The Scottish SPCA is investigating after an undercover investigation revealed horrific cruelty and abuse allegedly filmed behind the scenes on Scottish farms.
Sickening video footage shows the terrified animals being violently punched in the face and kicked, stamped on, struck with electric clippers and having their heads slammed onto the floor.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) Asia, which carried out the filming this year, say they documented the abuse at 24 farms across West Lothian, Fife, the Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, East Lothian, Midlothian and South Lanarkshire.
The revelations come after Peta released its first ever video expose in August of similar cruelty within the English wool industry.
Peta Asia Senior Vice President, Jason Baker, said: "After exposing cruelty within the English wool industry, we've found the same horrifying abuse of sheep at farms in Scotland.
"Everywhere that eyewitnesses from Peta Asia and its affiliates go – from Australia and the US to South America and now the United Kingdom – they see the same disturbing behaviour.
"The production of all wool – no matter where it originated or what 'ethical' or 'responsibly sourced' claims are made on its label – spells extreme suffering and death for millions of gentle sheep and lambs."
Peta has today submitted a 12-page formal complaint and its video evidence to the Scottish SPCA. The animal rights group have called for an investigation and, if appropriate, the filing of criminal charges against workers for apparent violations of laws prohibiting cruelty to animals.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: "We can confirm we have received reports of alleged abuse within wool farms in Scotland.
"Our investigations are currently ongoing."
In the video, workers can also be heard shouting and swearing as they use force to hold the animals down or get them moving.
Peta said one of the sheep in the video was suffering from mastitis - a painful infection of the udder - and couldn't stand up, and a worker can be heard saying the animal needs to be shot.
Most farms employ special contractors for sheep shearing, whose employees are paid for each sheep shorn – creating an incentive to work quickly. If an animal struggles, this slows work down and a flock will take longer to complete.
Peta said they have supplied the name of the contractor concerned to the authorities to allow them to properly investigate.
Penny Middleton, NFU Scotland’s animal health and welfare policy manager, said: “NFU Scotland is currently investigating these claims and the validity of the videos as the images shown do not reflect the standards expected on Scottish farms.
"We would support action being taken against the individuals shown, if these images are indeed from Scottish farms.
"Animal welfare is of the utmost importance to Scottish livestock farmers and the industry prides itself on achieving high standards of animal welfare. The behaviour shown in the Peta videos is by no means typical of shearing in Scotland.
"Shearing is a necessary part of keeping sheep, without shearing the fleece becomes too thick and heavy for the sheep, causing it to overheat and can result in painful skin conditions. Shearing should be carried out calmly and carefully but to suggest that sheep should not be shorn is irresponsible."
A British Wool spokeswoman said: "We are shocked and saddened by the behaviour of the contractor in the video footage.
"As a farmer owned organisation, British Wool collects and sells wool on behalf of British farmers. We are passionate and committed to continuously seeking to improve shearing skills and good practice in the UK. Every year we train more than a thousand people in all parts of the UK on two day training courses that are tailored to their existing level of experience and skill.
"It is not within our remit to police the shearing industry: this responsibility lies with the government and the Scottish SPCA. We will provide the Scottish SPCA with any support required.
"We would like to point out that the vast majority of the thousands of shearers in the UK operate to the highest standards of animal welfare, which is an integral part of all our shearing courses."
Peta Asia – whose motto reads, in part, that "animals are not ours to wear" – encourages consumers to choose materials that are not produced through appalling abuse. They are based in Hong Kong and tend to cover Asian animal rights issues but are an affiliate of the the Peta US organisation.