Why Don't Vegans Wear Wool?
In a recent uniform overhaul, my employer handed out new uniform that is about 90% merino wool.
As a precursor to this story, I’m vegan, which means I don’t believe it’s moral to use animals in any way for personal benefit.
Alongside that, I also don’t believe in killing animals to eat or wear them either.
So, when this new merino wool uniform came out, I established that I was going to wear the old uniform made of polyester. No, polyester isn’t the most sustainable material, but it didn’t come from an animal, so it’s technically the better option.
Since I continued wearing the old uniform, I got asked the question many times, “Why don’t vegans wear wool?”
It’s a fair and valid question.
That question about wool often comes with the follow-up thoughts of:
“Don’t sheep need us to cut off their wool to stay cool?”
“Won’t sheep fall over if they’re too heavy to stand themselves up with all of their wool?”
“Do sheep really miss their wool?”
“What’s the big deal about shaving sheep for their wool anyways?”
Again, all totally valid wonderings. Some I’ve even asked myself.
Like anything in life, there’s a deeper layer to the truth.
So, unfortunately, our idea of happy sheep walking up to the farmer ready for a haircut when it’s sweating its face off during summer and joyfully getting shorn isn’t exactly reality.
Okay, I’m sure you don’t actually think about that newspaper comic strip sheep idea I just laid out, but you get what I mean.
The truth is…
Sheep have been bred, by humans, to grow more wool than naturally intended.
Yes, we’ve played “God” here.
So, because sheep are growing more wool than their bodies are meant to, they suffer from infestations of flies, wool parasites, and even skin sores.
When sheep are older, their wool production slows (just like old, balding men). Due to this, farmers often see their sheep as unnecessary stock and will send them to the slaughterhouse to be killed rather than living out their natural lives in a pasture.
What’s so bad about the wool industry?
Adorable, cute, sweet, snuggle-able, baby lambs typically go through the awful experience of castration and something called tail docking, which is when a farmer just straight up cuts off their tail.
If they don’t do it by cutting off the tail, they’ll use tiny rubber rings that cut off the circulation until the tail basically falls off or they’ll sear it off with a hot tool.
All of which are done with no anesthesia or pain killers.
I can barely even type those words without getting choked up.
How did we end up in a world like this where poor, sweet lamb is mutilated in their first few months of life?
According to many sources, a sheep with a smaller or no tail has less build up of feces on their backside.
We’ll give our dogs baths and brush our horses, but not sheep.
The benefit of tail docking is to prevent them from suffering from fly strike, but I urge alternative practices to be considered to obtain the same benefit.
What’s so bad about shearing sheep?
When it comes time to shearing season, farmers get paid by the sheep or by the amount of wool they can extract, so you better believe they work their asses off to get through their livestock’s haircuts.
Do you think farmers shampoo and condition the sheep’s wool in a basin before the final trim?
How about a nice chair, a black cape, and a bedazzled mirror to look in during the process?
I know, I’m getting sassy.
But, the truth is, they zigzag razors all over the terrified sheep with sharp edges to yield a profit ASAP.
Many sheep don’t walk away without nicks, cuts, gashes, and even thick layers of skinned removed.
And to add, flies love to feed on their open wounds making healing an ugly thing for them.
If sheep aren’t slaughtered as soon as the farmer has decided they’re done taking wool from them, they’re sometimes transported in awful conditions to places like the Middle East where they’re either treated horribly or they’re slaughtered to be eaten anyways.
ADDITION: I recognize that not all farmers can be generalized to say they all treat their sheep this way.
Do sheep need humans to shear their wool?
Let’s debunk the myth that sheep need humans to shear their wool for them.
But, before we do that, let’s think about nature and how bad ass it is.
Nature has produced systems for millions of years before humans were around.
Do we actually believe that sheep are that dependent on us to give them haircuts?
Sheep naturally grow enough wool to keep them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. That’s the evolutionary truth.
Yes, during the course of humanity, we have bred them to grow more wool, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t readjust to a more normal wool growth if we stopped messing with them.
Here are a few more devastating facts about the wool industry:
Sheep have a natural wool shedding cycle, but farmers often shear them before cold weather has finally past leaving them exposed to the elements. Approximately one million sheep die a year due to this.
According to this article, 10 million lambs — yes, you read that right — die per year due to the unmanageable numbers on farms.
Due to horrible maggot problems that sheep and lambs endure, practices like mulesing still exist, which is probably the most horrible thing you could ever imagine. In summary, it’s a process of cutting a portion of a sheep’s backside off to prevent it from developing a hospitable environment for maggot eggs. This is done without a drop of anesthetic or pain killer for the sheep.
Native species have become endangered due to the overpopulation of human-bred animals like sheep. Sheep are either eating the local flora, which depletes it from the native species food supplies or naturally lush land is destroyed to make more farmland for them.
To top it off, sheep — as well as cows, chickens, goats, pigs, etc — are responsible for contributing to more than six billion tons of greenhouse gases into our environment, which is helping to drive the temperature up on our planet.
Can vegans stop the wool industry?
Let’s stop for a second.
The wool industry makes up billions of dollars in the economy and there’s no signs of it stopping.
That is, unless you start making conscious consumer decisions that don’t include buying animal products. If you stop buying animal products, like wool, then the demand for them will start going down, sheep will stop being bred, and the need for their wool will go extinct.
Yes, you…one person.
If you stop buying wool and spreading this same message, then maybe your sister will stop buying it, too.
Then your dad and potentially your neighbor.
Before you know it, we’re saving the planet.
So, the moment you think, “What can one person really do?” Rethink that, because you can do a hell of a lot.
Comment below any reactions or thoughts you have about this article.
Thank you for reading.