Sheep are gentle individuals who, like all animals, feel pain, fear, and loneliness. But because there’s a market for their fleece and skins, they’re treated as nothing more than wool-producing machines.
The Wool Industry Is Cruel to Sheep
In nature, sheep grow just enough wool to protect themselves from temperature extremes. The fleece provides them with effective insulation against both cold and heat. But because of breeding and genetic manipulation, sheep raised by the wool industry produce excessive amounts of wool.
With 80 million sheep, Australia produces 25 percent of the world’s wool. The most commonly raised sheep are merinos, who are not native to Australia. They are specifically bred to have wrinkled skin so that their bodies will produce more wool. In hot weather, this unnatural overload of wool can be dangerous. The wrinkles also collect urine and moisture and make the sheep susceptible to “flystrike”—a condition caused when flies lay eggs in the folds of skin, which can result in the hatched maggots eating the sheep alive.
To prevent “flystrike,” many farmers force lambs to endure a gruesome procedure called “mulesing,” in which huge chunks of skin and flesh are cut from the animals’ backsides. Even though less-cruel options exist, many farmers still insist on performing this barbaric procedure, which is extremely stressful for the sheep and can leave them in pain for up to two weeks afterward.
Shearing Leaves Sheep Battered and Bloodied
Shearers are usually paid by volume, not by the hour, which encourages fast work without regard for the sheep’s welfare. An investigation into shearing sheds in Australia and the U.S. uncovered rampant abuse. Shearers were caught punching sheep in the face, stomping and standing on the animals’ heads and necks, and hitting them in the face with sharp electric clippers and even a hammer. Some sheep died from the abuse.
Many sheep were left with gaping, bloody wounds on their bodies that workers stitched closed using a needle and thread without administering any pain relief.
Live Sheep Sent on Death Ships
Old or unwanted sheep are sold for slaughter. Many are shipped from Australia to the Middle East or North Africa on severely crowded multi-tiered ships. During these agonizing journeys—which can take weeks—many animals die of starvation or heat exhaustion or are trampled by their terrified companions. An investigation of the live-export industry found that sheep are dragged off trucks by their ears and legs. They’re slaughtered by having their throats cut while they’re still conscious.
What You Can Do
No amount of fluff can hide the fact that anyone who buys wool supports a cruel and bloody industry. There are plenty of durable, stylish, and warm fabrics available that don’t contribute to animal suffering. Please join the millions of people all around the world who know that compassion is the fashion. Save a sheep—don’t buy wool.