Top 10 Reasons Not to Wear Wool

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


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Julie Hayward
Julie Hayward2 years ago

It would be greatly appreciated if the author would complete research prior to commenting on the wool indudtry...sheep live happily in many countries not just Australia, furthermore Merino sheep are a special breed with a history - read on.
For centuries the ancient Merino Breed has been renowned in Spain for its fine wool, the industry was so valuable that the penalty for exporting the sheep was death. After the Peninsular Campaign of the Napoleonic wars disrupted Spainish society in 1807 - 14, the wool industry declined and Merino spread throughout Europe, North America and Australia. The Merino was the first sheep breed brought to New Zealand in large numbers. The Australian sheep industry was based on Merino and from 1840 to early 1860 thousands were transported across the Tasman sea, they were not always good quality so New Zealand Breeders imported small numbers from Germany, France, Britain and the United States to improve the stock. By the early 1880s the New Zealand merino had become a distinct type. Pastoralists & Farmers soon discovered that merino were prone to footrot in warm moist conditions - orginating from a semo-arid land the breed was not resistant to the disease. Footrot infects the tissue inside the hoof - in severe cases the horny part can detach from the rest of the foot, infection can result in weight loss, reduced productivity and death. Settlers on farms in wet districts and with heavy soils fround they could not keep merino sheep. merino sheep

Gerald L.
Gerald L2 years ago

Here's a Bigger reason to wear wool, Organic cotton, silk etc.

dacron fabric | Upaya Naturals‎
I'm sure by now we have all heard of toxic smells, chemicals and pesticides that we should never ingest, but have you ever heard of Toxic Clothing? There used ...

What I find very odd are the purported proponents of anti-animal sourced fibres have not researched the dangers of chemicall, and petroleum based alternatives. When they demonize an organic product, encouraging the use of man made synthetics, encouraging the Clear Cutting of Forests for Bamboo and Rayon, further evicting forest dwelling animals.

Many Forest Companies spray their lands with a Type of Agent Orange De-foliant to kill other Un-desirable tree species. How many song birds, insects, moose, deer, racoons etc. do they poison? Plus the wild berries, contaminated waterways etc.?

People should carry on a pro-con debate in their heads before being Hi-jacked by unsound emotionally charged falsehoods. Eg.

What are the alternatives?
Do they make sense?
Are there Environmental costs?
How many Carbon Inputs are needed for alternatives being promoted?

Gerald L.
Gerald L2 years ago


How dangerous is Dacron off-gassing in a child's mattress? - Green ... mattress‎
7 Nov 2011 ... Answered by Mary Cordaro: Dacron is a type of polyester, made for many ... Dacron may outgas VOCs, which are gasses from chemicals that usually ... the government required flammability test without any flame-retardants?

Gerald L.
Gerald L2 years ago

Another good reason to wear wool or other natural fabrics like silk or Organic cotton;

chempolymerproject - Orlon~Acrylic-B-KT‎
The name Orlon® has been trademarked by the DuPont company, ... to moths, oil and chemicals” [Direct Quote : FiberSource – Acrylic Fiber] It is also easy to dye and flexible. ... The above picture is of an Orlon fiber being degraded by Micrococcus luteus ... You need to enable Javascript in your browser to edit pages.

Gerald L.
Gerald L2 years ago

contd; Flame retardant found in breast milk - Health - Children's health ...‎
High levels of a common flame retardant used in furniture, computers and cars have been found in the breast milk of a sample of women across the U.S., .

# 10. Every sheep shorn will eventually be sent to slaughter.

Yes where the meat, hide & countless by-products provide added value. In the wild compare the death from being torn apart without anaesthesia by a wolf, coyote, mountain lion etc. Lobby for better practices, but not an end to wool. Otherwise please support the Keystone XL Pipeline, Kinder Morgan, Northern Gateway, Line 9 Reversal, Sarnia to Montreal, to Portland Maine pipeline proposals.

We will need to ship all that oil off to countries to process into synthetic fabrics, and clothing. So enjoy your shopping at MalWart and GiveMe YourPennies.

Gerald L.
Gerald L2 years ago

@ Dianne D @ 11:04pm PST on Nov 14, 2014
I won't touch anything from an animal. I refuse to be the cause of an animal to suffer.

Your ideals and compassion are justified, but not solidly based. If you use a plant based alternative, eg. bamboo & rayon require the clear-cutting of forests evicting their woodland residents. The Neurotoxin Carbon Disulphide is also used in the Pulp Mill process poisoning workers and the environment on discharge into the air and water. The logging & Industrial mill complex needed are mind boggling compared to a ranch, farm, Carding & woolen Mill.

Imagine all this can be done at home. Shearing, washing, Carding, Dying, Spinning, Knitting or weaving. Minimal carbon inputs. Use Acrylic or Polyfleece and you need an Oil Well, pipeline, chemical plant etc. and your wearing all this next to your skin. Have a spark from a bon-fire land on your clothing and your headed to the Burn Unit if you survive.

So shearing a sheep CAREFULLY to relieve it of a heavy coat, preventing matting is compassionate. It is a organic renewable resource which can be composted if your into gardening. Wool is also naturally flame resistant which would be a lot healthier in our furniture covering and bed mattresses instead of the chemical which is found in the breast milk of mothers globally from wind-drift.

Flame retardant found in breast milk - Health - Children's health ...‎

Dianne D.
Dianne D2 years ago

I won't touch anything from an animal. I refuse to be the cause of an animal to suffer.

Gerald L.
Gerald L2 years ago

contd; EASY CARE The protective waxy coating on wool fibres makes wool products resistant to staining and they also pick up less dust as wool is naturally anti-static. Recent innovations mean wool items are no longer hand-wash only. Many wool products can now be machine-washed and tumble dried.

ODOUR RESISTANT Wool is far more efficient than other textiles at absorbing sweat and releasing it into the air, before bacteria has a chance to develop and produce unpleasant body odour.

A SAFE SOLUTION Wool is naturally safe. It is not known to cause allergies and does not promote the growth of bacteria. It can even reduce floating dust in the atmosphere, as the fibre’s microscopic scales are able to trap and hold dust in the top layers until vacuumed away. Thanks to its high water and nitrogen content, wool is naturally FLAME-retardant, and has a far higher ignition threshold than many other fibres, will not melt and stick to the skin causing burns, and produces less noxious fumes that cause death in fire situations. Finally, wool also has a naturally high level of UV protection, which is much higher than most synthetics and cotton.

Please download here the IWTO guidelines for wool sheep welfare, a concise summation of good practice principles for ethical wool sheep production - See more at: