Wearing Wool Is Cringe—Here’s Why
I used to think that the wool industry must be kinder than other industries that use animals. After all, everyone needs a haircut occasionally, and I thought it must get hot for sheep underneath those thick, fluffy coats when summer comes around. The idea of a wool sweater brought up images of a cute grandma knitting for her family or the ads I’d seen that highlighted rural scenery and words like “ethically sourced” and “sustainable.”
Knowing what I know now about how sheep are treated in the wool industry, those images have changed—and now they’re very, very dark.
On farms where sheep are raised for wool, young lambs’ ears are often hole-punched, their tails are chopped off, and the males are castrated—usually without pain relief.
(Trigger warning: upsetting photos below)
During the cold months, sheep die from malnourishment and from exposure after premature shearing. During the hot months, they die from heat exhaustion because they’ve been selectively bred to produce unnaturally high quantities of wool. They’re crowded into pens, and many die due to injuries and stress.
In the Australian wool industry, which produces 88% of the world’s supply of wool for apparel, it’s considered normal for up to 15 million young lambs to die every spring.
During shearing, sheep sustain injuries that range from nicks to complete amputations of their udders, ears, penises, or other body parts. An eyewitness said, “I have seen shearers punch sheep with their shears or their fists until the sheep’s nose bled. I have seen sheep with half their faces shorn off.”
Millions of live sheep are shipped from Australia to the Middle East and North Africa every year. A 2005 report stated that about 38,000 sheep died in transit. In most cases, their bodies were thrown overboard.
And finally, when sheep age and their wool production declines, they’re sent to slaughter.
Sheep are thinking, feeling individuals who are capable of experiencing love, friendship, pain, and fear.
So how can you help these animals? Never support the wool industry, which treats smart, sensitive sheep as unfeeling, disposable objects.
They deserve better.