More than 80,000 people had signed a petition against the races that were due to be held tomorrow. Organisers said they had taken the decision with “deep regret”, claiming Dumfries and Galloway Council had insisted the animals be licensed in line with the Performing Animals Act 1925 which they were unwilling to do at short notice.
The local authority said it had not prevented the event from going ahead and it had been the organisers’ choice to cancel.
A petition was launched earlier this year to have the races scrapped on grounds of animal cruelty.
A statement from the Moffat Promotions Group said it was “very disappointed” by the lack of support from the council. “The Moffat sheep races has become a firm fixture in the town’s calendar over the last five years and was a hugely successful fun day for all of the family,” it said. “Furthermore, no objections and certainly no requests to apply this ancient act had been made until very recently.
“The council should have shown greater strength on this matter but instead created a situation where local organisers ended up backed into a corner which is hugely disappointing.”
Animal rights campaigners succeeded in getting a similar event cancelled at a church fete in Cambridgeshire after gathering nearly 40,000 signatures.
This time around more than 80,000 backed the online effort to stop the Scottish races taking place.
John Robins, from the charity Animal Concern, welcomed the decision to cancel the Moffat event.
“This is great news and I’m very glad the organisers have seen sense,” he said. “It might not seem very cruel but chasing sheep along town streets with thousands of people noisily cheering them on causes the animals fear and stress.”
The council said it had been working to try to ensure the races went ahead, but noted this year’s event had attracted “a lot of negative publicity”.