Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 Favorite. It was originally published on June 5, 2013. Enjoy!
You probably wouldn’t have thought that the woolly jumper you’re wearing or those Ugg boots you love so much could be the cause of so much cruelty and suffering.
The truth is, there is a much darker side to the wool industry than you may have ever imagined, and no amount of fluff can hide the abhorrently cruel and bloody practices that millions of sheep have to endure every day.
Here are the top ten reasons why you should boycott wool and opt for a cruelty free alternative instead:
1. Sheep don’t need to be shorn. Through no fault of our own, we are mistakenly led to believe that ‘sheep need to be shorn.’ The reality is much more complicated. Sheep naturally produce only the amount of wool they need to protect themselves from extreme weather conditions. It is due to genetic engineering and the manipulation of the sheep’s wool production that we have left these defenseless animals dependent on human interference.
2. Mulesing. Half of the world’s Merino wool comes from Australia, where sheep are specifically bred to have wrinkled skin in order to increase wool production. This wrinkled skin is prone to flystrike due to the accumulation of excess moisture and urine. Flystrike is a painful condition in which flies lay eggs in the folds of the skin and the hatched maggots eat the sheep alive. The wool industry’s solution? Cutting off huge pieces of skin from the area around the tail and back of the legs, producing smoother, scarred skin that doesn’t harbor fly eggs. This barbaric practice is usually performed without anesthesia and causes a great deal of distress to the animal, and in many cases the bloody, untreated wounds often get flystrike before they have healed.
3. The wool industry is riddled with death and disease. To give you a better idea, ten million lambs die every year before they are more than a few days old in Australia alone. Why? Flocks usually consist of thousands, making it impossible to give proper care and attention to individual sheep. Rather than reduce the number of sheep in an effort to better maintain them, sheep are bred to bear more lambs to offset the deaths.
4. An estimated 1 million sheep die from exposure. Sheep have to be sheared in the spring before they naturally shed their winter coats. Shearing too late means a loss of wool, so subsequently they are sheared while it is still too cold, leaving them vulnerable and at risk of death from exposure due to premature shearing.
5. Sheep shearers are paid by the volume. The majority of sheep shearers are paid by the volume, as opposed to by the hour, encouraging fast work without regard for the welfare of the sheep. This results in rough handling and injury during the process.
6. Lambs have to endure castration, tail docking and dehorning without anesthesia. Using a knife to cut out their testicles or a rubber ring to cut off the blood supply, a knife to cut off the tail, and a scraper blade or dehorning shears to remove the horn bud without any painkillers doesn’t sound very humane, does it? All of these procedures are common practice in the wool industry, and cause fear, pain and distress.
7. Sheep are highly intelligent animals. They have incredible memories and can remember up to 50 individual faces (sheep and humans) for years! This is because they use a similar part of the brain and neural process as humans use to remember.
8. Sheep are gentle, loving and feeling individuals who are capable of a range of emotions. Extensive studies have been carried out proving that sheep have much richer emotional lives than we give them credit for.
9. Five million kangaroos are killed every year as a result of the wool industry. Excessive numbers of sheep have eaten the native flora upon which the kangaroo feeds, causing the yellow footed rock wallaby to become an endangered species. These native animals are now viewed as damaging pests and the Australian government permits the slaughter of an estimated 5 million kangaroos each year.
10. Every sheep shorn will eventually be sent to slaughter. When a sheep’s wool production declines, they are sold for slaughter. This terrifying and frightening ordeal requires the sheep to travel long distances in extremely cramped and crowded conditions. Many sheep die during the journey from exhaustion, dehydration, stress and injury, and lambs born during the trip are often trampled to death.
Sheep are not the only animals exploited for their wool. Goats, rabbits and alpacas are also commonly used to manufacture angora, cashmere and alpaca wool. You don’t have to contribute to this abusive industry. Check labels before you buy and use alternatives such as cotton, cotton flannel, soft acrylic, polyester fleece and synthetic shearling.
Photo Credit: EssjayNZ