Posted on 22 November 2002
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:
Further information about the Trust and details of membership can be found at www.thesheeptrust.org