animal welfare and ethics and policy development, particularly the live export of cattle and sheep from Australia. His work has led to a review of the use of calves in rodeos. He regularly advises advocacy groups in Australia and abroad on welfare issues. Website