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Here is the exact quote from Why is a Red Herring Red? by Mitchell Symons (2020):

Consequently, when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first.

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    'It is John.' 'It is John and Judy.' 'It is them.' Clefting uses 'it is' invariantly, and may involve a singular or a plural delayed subject (here, 'the slowest and weakest ones at the back', essentially from 'When the herd is hunted, the slowest and weakest ones at the back are killed first.' – Edwin Ashworth Jan 23 at 17:17
  • The plural in ones comes from the fact that herd is a group noun, and consists of individuals together. – John Lawler Jan 23 at 17:32
  • The pronoun “it” is not referential here, but a meaningless dummy element functioning as subject in an it-cleft construction, where the foregrounded element is complement of "is". The pronoun is really just a 'placeholder' for the variable that is defined in the relative clause; it does not have the number properties of the NP headed by plural "ones”. – BillJ Jan 23 at 18:10
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In a comment John Lawler wrote:

The plural in ones comes from the fact that herd is a group noun, and consists of individuals together.

Also in a comment BillJ wrote:

The pronoun “it” is not referential here, but a meaningless dummy element functioning as subject in an it-cleft construction, where the foregrounded element is complement of "is". The pronoun is really just a 'placeholder' for the variable that is defined in the relative clause; it does not have the number properties of the NP headed by plural "ones”.

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