Police have been called to a farm in Scotland where “Britain’s loneliest sheep” was due to be taken following her rescue from the foot of a cliff, after animal rights activists were accused of intimidating staff.
The volunteer group Animal Rising took part in a peaceful protest outside Dalscone Farm Fun over the expected arrival of Fiona, who was rescued by a group of farmers on Saturday after two years stuck at the foot of a cliff.
The activists had been working on rescuing the sheep, who had grown a thick woolly fleece while living as an emigre on a beach, but they claim rival rescuers had gone behind their back to winch her up the cliff.
The rescuers intended for her to be moved to the farm park, which is closed for the winter, where she would spend five months being rehabilitated before the farm opens to the public again in the spring, they said.
She is being kept in a secret location until farmers feel it is safe to move her, after what they described as a “scary” and “intimidating” visit from activists, during which police were called.
In a video posted on social media, the farm manager, Ben Best, said: “For the time being, Fiona’s whereabouts is going to be kept secret. There’s only a few of us that know where she is. It’s such a shame because she needs to come in, she needs to settle down, she needs to be safe and these people who are claiming to be in her best interests are really, really not. She’s coming to a five-star home and they’re not allowing that to happen.
“We have nothing to hide; our animal track record is impeccable. We only do the right thing by our animals. That is so important to us. That comes above everything else,” he said.
Animal Rising said its intentions were peaceful and it apologised to the staff and family at Dalscone Farm for the “stressful” situation, but said it were concerned that a “petting zoo” visited by the public would not be the best home for Fiona, who spent two years alone after becoming separated from her flock.
She was spotted in October by a kayaker on a shingle beach on a stretch of steep, rocky coastline at Cromarty Firth, who remembered having seen her two years earlier.
Before the rescue, members of Animal Rising had spent three days scaling the cliff to build trust with Fiona, whom they called Sheepy, in partnership with the landowner.
They had an agreement, they said, to rescue the animal and take her to an animal sanctuary near Glasgow. However, on Saturday morning, when the group had left to fetch supplies, the owner broke the agreement by bringing in some farmers “who covertly smuggled Sheepy out”, they said.
Robert Gordon, a spokesperson for the group, said the activists wanted to talk to the rescuers and Dalscone Farm to find a compromise.
He said: “We’re inviting the owners to come out and speak to us if they want to, but obviously there’s no pressure if they are genuinely feeling intimidated.”
Gordon said they were happy for the rescuers to take the credit for bringing Fiona to safety: “All we want is for her to be in a sanctuary, not to be made a spectacle of in a petting zoo.”
Police Scotland said officers attended the scene on Sunday morning but that there were “no issues”.