Sheep rides at show come in for criticism

Gore A&P Association president Hamish MacKay with last year's Young Ambassador of the Year, Aimee Ross, at the Gore Showgrounds.
Gore A&P Association president Hamish MacKay with last year's Young Ambassador of the Year, Aimee Ross, at the Gore Showgrounds.

Sheep piggyback races for children will return to this weekend's Gore A&P Show after a 30-year absence, but it has sparked concerns from a Southland animal welfare promoter who says it is sending the wrong message to children.

Organisers said entries for the livestock competitions were strong for the Gore A&P Show, which is the second largest livestock show for the South Island behind Christchurch. But the competitions were not just for adults this year - sheep piggy-back races for children were back.

Gore A&P Association president Hamish MacKay said the sheep races would offer more fun activities for children.

It was unknown why the races stopped about 30 years ago, he said.

Only children up to 12 years old and under 40kg were allowed to ride the sheep.

Southland SPCA chairwoman Rachel Hucklebridge said placing unnecessary stress on the sheep "for a bit of fun" was sending the wrong message to children.

"Why are we putting animals under stress?

"Forty kilos is still heavy . . . I'd be asking is it necessary?" she said.

It was similar to rodeo and breaking-in horses, but such unnecessary stress was something "we're trying to move away from," she said.

Also new to this year's event is a small dog competition where dog obedience will be tested.

Owners will be challenged to call their dogs from one side of the event to another, and the first dog to their owner wins.

Spectators can sit back and "watch the bedlam," Mr MacKay said.

About 450 sheep pens were fully-booked for the show, and beef and dairy cattle entries for livestock competitions were strong.

Also on the showgrounds would be alpacas, horses, poultry and other birds.

Mr MacKay said Gore had premier facilities to host a great livestock show, including a large horse arena and covered sheep pens.

"It's the area we live in, it's a very strong livestock area whether it's dairy, sheep or beef," he said.

The winner in each livestock category would then go in the competition for the show's overall livestock winner.

Children could also get their hands dirty in the big dig competition and win prizes.

A range of exhibits, displays, food stalls and live entertainment would also be on offer.

All 50 trade displays have sold out, ranging from machinery to art and crafts.

Gore District mayor Tracy Hicks will announce the winner of the prestigious Gore A&P Young Ambassador of the Year, who is sponsored to attend the Tamworth A&P Show in March.

The show will be held at the Gore Showgrounds on Saturday, February 2, between 8am and 5pm. Charges: Family pass $25, children $5 and under 5s free.

The Southland Times