A case of alleged animal abuse in the far west of New South Wales has led to debate about whether sheep can comprehend human speech.It began in September last year, when the New South Wales branch of the RSPCA received a tip-off about the alleged mistreatment of sheep, including verbal abuse, that were being shorn at Boorungie Station, 130 kilometres from Broken Hill.
The complaint was lodged by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which had apparently obtained footage and testimony from an undercover operative working at the station.
For Ken Turner, who operates Boorungie Station, the complaint itself suggests the sheep could at least understand English.
"The basis for the concerns was the rights of the animals, that they might have been harassed by viewing things they shouldn't have seen or verbal abuse by people using bad language," he said.
"To my knowledge, there was no actual cruelty on the job.
"The allegation was that bad language was used by an employee on the property in front of the sheep, and that they could have been offended by the use of bad language."