I don’t wear wool for much the same reasons that I don’t eat meat or dairy – I can live perfectly happily without it and so why would I not choose to avoid it altogether when there is so much inherent cruelty necessary to produce it. I have read too many reports, watched too many documentaries, subjected myself to too much heartbreaking undercover footage to allow myself to turn a blind eye any longer.
Anything which is trying to profit from restricting, harming or interfering with an animal’s life is inherently problematic because when turning a profit is the aim then the animal’s welfare inevitably gets compromised. As with other industries where animals are raised for a profit, the interests of the animals used in the wool industry are rarely considered. Flocks usually consist of thousands of sheep, and individual attention to their needs is virtually impossible. Many people believe that shearing sheep helps animals who might otherwise be burdened with too much wool, but without human interference, sheep grow just enough wool to protect themselves from temperature extremes.
Australia produces about a quarter of all wool used worldwide. Within weeks of birth, lambs’ ears are hole-punched, their tails are chopped off, and the males are castrated without anesthetics. Shearers are usually paid by volume, not by the hour, which encourages fast work without regard for the welfare of the sheep. Says one eyewitness: “[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 …”
In Australia, the most commonly raised sheep are merinos, specifically bred to have wrinkly skin, which means more wool per animal. This unnatural overload of wool causes animals to die of heat exhaustion during hot months, and the wrinkles also collect urine and moisture. Attracted to the moisture, flies lay eggs in the folds of skin, and the hatched maggots can eat the sheep alive. To prevent this so-called “flystrike,” Australian ranchers perform a barbaric operation—mulesing—or carving huge strips of flesh off the backs of lambs’ legs and around their tails. This is done to cause smooth, scarred skin that won’t harbor fly eggs, yet the bloody wounds often get flystrike before they heal. Every year, hundreds of lambs die before the age of 8 weeks from exposure or starvation, and mature sheep die every year from disease, lack of shelter, and neglect.
Mulesing is an incredibly cruel practice and as soon as I read about this I knew that I would never buy anything made from or containing wool again. Even if I could ensure that the wool products I was buying were not from sheep that had been mulesed (which is almost impossible to do) why would I want to support this industry in any way. It’s much the same reason I wouldn’t wear fake fur – I don’t want to be seen to glamorise, promote or support the wearing of fur, fake or real, in any way whatsoever.
Google Mulesing to find out more about it and if that doesn’t make you question whether or not you should be wearing wool then have a look at this week’s undercover investigation into the cruel reality of sheep shearing that is going on throughout Australia today. Undercover reporters gained employment in 19 different shearing sheds across Australia and filmed the goings on… It is not easy reading or watching I warn you but if you are someone who buys/wears wool clothing then you have a right to know what cruelty and abuse you are unwittingly paying for and supporting…
The RSPCA has launched an investigation into footage that allegedly shows the severe abuse of sheep in numerous Australian shearing sheds.
The animal rights group Peta has released video it says was taken covertly in 19 shearing sheds in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
The footage shows sheep being roughly handled, punched in the face and stamped upon. One sheep was beaten with a hammer while another was shown having a deep cut crudely sewn up.
Peta said its investigators obtained had the images after gaining employment with farms and shearing contractors over the past year.
Claire Fryer, a campaign coordinator at Peta Australia, declined to tell Guardian Australia the exact location of the shearing sheds, citing concerns about the safety of the whistleblowers.
“I can say, though, that abuse was witnessed in each of the 19 shearing sheds and that a total of 70 staff were documented abusing sheep,” she said.
“We didn’t see any vet care for any of the sheep and despite, them putting up no resistance, they were horribly abused. Sheep are very gentle animals and this was terrifying for them.
“Shearers are unusually paid by volume, not by the hour, which encourages fast, rough work which cuts the bodies of sheep. Put simply, there is no such thing as humane wool. We’d urge Australians to leave wool out of their wardrobes entirely.”
A spokeswoman for the RSPCA confirmed it was investigating whether the video shows breaches of animal welfare laws, but would not put a timeframe on these deliberations.
“The vision made publicly available by Peta overnight shows sheep being beaten with shearing handpieces and thrown down a chute,” the RSPCA said.
“The allegations are serious and will be investigated by RSPCA inspectors as information comes to hand for potential breaches of the relevant state animal welfare legislation.”
Penalties for breaching animal welfare laws vary by state. For example, in NSW, the maximum penalty is a fine of $22,000 or five years in prison.
Barnaby Joyce, the federal agriculture minister, said questions needed to be asked about the way Peta obtained the footage and why it held on to it for so long before releasing it.
“One of the questions I ask is with the up-close shot of the man hitting the sheep, which is obviously exceptional and cruel and in many instances would be immediate dismissal, where exactly was the camera?” Joyce told the ABC.
“Did the person know that they were filmed? Were they actually part of process? There are lots of questions that need to be asked.”
WoolProducers, the peak body for the wool industry in Australia, has been contacted for comment on the footage.
The Victorian government recently pledged to introduce new “ag gag” laws, which would crack down on the ability of animal rights activists to covertly film alleged abuses on farms.
Producers of eggs and pork have called for stricter penalties for people who obtain access to farms in order to film activity there. Andrew Spencer, chief executive of Australian Pork Limited, told the ABC in May that intrusions had been “very distressing” for farmers. He added: “It’s like having your house burgled.”
The Greens criticised Joyce, who recently indicated his own support for a form of “ag gag” law.
“Mr Joyce’s attack on Peta is a crude attempt to avoid cleaning up farming practices,” said the Greens senator Lee Rhiannon.
“He wants to punish people who expose cruelty to animals with harsher penalties than to those who actually commit the violence.
“Undercover investigators play an important role as exposure of animal cruelty helps highlight the need for improved farming practices.”
The governments reaction to this – to try and tighten the laws on people filming undercover – just sums it all up. Animal welfare is bottom of the agenda. Protecting their export businesses, economy and reputation is all that matters. They don’t give a s*** about animal rights and it disgusts me. The only comfort I have is that I can say that I no longer contribute to this and I hope that the more people are told about this the less wool people will buy and the more animals will be spared.