The Campaign for Wool will stage a propaganda extravaganza in New York City’s Bryant Park on September 27th, complete with live sheep. The festival, called “Wool Uncovered,” will not uncover the dark side of the wool industry.
Charles, Prince of Wales, launched The Campaign for Wool in 2010 when he “noticed an overall decline in the industry, with the price of wool dropping along with the number of sheep worldwide.” Care2 has reported on the heinous conditions sheep undergo during transport in and out of the United Kingdom.
The event will feature a host of eye-catching vignettes, according to DNAinfo.com New York. Thirty sheep will munch the grass in a plexiglass enclosure; professionals will demonstrate how wool is sorted; yoga will be practiced on wool rugs. DNAinfo reports that “Organizers said they also want to drain the fountain in the park for the day and fill it with wool and yarn, as well as cover several trees in the park with wool fabric.”
The authority that approved the event, Manhattan’s Community Board Five, is especially excited to have live sheep in midtown. “It’s just a lot of fun,” the Board’s manager told WNYC. A spokesperson for the public relations firm handling the event said that the live sheep in the park would be the event’s big draw.
A New York City sweater designer interviewed about the event told the New York Post that she was “under the impression that [collecting wool] doesn’t hurt the sheep.”
She is wrong.
Meet Louise, a sheep who narrowly escaped death and made it to Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. Before her rescue she was farmed for wool (the Woodstock website contains an error: Louise was not raised for lamb meat). Her tail was amputated, probably without anesthetic. One of Louise’s hooves was not trimmed, causing it to grow too long and twist her ankle. She fell over and couldn’t get up.
Louise froze to the ground.
The farmer knew she was down and left her there to die.
A neighbor rescued her and she found her way to the Woodstock sanctuary. She lost part of her left ear to frostbite, and she had to wear special shoes to adjust her ankle. But nothing helped her foot and she still limps.
Louise’s sad history hasn’t turned her against people. “She will put her face right next to yours as you pet her head,” the sanctuary reports.
The sheep I have met at Woodstock, Farm Sanctuary and Catskill Animal Sanctuary remind me of big, gentle puppies. Many of them will lean against me, hoping for pets and cuddles. And these are sheep who have never met me before.
People think of shearing sheep as doing them a favor, but it is a favor they wouldn’t need if it weren’t for human manipulation — and in most cases, it is more punishment than gift. Sheep that have not been genetically manipulated grow enough fleece to keep them warm and shed it in the summer. But sheep like merinos have been bred to produce far more wool than they need and not to shed. They even have too much skin, which wrinkles up to create more surface area for wool to grow.
The way these sheep are shorn is shameful. Shearers are paid by volume, so they have every incentive to move quickly and no incentive for caution or attention to the sheep’s wellbeing. One eyewitness reported that “the shearing shed must be one of the worst places in the world for cruelty to animals…I have seen shearers punch sheep with their shears or their fists until the sheep’s nose bled. I have seen sheep with half their faces shorn off.”
The celebration of wool in Bryant Park won’t reveal these truths about the wool industry, and the 30 sheep grazing behind plexiglass will surely have intact faces.