Have you ever wondered how your pretty wool sweater got to you ? Wool is considered a quality and durable product that does not cause any animal suffering. But just like the leather or fur industry, wool causes the death and suffering of millions of sheep and lambs. Here we list the reasons why vegans don’t wear wool.
Sheep, let’s talk about them
With more than one in two people living in cities, we are increasingly forgetting about the relationship with animals. Whether for food, hygiene or even our clothes, we no longer know what meat, leather, or even wool represents. We no longer see the animal as a living being. We just see them as a raw material. But who are these animals who give their lives to feed us and keep us warm?
Sheep are sensitive beings with a much richer emotional life than we can imagine. According to a study from the University of Cambridge, sheep are able to distinguish emotions on human faces as well as those of their colleagues, through smile, anger, stress or calm. This study also shows that a sheep can recognize more than 50 faces of other sheep and remember 10 humans for more than two years ! They are also very anxious far from their family and a sheep losing its lamb will mourn for several years because they have great memory capacities. They are also a bit like owls because they have excellent peripheral vision and can see behind them without turning their heads!
The wool industry or the mistreatment of sheep
More than 2 million tonnes of wool is produced each year, supplied by more than 1 billion sheep worldwide. China is the leading producer, followed by Australia with 360,000 tonnes (equivalent to a turnover of $ 700 million), then come New Zealand, Iran, Argentina and the United Kingdom among the biggest producers. Yes, wool is a very profitable business for many people ! And these people unfortunately consider very little their source of profit : sheep. It is common to think that wool is harmless because the animal is not killed, the man is content with removing his wool, which is necessary because it grows continuously. The problem is that, like any business, it is not as simple.
Understand that, in fact, this act is made necessary by the genetic selection that we have inflicted on sheep : to always want them to produce more wool, they have been genetically modified and are no longer able to regulate their wool while alone.
The first problem encountered is negligence and poor animal care. Indeed, very few sheep do not exceed two years of age. This is due to diseases and lack of hygiene, whereas they normally have a lifespan of 12 years. Many sheep also die from the heat caused by the excess of wool. In addition, young lambs are neutered when they are only a few weeks old with a rubber band wrapped around the testicles to cut off the blood flow. This is a long and painful method. They are also assaulted in most farms through blows and shearing, done quickly, which leaves them mutilated.
The mulesing method
This practice consists in cutting lambs’ tail and rear end with shears, to fight against myiasis (flies laying larva under the skin). This method was formerly used only on adult sheep because it was considered too painful for the youngest. It is now common in some countries (especially Australia and China) and performed without any anesthesia, leaving sheep mutilated. It has nevertheless been banned from several countries for its cruelty, and many methods exist to fight against cruelty myiasis. These methods are still very little used and mulesing remains the most common process.
Note that these methods are unique to the wool industry, but that all other animal fibers are subjected to just as much abuse. For a cruelty-free garment, it is also better to avoid cashmere, alpaca, angora, silk, and all the fibers coming from animals.
The planet, collateral damage to industry
In addition to the suffering inflicted on sheep, the wool industry is also one of the most harmful activities for the planet. It is well known that livestock is one of the most important causes of pollution in the world. Sheep farming is even more problematic than that of cattle : the consumption of one kilo of lamb is responsible for the rejection of 40kg of CO2, twice as much as beef. We must also talk about the methane emissions from livestock which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. This even constitutes more than 90% of greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand ! Then there is also the damage to the soil caused by all livestock farming : destruction of vegetation and land, creating soil erosion issues. Finally, the repeated use of chemicals and the disposal of faeces pollutes the water we use to hydrate and bathe.
What are the alternatives ?
There are more and more materials, whether natural or artificial, allowing us to consume in a more ethical and humane way.
Natural fibers (yarn from plants and little processed)
Linen – The perfect textile for summer and the planet ! Very low water consumption culture, easily organic, with little waste and above all a local crop growing. Did you know that France is one of the largest flax producers in the world ?
Hemp – A super resistant fiber which hardly pollutes ! Its cultivation even has beneficial effects on the soil and does not require irrigation. As with flax, French farming is very important for this material.
Nettle – More difficult to find, some brands are starting to use it especially for its ethical qualities. Resistant, flexible, thermoregulatory, radiance, European farming, organic and low consumption of water ! This fiber is perfect for replacing cotton.
Cotton – Extremely greedy farming in water and pesticides, it must be bought in organic label. Cotton is indeed a crop that requires far too much water and should be purchased moderately !
Artificial fibers (yarn from processed natural materials)
Lyocell – The dream innovation in terms of ethical fiber. This process comes from a natural raw material, the eucalyptus pulp, and is biodegradable. The company uses non-toxic and recyclable solvents ! You can find it under the name of Tencel also.
Modal -With a process very similar to Lyocell, it comes from beech wood and offers an original and very modern material.
Finally, if you want to protect the planet and dress humanely, remember that recycling is the key. More and more brands are offering clothing made from recycled fiber or plastic.