Hard Facts About a Woolly Industry
  • 22
  • Oct

Hard Facts About a Woolly Industry

Here’s the not-so-fluffy lowdown on wool – and some facts that you’re not likely to learn from the industry’s sales pitches.

About 30 million sheep are farmed in the UK, and they are sheared of approximately 22,000 tonnes of wool every single year. This may not sound out of the ordinary until you learn that a third of this wool is labelled as “skin wool”, a grim name for wool which is torn from slaughtered lambs’ bodies.

Wool, far from being green, is a by-product of an industry which slaughters more than 6 million lambs a year in the UK alone. In fact, modern synthetic textiles have longer lives than many of the animals who are imprisoned and slaughtered to create what is essentially a weave of sheep hair.

On top of these already alarming numbers, approximately 4 million sheep die every single year from exposure, sickness and injury as well as complications during birth because of poor conditions and genetic factors resulting from the way that they have been bred. The sheep who do survive to be “productive” end their too-short lives in the abattoir, sometimes while still conscious because the electrical stun guns that are used are often ineffective.

Poor treatment of sheep in the wool industry

Around 25 per cent of the world’s wool comes from Australia, where a barbaric practice known as “mulesing” is widespread. Mulesing involves workers slicing huge chunks of skin off lambs’ legs and backs. It’s supposed to protect the mutilated sheep from flystrike, but it doesn’t really work – instead, this bloody procedure causes them intense pain and fear.

Sheep are routinely mutilated by Australian wool farmerd

Shearing sheep is often a violent and terrifying process for the animals. Low-paid workers try to rush through as many of them as quickly as possible, handling them roughly and making careless – but for the sheep, agonising – mistakes. During shearing, sheep can sustain anything from nicks to complete amputations of their udders, ears, penises and other body parts.

After a few years, sheep farmed for wool are consigned to be slaughtered and face a further harrowing ordeal. These naturally timid and sensitive animals may be crammed onto trucks, sometimes forced into crowded pens to be auctioned or even made to endure a prolonged and hellish journey on a ship to an overseas slaughterhouse because of the cruel practice of live export – which is common in Australia and has recently been resumed in the UK, too.

Cruel and stressful transport of animals in the wool industry

The wool industry makes profits of roughly 1 billion pounds a year in the UK alone, making the lack of basic welfare for many of the animals it exploits all the more obscene. Why celebrate an industry which derives a third of its profits from slaughtering intelligent, social and caring animals before they have been alive for even a year?

Given that there are so many affordable, cosy and cruelty-free (not to mention hypoallergenic) fabrics available, such as acrylic and polyester fleece, it’s no wonder that compassionate people are choosing not to buy wool. Why not make this Wool Week the moment when you change your consumer habits and help sheep by pledging never to wear their hair:

Take the pledge

Images 1 and 3: Jo-Anne McArthur / WeAnimals.org

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Comments

  1. avatar betty jarvis says:

    the only thing i can say is shock and horror

  2. avatar Marion L B Dill says:

    I will only wear wool from reputable sources like Izzy Lane and Romney Marsh Wool – they care deeply for their sheep.

  3. avatar Antona Grady says:

    This makes me sick and needs to be stopped ASAP… Words can’t explain how sad I feel.(

  4. avatar cheryl jones says:

    its absolutely barbarrick it makes me sick to my stomach

  5. avatar Daryl Michael says:

    Horrific! Must be stopped! how do the people that carry out these atrocities sleep at night?!
    I prefer acrylic anyway it doesn’t shrink.

  6. avatar Wowzers says:

    At least cotton and polyester are GOOD alternatives to wool!

  7. […] renewable resource. (Well, for anyone of you who follow my Twitter feed you may have seen my PETA inspired rant about the poor treatment of British sheep so I hope that the farmers who supply this […]

  8. avatar Ty Jeffries says:

    I am horrified by this of course…it is horrendous…
    but your ‘pledge’ is too extreme!!! How can we not wear wool..and then cotton surely something or somebody get’s hurt in the making of this ( people for a start I am sure) Surely there must be a way to ensure ETHICAL treatment of animals in every industry. To do a ‘blanket ban’ ( excuse the bad pun) is OTT and not going to work. A campaign to raise awareness and put some laws in place…a far better idea.. but thats just me.I agree with Marion L B Dill above… if we named and shamed those who hurt animals then we could encourage people to buy the kind kind.

    • avatar Anne says:

      Hi Ty,

      Thanks for your comment. We are working on concrete ways to improve the welfare of sheep raised for wool, for example, by putting pressure on the Australian government to ban “mulesing” (you can help here: http://action.peta.org.uk/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=5&ea.campaign.id=1253). But right now, Australia is the world’s largest wool producer, and because wool is generally not clearly labelled, there is no way to ensure that any wool you buy didn’t come from mulesed sheep.
      Fortunately, it is in fact very easy to avoid wearing wool! High street shops are full of coats, jumpers, hats and scarves made from animal-free fibres (hardly surprising given how many people have adverse skin reactions to wool). Just check the labels, you might be surprised by how many wool-free options are out there :)

    • avatar John Rooksby says:

      ‘Naming and shaming’…why don’t we get away from inadequate sayings such as this that only get used because they rhyme? These perpetrators should be named and PUNISHED.

  9. avatar Ben Barnard says:

    Not sure the person who wrote the article has ever been close to a sheep. I read the article with interest and was disappointed at the conclusion. Not all sheep are raised for meat with wool as a by-product. Some sheep are raised for wool and meat is the by-product. Get your facts straight. If the complaint was about karakul sheep, I may have shared your passion. You clearly lack basic knowledge about the sheep industry to qualify you as an organizer for any type of protest involving products derived from sheep. When did you escape the flock? Gather facts, do some research and stop calling for a protest on a whim. You are wasting poeple’s time with B.S. Facts are not hard to come by if you really care to.

    • avatar Anne says:

      Hi Ben,

      Sorry that you don’t agree with our position. However, I’m not sure I fully understand your critique. Nowhere in the blog does it state that all sheep are raised for meat with wool as a by-product. Many of the figures cited in the blog in fact come from the wool industry’s own reports. And, regardless of whether sheep are raised primarily for their meat or their wool, they are typically treated cruelly and killed well before the end of their natural lifespan.

    • avatar John Rooksby says:

      So stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Ben. Get *your* facts straight! Gather facts, do some research and stop criticizing protests on the grounds of your own ignorance and stupidity. Facts are not hard to come by unless some idiot is sticking his oar in spreading BS to confuse matters probably because his interests lie in the cruel treatment that has caused the outrage.

  10. […] PETA.org.uk (press release) (blog) Hard Facts About a Woolly Industry PETA.org.uk (press release) (blog) This may not sound out of the ordinary until you learn that a third of this wool is labelled as “skin wool”, a grim name for wool which is torn…  […]

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