In some of our earlier posts, particularly those centered around warmer layers for colder weather, we’ve touched upon the fact that wool should be avoided because it is unethical. Many people are confused as to why wearing wool would be an unethical choice: after all, it’s just taking the wool off a sheep, right? That’s not killing it… how bad could it be?
Well. First and foremost, most animals that are exploited for human benefit are treated atrociously. In many places, sheep that are raised for their wool are subjected to one of the most cruel methods of animal husbandry imaginable: a technique called “mulesing” that absolutely broke my heart when I learned about it. (Warning: if you happen to do a Google search for mulesing, be aware that you’ll find very graphic images that are more than a little disturbing.) In this practice, large strips of skin are removed from the backsides of young wool-bearing sheep, usually without any anesthetic or veterinary treatment. It’s is apparently done so that they do not succumb to illnesses caused by flies that bury themselves in the rump skin of the animals, but the animals experience excruciating pain both during the procedure, and for weeks afterward as they heal. If they heal: thousands of animals die of shock from this practice every year. I cannot bear to imagine what kind of pain these poor beings must experience because of this. Add to that the castration methods, ear-notching and tail-docking, and the suffering just continues on and on…
Now you have their living conditions. The factory farms on which many of these animals live keep the animals in torturous “living” conditions. Confined to small pens for years on end, these animals get no exercise, no sunlight, no fresh air, and often very little food: they are kept still to keep them from getting too dirty, so they can be sheared repeatedly in order to produce the “finest” wool on earth. For the fashion industry. Many of these sheep go insane because of this, rocking back and forth repeatedly or spinning around in circles, and most die without ever having been allowed to walk outdoors. Fortunately, many upscale companies are turning to “ethically”-raised sheep and refusing factory-farmed wool, but there is still a level of exploitation and cruelty that even “free-range” sheep encounter, just for the sake of our clothes.
Regardless of whether a sheep has been reared in a pen or allowed to wander in a field, shearing itself is often extremely traumatic for the animal: they are pinned down and aggressively sheared, often being cut, sliced, and torn during the process. The wool is often harvested far too early in the season, which leaves the sheep bared and exposed to the elements—many freeze to death when the temperature drops too low at night because their natural, protective covering has been taken from them by force. To top it all off, once these poor animals are no longer able to bear wool, they’re packed into overcrowded transport vehicles with little food or water, and taken to the slaughterhouse.
I don’t think anyone could buy and wear a wool sweater in good conscience after seeing how badly these sweet, sentient beings are treated in exchange for their fleece, and there is absolutely no need to cause such gentle animals such tremendous harm when there are so many other options available to us.
Please, choose cruelty-free alternatives when you shop, and encourage others to do the same.