By Paula Moore
Time to bundle up. A blast of Arctic air recently wreaked havoc on much of the country, with some areas experiencing record low temperatures, white-out highway conditions and snowfall measured in feet. Old Man Winter has arrived early this year, and he’s packing a punch.
But don’t let the polar chill put your compassion in a deep freeze. You can show a little kindness to animals and still stay warm this winter simply by choosing fur- and wool-free coats and accessories.
You probably already know why wearing real fur is coldhearted. From birth until death, animals on fur farms—where most fur comes from—live in abject misery. When eyewitnesses toured fur farms in Europe, they found animals with untreated, oozing wounds and broken or malformed limbs. Dead animals infested with maggots were left to rot among the living. Many animals circled frantically in their cages, driven insane from the confinement. When most people think about the fur industry, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the animals’ terrifying slaughter. Few people consider that they suffer from neglect, loneliness and a mind-numbing lack of stimulation day in and day out, usually for months and sometimes for years on end, before that final moment arrives.
But wool, too, should be off-limits for caring consumers, and here’s why: PETA’s international exposé of the wool industry revealed that docile sheep are punched in the face, slammed into the floor, kicked and even killed by impatient shearers, all just to produce wool sweaters and coats.
PETA investigated the wool industry in the U.S. and in Australia—the world’s largest exporter of wool—and found workers violently punching scared sheep, stomping and standing on the animals’ heads and necks and beating and jabbing them in the face with sharp electric clippers. One shearer, who twisted sheep’s necks and limbs to restrain them, twisted and bent one sheep’s neck repeatedly until it finally broke, nonchalantly remarking, “I might have killed it.”
Because shearers work so quickly, many sheep also have large swaths of skin cut off during shearing, and most sheep are cut—some severely—on their abdomen, hindquarters and limbs. When this happens, workers use a needle and thread to stitch up the most gaping wounds—without any painkillers and in the same unsterile environment in which the sheep were shorn.
Simply put, buying wool means supporting an industry that leaves gentle sheep battered and bloody.
Down also has a dark side: It often comes from birds who are plucked alive. Rushed workers yank fistfuls of feathers out of the birds’ delicate skin, and some are plucked so hard that their skin is torn open, leaving them with gaping wounds.
Wearing animal skins is not even the best way to beat the chill. You can bet that mountain climbers, skiers and other sporty types who head outdoors when temperatures drop are not wearing mink or wool coats to fend off the winter wind. Synthetics are both warmer and lighter than animal skins. They’re also more durable, and unlike fur and wool, they can be tossed into the washing machine when they get dirty.
No amount of fluff can hide the fact that animals suffer immensely in the fashion industry. This winter, choose animal-friendly vegan coats, sweaters, scarves and gloves to stay warm and toasty without buying into cruelty.
Paula Moore is a senior writer for the PETA Foundation.