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Latitude – The pink sheep of the family

22 July 2019 | Aaron Wise

It seems every music festival is trying to get one over on the others with some sort of quirky PR stunt nowadays.

Now, to be fair to Latitude, this particular stunt I’m going to write about isn’t actually new and has been going on for quite some time – 14 years to be exact.

So, to put it into context, for the last 14 years Latitude Festival has dyed the sheep pink - sometimes multiple colours - at its Henham Park site, in Suffolk.

Why the festival, which had acts including George Ezra, Lana Del Ray and the Stereophonics performing this year, feels the need to dye sheep head to toe in eye-watering pink I’m not sure. It’s quite odd, although it’s got people, a lot of people, talking. Good PR, right? It’s all intended to be light-hearted fun after all and who doesn’t want a ‘check-in’ selfie with a glowing sheep on their social channels?

Well, it turns out the 2,000, and counting, people who have signed a petition calling for the yearly practise to come to an end.

A spokesperson for animal rights organisation PETA UK, said: "In 2019, only ignorant or cruel people still use animals as living toys, props, and photo ops. We've learned enough about animals to know to respect and admire them for their ability to live in a world we're fast destroying."

While the RSPCA added: "This is very sad to see. We're a charity with no more powers than any member of public, and unfortunately this is not illegal.

"We want all animals treated with kindness and respect and would discourage people from painting animals for novelty purposes."

So, all in all, not great. The online petition was only recently started up and the momentum has only really started to build following the conclusion of the music festival yesterday, but this has surely got to hurt their image and they may have to reassess whether the future dying of sheep is worth it.

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs that I like to see myself as an animal rights activist, although I do eat meat, so I’d probably be putting my name to that petition if it was put in front of me, but there’s two sides to every story.

The festival organisers and a large group of farmers have hit back to the animal cruelty allegations, stating that by dipping the sheep in “natural, water-based dye”, it prevents them from being harmed by insecticides and parasites like itch-mite, blow-flies, ticks and lice.

Even East Suffolk Council said it had “no concerns” and were “entirely happy with the safe practise”. So, it makes you wonder if what they are doing is actually classed as cruelty and should be stopped. *ducks behind desk expecting pink dye to be thrown over him by animal loving colleagues*

Personally, I’m on the fence with this one. I agree that sheep shouldn’t be dipped in bright dye for visual entertainment, but at the same time, I’m sure farmers and the local council, which is in a rural and very agricultural-led area of the country, know best, and if they say it’s harmless, then c’est la vie.

Although, harmless or not for the sheep, it has definitely harmed Latitude’s image and it’ll be interesting to see if it bows to pressure despite the support from farmers. At the end of the day though, it’s a music festival, and should be judged on the experience it creates for music fans, so ditching the dipping of sheep won’t be detrimental to the future of the festival.

Anyway, I’ll leave you with this little beaut of a debate on LBC between a dairy farmer and vegan… enjoy!