I often hear misconceptions about the wool industry.
Even I used to think, “wool is just a sheep getting a haircut”, but now I know better.
(These pictures are from @veganteenager on Instagram)
1. According to Australia’s RSPCA, workers are often paid by the volume, or by the number of sheeps shorn, rather than being paid by the hour. This leads to employees shearing as quickly as possible, not caring about the welfare of the sheep. This leads to frequent nicks and cuts, which are often left up to the shearer to handle. Many times, cuts are sewn together with a needle and thread by the shearer.
2. Most of the world’s wool comes from Australia. In 2016-2017, it is estimated over 74.3 million sheep were shorn in Australia, compared to 5.25 million sheep in the U.S.
The most commonly raised sheep are Merino sheep, who have been selectively bred by humans to be more wrinkly and have more wool to shear.
The excess wool can lead to heat exhaustion, and the extra wool can collect urine and moisture.
The most common issue with the excess wool and folds are blowflies. Blowflies are attracted to this area; they like laying their eggs in the moist folds of the sheep. Within 12-24 hours, the eggs hatch into larvae (maggots) which feed off of the sheep’s flesh for up to three days. This is called “fly strike” in the industry, and is fatal when left untreated.
Many farmers have a process in place to “prevent” this, though, which brings us to point #3.
3. To prevent flystrike, which I described above, ranchers cut the skin off of a sheep’s buttocks without the use of painkiller. This is called “mulesing”. The goal of mulesing is to create a smoother skin that won’t collect moisture (which was mostly a human-created problem to begin with). However, mulesing doesn’t always work in preventing flystrike, since it can occur in any moist fold of the sheep’s body. Google it if you don’t believe me.
4. Lambs on farms have their tails docked (cut off) and the males are castrated before they are 6 weeks old.
The easiest/ most common way of tail docking is by “banding”. It involves using a rubber ring (or band) to cut off blood supply to the tail. This causes the tail to fall off within 7-10 days of banding, however many wool producers cut the tail off before it falls.
6. Once the wool stop producing enough wool to be profitable, sheep are exported live on ships to the Middle East to be slaughtered. It’s a long journey, 15-25 days. Australia ships two million sheep every year to this fate. The number of sheep crammed into the ships can vary, but the average is 60,000 per vessel.
The point of posting this is to show that regardless of how well a farmer treats their sheep, it’s unnecessary and exploitive to breed an animal into existence to use their fur.
There are tons of alternatives. Check out my blog post about how to stay cozy without wool here.
Thank you to @veganteenager for putting together the photos!
Here are my sources & further reading: