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Wool

 

Vegans avoiding wool products isn't understood by many people. Since sheep need to be shorn to remove their excess wool, people don't really see anything wrong with the wool industry.

One simple reason vegans avoid wool is because it involves the exploitation of sheep. What most people don't realize however, is that the wool industry also involves a lot of cruelty.

Do Sheep Need To Be Shorn?

Are sheep really these weird creatures who grow so much wool in the winter that they need help by humans?

Natural sheep, like the wild Dall Sheep pictured on the right, don't need any help. They grown just enough wool to protect themselves from the cold in the winter and to keep cool in the summer. When it is time, they will shed their winter coat all by themselves.


Dall Sheep


Domesticated Sheep

Domesticated Sheep

People have selectively bred our modern sheep with the thick heavy coats. About 30% of all wool used worldwide comes from Australia. The most commonly raised sheep there is the Merino. Merinos have been specifically bred to have wrinkly skin to produce more wool. Their coats are so thick that some die of heat exhaustion during hot months. Unlike wild sheep, Merinos cannot shed their fleece.

Mulesing

Since domesticated sheep can not shed their fleece themselves, their wool will grow longer and longer while flies lay eggs in the moist folds of their skin. The hatched maggots can eat the sheep alive.

To prevent this from happening, ranchers will perform an operation called mulesing. Without anesthesia large strips of flesh are cut of the backs of lambs and around their tails.

Other procedures performed without anesthesia include punching a hole in the ears of lambs several weeks after birth, docking their tails and castrating the males. The castrations are done when the male lambs are between 2 and 8 weeks old, with the use of a rubber ring to cut off their blood supply.


Mulesing

Shearing

Sheep are sheared in the spring, just before they would naturally shed their winter coats. Because shearing too late would mean a loss of wool, most sheep are sheared while it is still too cold. An estimated one million sheep die every year of exposure after premature shearing.

Another problem with sheep shearing is that the shearers are not paid by the hour, but by volume. They handle the animals very roughly and a lot of sheep get injured.

Holding Pens

When the wool production of sheep declines, they are sold for slaughter. Millions of lambs and sheep are exported for slaughter each year. In Australia they have to travel long distances before reaching very crowded feedlots, where they are held before being loaded onto ships. Many sheep die in the holding pens.


Holding Pens for Sheep


Sheep Loaded on a Ship

Transportation

Those who survive the holding pens are packed tightly into ships. Lambs born during the trip are often trampled to death. A lot of sheep get injured or die.

In Europe they have to travel long distances in tightly packed trucks without food or water. They are frequently exported to countries with minimal slaughter regulations and where the sheep are often conscious while being dismembered.

If you would like more information, you can visit the following link:
Downed sheep, dying slowly, at a Texas stockyard.

Copyright 2008 by Wanda Embar and its licensors. All Rights Reserved.
Wool Sweater: USDA public domain. Mulesing and Sheep Loaded on a Ship pictures by Animal Liberation Victoria.
Dall Sheep by Wanda Embar, Vegan Peace. Other Pictures by
Farm Sanctuary.
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