Think about all the wool products the average American owns: coats, sweaters, scarves, Uggs and socks are just some of the wool products that can be found in our closets. However, most people have a glorified idea of where wool comes from. Personally, I used to think that sheep were raised on farms, and shaved lovingly for their wool. After all, sheep are adorable and who would treat a sheep badly at all?
Unfortunately, the wool industry is large, cruel and abusive. For starters, the country with the biggest wool industry in the world is in Australia. Approximately 25-30% of the world’s wool comes from Australia. Most sheep producers raise Merino sheep because of the abundance of wool that they grow. Most sheep naturally shed their fleece in the late spring or early summer. However, in order to get the most wool off of a sheep, they are all sheared in early spring. This is earlier in the season than they would normally shed their fleece, and some of the animals freeze to death.
Most wool producers raise so many sheep that they are unable to provide any individual care. Some young sheep die simply because of poor nutrition, which is obviously preventable. Instead of simply raising less sheep and caring for them all, the sheep are bred to bear more lambs than ever before, in order to offset the deaths that occur.
The Marino sheep that are the most widely bred are specifically bred to have wrinkled skin. This means that more wool is grown per sheep. Unfortunately, many sheep die of heat exhaustion in the hot summer months. Additionally, the wrinkles in their skin collect urine and other moisture, which breeds infection and disease. Flies lay eggs in the wool, and maggots hatch. The maggots can even eat the sheep alive.
In order to prevent the disease, Australian sheep ranchers perform what is called “meusling”, which is a cruel operation in which workers cut huge strips of skin off of the backs of the lambs’ legs and areas around their tails. The purpose is to produce a smooth, scarred skin, where no wool grows, to avoid egg and disease in the sheep. The sheep’s skin often gets infected before it can heal, though, which causes the sheep extreme suffering.
The good news is that it is easy to avoid buying wool products. Look for materials such as cotton, flannel, polyester fleece, and synthetic shearling. If you do your research, you can surely find great non-wool items such as sweaters and scarves. As for winter coats, check out Vaute Couture for beautiful winter wear. And make sure to replace your cruel Uggs, as well. Alternative Outfitters has stylish faux shearling boots.
For more information on the cruel wool industry, visit Peta.org.
Image Source PETA