Buying wool directly supports cruel practices such as mulesing, castration, tail-docking, and ear-punching. Meanwhile, industrial wool farming is energy-inefficient, land- and water-intensive, and highly pollutive.
WARNING: GRAPHIC TRUTH
Wool industry investigation. Yes, narrated by Pink:
Here, a lamb allowed to live in peace:
In sum, wool producers created the flystrike danger for sheep, and now use it as an excuse to inflict further cruelty on these sensitive, innocent creatures. For the industry, what really matters is that more skin folds entails more skin area per sheep, which entails more wool per sheep, which entails higher profit margins. That’s the bottom line (literally). If they have to mutilate innocent creatures along the way, well, they’re obviously willing to do that.
Amid threats of global boycotts of mulesed wool in the early 2000s, the industry in leading-producer Australia promised in 2004 to implement a mulesing alternative by 2010. In typical fashion, they reneged at the last moment. Not that their proposed solutions would have made things much better. The industry’s leading “alternative” to mulesing involved harsh clips secured so tightly around the anus of lambs that bloodflow would be cut off to a large area of skin, leading the skin to literally die and fall off. Some alternative, right?
What about wool from sheep that haven’t been mulesed?
Still, let’s say we could be sure. While we can agree that non-mulesed sheep have it a little better, it’s kind of like saying it’s better to have a single-bed cell in prison. Sure, it is better than sharing a cell. But you’re still in prison.
Of course, prison is a cakewalk compared to being harvested. Nearly all wool-farmed sheep are tail-docked and castrated (if male), and their ears are hole-punched. Meanwhile, sheep handlers and shearers are cruel to the animals in all other kinds of ways — and why wouldn’t they be, since mutilation is in the job description? According to an individual who spoke with PETA:
“[T]he shearing shed must be one of the worst places in the world for cruelty to animals … 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 …”
The truth is that industrial animal farming is an inherently exploitative and neglectful process. Animals are treated as commodities — not the sensitive creatures they actually are. As a part of that, millions of sheep perish every year on large wool farms due to the disease and individual neglect that occur when animals meant to roam freely are squeezed together. Adequate health and veterinary care for ailments deemed less-than-immediately-critical is non-existent. And, at the end of their “productive” lives, they’re shipped to slaughter — commonly to countries where they don’t even have nominal animal protection or welfare standards. (See the very graphic video above, which reveals the horrifying, gruesome fate for millions and millions of “spent” sheep each year.)
Meanwhile, the environmental effects of wool farming are catastrophic. Indeed, any animal farming, compared to plant farming, is extremely inefficient and wasteful. It’s a logical imperative. On the one hand, you can cultivate plants and feed them to humans and other animals that already exist. Or, on the other, you can breed hundreds of millions of new animals,which requires vast amounts of land and water, both to house and hydrate the sheep and to cultivate the massive amount ofplant food required to feed them. These hundreds of millions of sheep then produce astronomical amounts of excrement and bodily waste, deeply contaminating local environments and expelling climate change agents like methane and carbon dioxide. Add to all of this that in many countries, including leading-producer Australia, sheep are non-native, which makes them a special kind of threat to local ecosystems. (According to the Australian wool industry, sheep were introduced in 1788 by arriving Europeans.) Animal farming necessitates all of the environmental costs of plant farming, and then it multiplies them.