The Truth About Wool

WARNING! Viewer discretion advised.

Wool comes from sheep. Sheep grows wool. Weather gets hot, we shear sheep and get wool in exchange to make clothing. In this perfect scenario it’s a win win situation right? I mean, shearers ARE doing those sheep a favour, we don’t want these animals to be overburdened with wool.

Wrong.

Sheep that have not been genetically manipulated, grow just enough wool to protect themselves from temperature extremes.

“Because shearers are usually paid by volume and not by hour, this then encourages fast work with little to no regard for the welfare of the sheep.”
Peta.org

In fact, an investigation carried out by PETA has found that sheep are denied food and water 48 hours before they are meant to be sheared, to weaken them, so that ‘they won’t put up much of a fight’. Video footage has revealed acts conducted by shearers such as punching, kicking and stomping on sheep in the shearing shed. Any wounds that were made on the sheep were loosely sewn together with no anaesthesia or care for the welfare of these animals. It is uncommon to find dead bodies of sheep lying around due to the torment.

Investigation within the wool industry has revealed some rather disturbing facts, as quoted by PETA:

“Lambs tails being chopped off without painkillers. Male lambs are castrated via cutting the testicles out or with a rubber ring used to cut off blood supply. When the lamb’s testicles do not fall off as expected, shearers often just cut them off with clippers.”
Peta.org

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Image source: Peta.org

In addition to the abuse, ‘mulesing’ is performed on lambs and sheep, a painful procedure which involves slicing skin from the buttocks of lambs without anaesthetic to produce a scar, free of wool, faecal/urine stains and skin wrinkles. This horrific procedure is performed in an attempt to prevent ‘flystrike’.

“Flystrike is caused when the wrinkles around the breech area collect urine and moisture. Attracted to the moisture, flies lay eggs in the folds of the skin and the hatched maggots can eat the sheep alive. The process of performing Mulesing does help reduce, but does not eliminate the incidence of flystrike.”
Peta.org

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Image source: Vegan Magazine
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Image source: Animals Australia

There are many difference alternatives which are currently still being trialled, these include Skin Traction and gene mapping the sheep blowfly. However, the best alternative is prevention.

“Selecting breeds that have wrinkle free breech area, resistant to flystrike, closer monitoring, timely shearing and applying insecticide during fly season can all assist in the prevention of flystrike.”
Peta.org

What can I do to help?

There are many ways in which you can help my friend. Simply by:

  • Not purchasing wool (there are many humane alternatives to wool such as ; rayon, cotton, hemp, acrylic, nylon, microfibre)
  • Purchase cruelty free wool which have the cruelty free logo
  • Sign petitions against animal cruelty in the wool industry
  • Support non profit organisations campaigning for cruelty free sheep standards: Animals Australia, PETA

Vegan Leather

Vegan Leather. We’ve seen this term been thrown around in the fashion industry, but what exactly is it?

Vegan leather is in fact faux leather, given a different name. Vegan leather is made of two core materials: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and/or Polyurethane. Basically, and animal activists’s alternative to real leather. Designer Stella McCartney is well known for using vegan leather in her collection. Her collections include women’s ready wear, accessories, lingerie, eye wear, fragrances and kids.

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Image source: stellamccartney

Being an animal lover, I could say, yes, go with the vegan leather. But is vegan leather actually better? Well that depends. I will argue both sides to state to you the real facts on vegan leather. Then let YOU decide.

First up, we have the People of Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) who argues:

“More than a billion cows, pigs, goats, sheep, alligators, ostriches, kangaroos, and even dogs and cats are cruelly slaughtered for their skins every year. Many of these animals have their tails and horns cut off without painkillers, and some are even skinned and cut apart while still conscious.Turning skin into leather takes loads of energy and a toxic brew of chemicals – including mineral salts, coal- tar derivatives, formaldehyde, oils, dyes and finishes, some of them cyanide based.  Tannery waste contains water-fouling salt, lime sludge, sulfides, acids, and other pollutants.”
Peta.org

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Image source: Razvan Antonescu

Secondly, we have Vocativ who argues:

“From an environmental perspective, the main concern with polyurethane-based synthetic leather is that solvents are used. The production process involves painting polyurethane in liquid form onto a fabric backing. Making polyurethane into a liquid requires a solvent, and those can be highly toxic. Gwendolyn Hustvedt, an associate professor in Fashion Merchandising at Texas State University points out, “most cows don’t die to become a purse.” The bulk of hides used in leather production come from cattle that are raised for beef and milk, so not using their hides could be deemed wasteful. This by no means alleviates concern over animal cruelty or other environmental concerns like deforestation, it’s just that, for those who do eat meat, this gives leather, environmentally speaking, an advantage.”
Christian, Fox & Kelly, 2016

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Image source: Vocativ

I must point out though, that leather is not biodegradable due to the tanning process. However, leather does look and feel better with age in comparison to faux leather. Faux leather on the other hand is cheaper to manufacture and as a result costs less.

So which is more ethical and what is the better choice? Well that will depend on many factors of the consumer. Either alternative has it’s own pros and cons. Both cause damage to the environment. Whilst one choice does not support the exploitation of animals, is cheaper to manufacture, the other is argued that cows do not die just to be made as purses or shoes. Plus, leather lasts longer and looks better with age.

What are YOUR thought on this topic?