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Sheep Trust will protect native breeds

Posted on 22 November 2002

New charity born out of Foot and Mouth crisis

The Sheep Trust, set up to protect the valuable native sheep breeds in Britain, has this week received formal charity status, a year after the damaging Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic.

The Trust has grown out of the response of scientists to beleaguered sheep breeders during the epidemic. They established the Heritage GeneBank to preserve the genetic material of these breeds during the height of the crisis.

Professor Dianna Bowles, the founder of Heritage GeneBank and Chair of the Trustees of the new charity, said, "The events of 2001 showed that the living heritage of our native breeds could easily be destroyed. The most vulnerable sheep breeds were those that are regionally important, adapted to their local environments and contribute directly to the rural economy, both through farming and importantly through tourism."

"It is crucially important to protect these breeds for their genetic biodiversity and for the key role they play in the countryside."

"Breeds such as Herdwicks, Lonks, Rough Fells and Dalesbred exist in large numbers and are commercially farmed, but nevertheless are threatened to extinction when a disease such as Foot and Mouth hits their homelands. As scientists, we want to continue to help conserve the important national heritage of these sheep breeds and help to achieve sustainability for their farming communities and environments."

The Sheep Trust has drawn up a priority list of sheep breeds needing immediate help. New funding will be sought to provide help in the following ways:

  • the Heritage GeneBank – the first sheep genebank established for the UK – will be extended to protect and conserve more breeds at risk.
  • projects will be started to add value to the products – meat , wool, and milk -generated by these important sheep breeds.
  • There will be independent scientific information, including fact sheets, about issues facing the countryside and the role of sheep in promoting its sustainability.

Further information about the Trust and details of membership can be found at

Notes to editors:

  • Heritage GeneBank was established with funding from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Gastby Charitable Foundation, Countryside Agency, MAFF / DEFRA.
  • The scientific advisory team includes senior scientists from the Universities of York, Leeds, London, Scottish Agricultural Colleges at Edinburgh and Aberdeen and veterinary expertise of Britbreed. These scientists are the Trustees of the new Sheep Trust, under the chairmanship of Professor Dianna Bowles of the University of York.
  • Sam Jones, who has a background in agricultural / environmental studies and practical experience in farming, is the new National Co-ordinator for the Trust. Funding for this post has come from the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Countryside Agency.
  • The Sheep Trust is a charitable company limited by guarantee. Company Number 4284999, Charity Number 1094514. Registered office: The University of York, PO Box 373, York, YO10 5YW.

Contact details

David Garner
Senior Press Officer

Tel: +44 (0)1904 322153