HAILEY — A bronze sculpture in the works to celebrate the sheep heritage of the Wood River Valley could get company.
PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — wants to erect a 6-foot-tall statue depicting a sheep being sheared next to the planned city sculpture.
PETA’s statue would pay tribute to “the millions of gentle, intelligent sheep who are beaten, stomped on, kicked, cut and mutilated in the wool industry each year,” wrote Tracy Reiman, the organization’s executive vice president.
Reiman addressed her letter to Michelle Johnson of the Hailey Arts and Historic Preservation Commission. She said PETA, which has 6.5 million supporters worldwide and nearly 22,000 in Idaho, would donate the statue to the city.
And she said, she would like to set up a portable TV at the unveiling that would screen footage from PETA’s exposes of the wool industry.
“The installation of this statue would serve as a stark reminder to Hailey residents that one of the best ways to prevent violence against sheep is never to buy their wool,” she wrote.
John and Diane Peavey, who own the Flat Top Sheep Ranch near Carey and who co-founded the Trailing of the Sheep Festival, promptly defended their industry against PETA’s charges.
“I served on the American Lamb Board for two terms and have watched as PETA has taken this and dragged it through community after community,” Diane Peavey said. “Apparently, they got some guy to pass himself off as a shearer and he got some footage of a really bad operation. It’s not an accurate representation of what happens in the sheep industry. I’d call it a scam.”
John Peavey said that shearing sheep is actually a benevolent act for sheep because it helps them stay cooler during summer and keeps them from getting weighed down when rain saturates the wool.
“They’re next to the shearer when they’re being sheared. They don’t fight at all,” he said.
The city’s sculpture being created by Twin Falls sculptor Danny D. Edwards will feature 11 life-sized bronze sculptures: eight sheep parading ahead of a sheepherder, horse and dog. It’s designed to celebrate 150-plus years of the sheep industry in the Wood River Valley, according to Peavey.
Peavey hopes to unveil it in Fall 2021 at the 25th anniversary of the Trailing of the Sheep Festival. The Festival attracts people from all over the world as it tells the story of Navajo weavers, Basque sheepherders and others who have made their living via sheep. Sheep became the lifeblood of the Wood River Valley in the 1920s following the collapse of the mining industry.
Hailey Mayor Martha Burke said she had not heard about PETA’s request. But she added that the city had approved its sculpture as an appropriate way to honor Basque and Peruvian sheepherders who are woven into the fabric of the community’s heritage.
“What I like about the sculpture is that it depicts a shepherd leading his horse so it doesn’t get worn out,” she said. “I’m surprised this has come up. Even people in the community who disparage sheep were on board with honoring those in the industry.”
Joan Davies serves on both the Hailey Arts Commission and the Trailing of the Sheep board. As a youngster growing up near Hazelton, her family raised a small flock on the Greenwood farm. She recalls shearing them and stomping the wool down in bags that they would take to Utah to get a little extra spending money. She loves the idea of a statue depicting sheep being shorn but only if presented in the right vein.
“This is harsh,” she said of the PETA’s charges. “Wool is such a wonderful product. And the sheep don’t need all that wool. Every once in a while they might get a little nick from shearing, but usually they’re very relaxed when being sheared.”