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Wool and Sheepskin

This might shock you, but guess what? Sheep don’t need to be sheared! In fact, sheep grow just enough wool to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer in their natural habitat—unless they’re bred to grow more than would ever be necessary.

In Australia, where a lot of the world’s wool comes from, merino sheep, who are not native to the climate, are bred to have wrinkled skin—which means more wool per animal to make money from. This unnatural overload of wool causes animals to die of heat exhaustion during hot months, and the wrinkles also collect urine and moisture. Attracted to the moisture, flies lay eggs in the folds of skin, and the hatched maggots can eat the sheep alive. In a cruel attempt to prevent this, Australian farmers often barbarically cut chunks of skin and flesh off the animals’ backsides (a practice called “mulesing”)—usually without painkillers and using tools that look like gardening shears!

Shearers are usually paid by volume, not by the hour, which encourages fast work with little regard for the sheep’s welfare. In the shearing shed, sheep are often subjected to rough handling, and the frightened animals may suffer multiple injuries from the sharp cutting tools.

Some sheep who are used for their wool will also face further horrors of “live export” when they are no longer wanted. Tens of thousands of sheep are crammed into huge open-deck ships, packed together so tightly that many are often unable to reach food and water and starve to death before they make it to the Middle East—where they’re sent for slaughter. Investigators filmed conscious animals who were thrown to the ground, tied up by all four legs, and slaughtered by having their throats cut open with dull knives.

Don’t Be a Wooly Bully!

Shopping for a comfy sweater? Check the label to be sure there’s no wool! Look for vegan fabrics instead, such as cotton, nonwool fleece, flannel, or synthetic shearling.

NEVER purchase clothes or shoes made out of wool or sheepskin (like UGGs!).

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Wool 

  1. UGGs are made of sheepskin and are usually lined with wool—which can come from sheep who are castrated, branded, and violently killed.
  2. Flocks in Australia usually consist of thousands of sheep, making it impossible to give individual attention to their needs; it is considered normal in the Australian wool industry for as many as 6 million sheep to die each season.1
  3. Studies have shown that the cruel mulesing procedure causes stress levels similar to those of castration and shearing, and the effects—pain, discomfort, and weight loss—can last for two to 14 days.2
  4. Shearers are usually paid by volume, not by the hour, which encourages fast work without regard for the sheep’s welfare. Experienced shearers clip more than 350 sheep in one day, and that pace is maintained for up to four weeks.3,4
  5. It is considered normal in the Australian wool industry for at least 4 percent of young lambs to die every spring, primarily because of poor nutrition.5

What you can do to help:

NEVER wear wool and share PETA’s investigations with all of your friends and family.

References

1Australian Wool Innovation Production Forecasting Committee, “Australian Wool Production Forecast Report,”Australian Wool Innovation Limited, Sep. 2003.
2Lee and A.D. Fisher, “Welfare Consequences of Mulesing of Sheep,”Australian Veterinary Journal 85 (2007): 89–93.
3“Shearing Alternatives Under the Spotlight,”Country-Wide Northern 1 Nov. 2004.
4A. Abbott and W.M.C. Maxwell, Sheep Health & Production, Veterinary Education and Information Network, 20.
5J.D. Campbell, A.L. Vizard, and J.W.A. Larsen, “Risk Factors for Post-Weaning Mortality of Merino Sheep in Southeastern Australia,”Australian Veterinary Journal 87 (2009): 305–12.

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