As a vegan I don’t use or wear any animal products including wool.
This comes as a surprise to many people who, on the surface, don’t see how wearing wool would be cruel or any cause for concern.
As someone who used to wear wool (and heck, at one time I actually WORKED for a shoe company that sold SHEEP SKIN boots. I credit that experience, oddly enough, as the catalyst for my decision to become vegan. But more about that another time) I can relate to this and know that these people likely have the image in their mind of an idyllic hillside farm where lambs and sheep happily frolic about roaming freely and receive the occasional gentle shearing from their friendly farm worker. That doesn’t sound too bad, so what’s the big deal?
Well, aside from the fact that I don’t believe I have the right to raise an animal and use it for anything I know all too well that the image of the bucolic setting with happy sheep is sadly not true.
I only purchase wool products from reputable vendors who ensure that their wool suppliers are sustainable and cruelty-free, one might say.
Sure, that sounds really nice, but these designations (“responsible”, “humane”, “sustainable”) can mislead consumers into really believing their buying a good product, but this isn’t always the case.
Sadly, one company that is widely respected for their commitment to both environmental and social responsibility is finding itself in a bit of hot water after an investigation uncovered that their “sustainable” wool supplier in Argentina is committing egregious acts of animal cruelty.
I will spare you the photos and video, but here is information from PETA’s website about what can be seen in the video:
A witness found workers in Argentina hacking into fully conscious lambs starting to skin them while they were still alive and kicking, and otherwise mutliating, abusing, and neglecting lambs and sheep on farms in the Ovis 21 network- Patagonia’s wool supplier….
In addition to this horrifying revelation, the report also indicates that lambs kept for wool were routinely mutilated without any anesthetics or pain relief. Also from the PETA report:
A manager used a tool similar to pliers to cut out pieces of the lambs’ sensitive ears, which dripped with blood onto his hands. He wiped the blood off on one of the lambs.
He also put a tight ring around one lamb’s scrotum, which is extremely painful. These rings cut off the blood supply to the testicles, which are expected to shrivel and die over the course of several weeks.
Then, another worker cut off their tails. Lambs are prey animals who suffer in silence, rather than drawing attention to themselves and attracting further predation, but they struggled as much as they could while the workers restrained them. They were then unceremoniously dumped onto the ground, where they huddled together as blood dripped from their ears and the stumps of their tails.
The man just tossed their mutilated tails onto the ground.
And to those who say they don’t wear lamb skin, only the wool sheared from their bodies, I’d like you to know that shearing is not as benign as it sounds. In fact, the practices witnessed on this farm in Argentina are quite disturbing, especially when one considers that this is supposed to be a “sustainable” farm which might indicate to a consumer that there are some sort of ethical guidelines they must adhere to. Well, this doesn’t seem to be the case as the witnesses in this investigation reported that
Shearers stomped and stood on sheep’s legs. Fast, rough shearing left them cut up and bleeding.
One sheep’s internal tissue protruded from a serious shearing wound. A worker dragged the bloodied sheep away. Another worker, carrying a needle and thread, followed. After evidently having crudely sewed up the gaping wound without any pain relief, the men dragged the sheep back and clipped off the rest of the wool. The next day, a worker said that the sheep had died as a result of the wound and would be eaten by the workers, but the shearer who had mortally wounded the sheep was right back on the job.
One sheep, whose back right leg was broken, was sheared and left in a pen—in pain and without any care—for at least an hour before being slaughtered and eaten, according to a manager.
No one would willingly or knowingly support this type of treatment of animals.
This is why it is so important to do your own research and try, as hard as it may be, not to fall for clever marketing that is intentionally misleading. This isn’t an isolated incident either – willful abuse, neglect, and general mistreatment of animals in large scale farming operations like this is rampant. In fact, the abuse in this report is being compared to similar findings from an investigation of an Australian farm in 2004.
So what can you do?
Well, the simple and most obvious solution is not to buy it.
You don’t need it! There are plenty of alternatives, both natural and synthetic. Is that pair of socks or that wool sweater really worth all of that suffering.
I should think not. Let’s make better choices together.
I will leave you with a photo of this adorable pile of lambs in jackets from Willowite Animal Sanctuary in Australia.
Just LOOK at those faces.. Would you ever want to bring them harm?
UPDATE: Here is the statement released by Patagonia regarding the video. In their statement they say they’ll be investigating the video and working with Orvis 21, their wool supplier, to make necessary changes and corrections. At this time, it does not like they’ll be dropping Orvis 21 as their supplier.
As it turns out, Stella McCartney also sources their wool from Orvis 21. In a statement released upon learning about the video McCartney cut ties with Orvis 21 and has plans to look into vegan wool alternatives.