As we near November, warm sweaters, cozy socks, and fuzzy boots are all the rage. When imagining how wool is obtained, an idyllic pasture and gentle shearing often come to mind. However, the reality is much darker and crueler. Whenever animals are exploited for their bodies, they are bound to suffer.
Here are some common misconceptions about wool:
Sheep need to be shorn.
Naturally, sheep grow just enough wool to keep them warm in the winter, and then shed it in the springtime. Sheep are not meant to be humans’ wool machines! Sheep have evolved to grow just enough wool to suit their environments perfectly, without the need for human intervention.
However, humans breed sheep to grow unnaturally large and bulky coats in order to maximize profit. Merino sheep are bred to have wrinkly skin so they produce more wool per individual animal. Unlike wild sheep, they do not shed their fur during the warmer months. Because of this, the sheep often collapse and die of heat exhaustion.
Due to the dirty conditions these sheep are subjected to, flies lay eggs in the moist folds in their skin. The maggots hatch and eat the sheep alive. This is called flystrike. Instead of providing the sheep with cleaner living conditions, most sheep raised in Australia, the world’s main wool producer, endure a practice called mulesing. Lambs are restrained, their feet are bound, and strips of skin are cut from the tail region with no anesthetics. The scar tissue that grows in the mulsed area is less likely to harbor flies.
Despite having endured this painful and stressful procedure, the sheep often die of infection in these exposed and bloody wounds, or still die of flystrike.
Shearing sheep is harmless, just like a haircut.
If shearing sheep is just like a haircut, I will certainly avoid visiting the hair stylist! Workers who shear the sheep are paid by the volume, motivating them to work as quickly as possible and disregard the welfare of the animals. Workers often sit on the sheep’s heads and necks, pinning them down as the sheep struggle to free themselves. Being aggressively restrained is very terrifying to these gentle prey animals! Workers often violently punch, kick, and stab sheep. Their haste in shearing the struggling sheep results in gaping wounds, which are crudely sewn up with a needle and thread and no anesthetics. Strips of skin are often sliced off the sheep along with the wool. When this brutal and stressful ordeal is over, the sheep are kicked down a chute. Many sheep die in the shearing process.
This is me after a haircut. I consented to donating my hair to be used to make a wig:
This is a sheep after being shorn. She did not give consent for people to take her fur:
Clearly, shearing sheep is NOT the same as a harmless haircut!
The sheep raised for wool die of natural causes.
After sheep’s wool production declines, wool producers maximize their profit by exporting the animals to be slaughtered. They are loaded onto ships and trucks and shipped long distances without food and water. Once they reach their destination, they are held in crowded feedlots. Many die during this stressful transportation process and holding period.
The sheep are often transported to countries with few regulations to protect them from inhumane slaughter. Those who survive the grueling transport and feedlots are faced with a terrifyingly cruel and brutal death.
As you can see, wool is cruel! A cute sweater or pair of boots is NOT worth the lifetime of torture, pain, and suffering these sweet and gentle animals are forced to endure. Plus, there are plenty of stylish clothes that are cruelty free! Before you buy something, always check the label. You can often find it inside the neckline of the garment or sewn into the side. It only takes a moment, but saves lives!
Look for items labeled faux, acrylic, nylon, man-made, cotton, polyester, fleece, and synthetic. Avoid item labeled wool, Merino, Angora, rabbit hair, suede, silk, down, or leather. Your favorite stores such as American Eagle, H&M, Forever 21, and many others carry plenty of vegan clothes!
If you already have wool in your closet, there is no need to throw it away. Just be sure to always purchase cruelty-free clothing from now on. If you no longer feel comfortable wearing woolen clothing, you can donate it to charity or to a friend.
So give sheep something to celebrate about and always Go Faux!
PETA’s international wool expose: http://investigations.peta.org/australia-us-wool/
More about Mulesing: http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-clothing/wool-industry/mulesing/
Wool Alternatives: http://www.peta.org/living/fashion/alternatives-wool/