Tag Archives: wool

Why I’ll have a wool-free winter

By Jennifer Bates
‘Tis the season for cozy fires, warm cocoa and playing in the snow. One thing that’s never in season, though, is wool.
I used to love wool—I mean, really love it. As soon as the temperature dipped, out came my wool skirts and scarves, mittens and sweaters. It made my eyes water and my skin itch, but I still bundled up in the stuff every winter and lamented packing it away again in the spring. On a trip to Tibet years ago, I even searched for hours for a wool cap, the only souvenir I really wanted. But these days, wool is no longer welcome in my closet. Why? Because I now see wool for what it actually is: environmentally destructive and heartbreakingly cruel.
Sheep require lots of land for grazing, and our voracious demand for wool requires lots and lots of sheep—so many, in fact, that they have outstripped the Earth’s ability to sustain them. In Patagonia, Argentina—once second only to Australia in wool production—too many sheep on the land led to soil deterioration, desertification and, eventually, irrevocable damage to the area. In a region of South Africa, sheep and other farmed animals created badlands when they ate their way through all the vegetation. And of course, cutting down trees to make room for grazing leads to decreased biodiversity. Any way you look at it, wool production is stripping parts of the planet bare.  
And the sheep fare even worse than the environment. Since shearers are paid by volume, it’s in their financial interests to work as quickly as possible, with no consideration for the sheep’s welfare. On three continents, PETA has exposed shearers who punched and stomped on sheep, throwing them against the hard wooden floor and gouging them with clippers as they raced to shear as many sheep as possible. Often, workers starve sheep and deprive them of water for 24 hours before shearing begins because weak animals are easier to control. Some sheep die from all this abuse.
And “responsibly sourced” wool is just as bad. A recent PETA video exposé of some of these sheep farms in Argentina showed hideous mutilations without any pain relief. One worker hacked off lambs’ tails, leaving bloody stumps as the babies bleated in pain. Another cut notches out of the lambs’ sensitive ears using a tool resembling pliers and neutered a male lamb by putting a tight ring around his scrotum so that his testicles would shrivel up and fall off. Even as a woman, the thought makes me cross my legs and grimace at the agony they endure.
That Tibetan cap turned out to be the last wool purchase I ever made. After learning about all the cruelty and environmental destruction caused by wool production, I said goodbye to wool clothing forever. And in so doing, I learned something else: It is so easy not to wear wool. The variety of sustainable, plant-based materials available is astounding, and they can be found everywhere, from national chains to Fifth Avenue boutiques. Clothing and accessories made out of these vegan fabrics are comfortable, warm and stylish. And, since compassion looks good on everyone, they also make the perfect holiday gift.
Let’s make this a joyous season for all beings. Choose cruelty-free clothing and accessories, and leave wool where it belongs — on animals.

Make this a wool-free winter

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.

Why I won’t wear wool this winter

By Paula Moore

I’ve been an animal rights advocate for more than two decades, and during that time I’ve come to believe that the animals killed in the name of fashion are some of the most abused beings on the planet. Foxes on fur farms spend their whole lives pacing the wire floor of a tiny cage, slowly losing their minds from the extreme confinement and deprivation. On angora rabbit farms, workers violently rip the fur out of rabbits’ skin as the animals scream in pain. Snakes are nailed to trees and skinned alive in the belief that live flaying keeps their skin supple.

But recent footage released by PETA highlighting cruelty documented at 19 wool sheds in Australia—the world’s leading exporter of wool—and on 14 ranches in the U.S. has shocked even many veteran PETA staffers. Shearing sheep for their wool is a violent process that leaves these gentle animals battered and bloodied. I urge everyone reading this to watch the videos on PETA’s website—and then trade in your wool sweaters and jackets for animal-friendly options.

In the wool industry, time is money, and since most shearers are paid by volume, not by the hour, they have an incentive to work as quickly as they can, with little regard for the sheep’s welfare. One worker can shear up to 27 sheep—or 35 lambs—every single hour.

PETA’s investigators in Australia documented that shearers punched the struggling sheep, poked them in the eyes and routinely jabbed them in the face with sharp clippers, leaving them bleeding. In the investigative footage, one sheep’s face can be seen with blood soaking the wool all around it.

Workers stomp on sheep and stand on their heads and necks. They grab and drag sheep by their legs and slam them against the hard floor of the shearing shed. The ordeal doesn’t end until the sheep are completely shorn—and many of the animals are literally thrown down chutes into holding pens.

Terrified lambs, taken from their loving mothers, cry out before and during their first shearing. “They’ve been separated from their mums and they’re calling for them,” one worker explained. “They’re going, ‘Mom! Mom!'”

Because the shearers work so quickly, most sheep are cut—some severely—on their abdomen, hindquarters and limbs. When this happens, workers use a needle and thread to try to sew shut the most gaping wounds—without painkillers and in the same unsterile environment in which the sheep were shorn. Many sheep also have swaths of skin cut or pulled off during shearing. One worker even cut off three sheep’s tails with clippers.

The investigators never saw anyone reprimanded for their callous treatment of the sheep—or any veterinary care administered to them. Instead, injured sheep were shot in full view of their companions. One was butchered, and the body was left where other sheep could see it.

PETA’s investigator in the U.S. documented similar abuses. One shearer repeatedly twisted and bent a sheep’s neck, breaking it. At another ranch, workers hauled a critically ill ram—struggling to breathe—into a trailer to be sheared. The ram was left in the trailer overnight and was found dead the next morning.

Most people would agree that electrocuting foxes for their fur or ripping the skin off live snakes and leaving them to writhe in agony is wrong. The pain and fear endured by sheep in the wool industry are just as real as the suffering of other animals used and abused for their skins.

PETA’s videos are hard to watch. If you care about animals at all, they will upset you. But these animals don’t need our tears. They need our action. When you see the word “wool” on a coat label, please remember the sheep who were beaten bloody and dragged along the floor by their hind legs. And leave that item on the rack.