Warm Without Wool
Image courtesy of David White on Unsplash
Why should we be warm without wool?
You may be thinking. Surely wool is just something that we obtain from sheep whilst they live a peaceful life of grazing and socialising with their friends? The reason that we have launched our warm without wool campaign, is to raise awareness that no matter how good a life sheep are given and how carefully sheared they may be, we believe that they deserve more than only being viewed as a wooly jumper or a leg of lamb. Here on this planet only to service the needs of the human race. Every time that we choose an alternative to wool, we lessen the demand on these animals and move towards a world where we no longer view animals as products.
Is shearing sheep necessary?
In its natural state, a sheep would make enough wool to keep itself warm in Winter. It would then shed it in Summer as part of its built-in cooling system.
Now, however, specially modified sheep exist to feed the needs of the wool industry. These sheep can grow so much wool that if they weren’t sheared multiple times, they’d die of overheating in an Australian summer, for example.
Because sheep farmers aren’t paid for their time and instead are paid for the weight of the wool the sheep produce, the more quickly the sheep are shorn, the more effective and cost-efficient the process is, for the farmers and the shearers.
Unfortunately, this view of sheep as a cash-crop only adds up to one outcome: terrible abuses of the animals, and often a complete lack of care for this gentle, intelligent creature who for so long has been considered a harbinger of Spring, and a sweet, cartoon companion of the Easter Bunny.
Isn’t wool just a byproduct?
Some people think that wool is just a by-product of the meat industry. And you’re going to slaughter those sheep for their meat in any case, so it just makes sense to shear them before they go to meet their maker.
In the UK, yes, it’s fair to say most farming of sheep is for the meat market – because the price of wool is at its lowest ebb ever at £1 per kilo. However, this is only because of a spike in demand for merino wool and cashmere. So just because demand is falling for UK wool, many regions around the world are profiting hugely off the backs of wool producing animals. Over 2,000,000 tonnes of wool are produced world-wide every year, from many species of animal including rabbits and bison. But sheep and goats are probably the ones we think of if we think at all about where our wool comes from.
So where has your wool come from?
If you’re wearing wool, chances are it’s come from the merino sheep, which produces a softer, finer yarn. And it’s been grown – like a crop is grown – in Australia, quite probably, on a scale beyond your imagination. Wool farming is an extremely industrialised and commercial process, which is very lucrative. It’s actually possible to argue that in some countries wool sustains the sheep/mutton industry.
What is Mulesing and its alternatives?
The process of mulesing is the removal of a large chunk of skin with a pair of secateur-like shears and no anaesthetic, has long been established as a way to control flystrike (flies laying their eggs in the folds of wool around a sheep’s behind, causing rotting of the flesh and disease). This has officially been banned as of October 2018. Dipping sheep is seen as a less invasive means of achieving the same result. However, critics claim that dipping sheep isn’t fully effective in dealing with flystrike, so our suggestion is to stop breeding millions of sheep in to existence in the first place and use truly cruelty free alternatives.
What else should you know about shearing?
In the often inhumane conditions of their shearing, a sheep might be injured – in the infamous PETA investigation that shocked the world years ago, sheep were seen being stamped on, beaten viciously and treated abominably by the shearers, to the extent that some animals actually died in the shearing process. Udders, penises and ears were cut or sheared off; open wounds were stitched up without anaesthesia. We know that not all farms are as bad as this but nobody can argue that shearing sheep is ever completely stress free for the animal.
No matter what the standards may be to protect and defend the helpless animals, as we know, the bottom line is always the profit margin. And because of that, animals are doomed to lose the battle for humane treatment every time.
Photography by Gemma Evans on Unsplash
Do sheep and other wool-bearing animals go to retirement homes??
Once an animal is “non-productive”, it’s seen as a drain on resources, so it’s shipped off, often to countries which have little if any legislation regarding animal welfare, to be slaughtered. PETA reports “Every year, around 3 million sheep undergo the cruelty of live export from Australia to the Middle East and North Africa. These sheep are slaughtered after enduring grueling journeys on extremely crowded, filthy, disease-ridden ships. The voyage can last days or even weeks, and the sheep can be exposed to all weather extremes.” No animal makes it out of the wool industry alive.
What are the alternatives to wool?
Bamboo is soft as soft, and it costs much less to produce on an industrial scale. There’s TENCEL, hemp, acrylic, polyester, modal, rayon, viscose, cotton… Not all of these alternatives are the most environmentally friendly but they are cruelty free and wool farming is certainly not environmentally friendly.
Is Wool farming bad for the environment?
Sheep, according to The Ecologist, are the “Humvees” of the animal world, creating vast amounts of methane and eating their way merrily across millions of acres of specially cleared land so that they can produce the wool the world demands. A ground-breaking 2017 report breaks the bad news that wool production is actually more environmentally costly than that of many man-made fibres, such as acrylic, polyester and rayon. Also, the chemicals used for sheep dip and chemicals used to treat wool and make it wearable are terrible for the environment.
No-one can afford this price. Least of all, the sheep. And our planet certainly can’t.
Warm Without Wool
At APE we want to make it as easy as possible for you to buy your Winter warmers ethically and sustainably. So that you don’t have to buy in to the man-made myth that we have the right to treat animals as no more than objects, here to keep us warm. Help to prove that they are not and be warm without wool this winter.