kind classics: what’s the deal with wool?

llamachurrob&w

It’s starting to get chilly, so I thought it would be a good time to share this blog from the archives. If you’re thinking of buying a new coat, be sure to read this first!

Where does wool come from? How do we get it? We just shave the sheep gently, right? And make them feel better in the heat? Uh no!!! Animals are cut and hurt in the process of collecting wool – there is nothing gentle about it. Then at the end, there isn’t a retirement farm for these sheep. They are sent to slaughter.
According to PETA, a gruesome practice called “mulesing” is still inflicted on sheep in Australia, where millions of Merino sheep are raised. These sheep are bred to have wrinkly skin because that produces more wool. In the Australian heat, however, the excess wool causes sheep to die from heat exhaustion – but worse, for their wool to get infested with maggots, which literally eat them alive. Farmers’ solutions to this is to cut off chunks of skin from lambs (without anesthesia) so that the scarred flesh will deter maggots. However, the lambs’ wounds often become infected before they heal.
The good news is there are many alternatives to wool. Now, I know wool seems more environmentally friendly than say, vinyl. But consider how bad it is for the environment to raise these animals, and use all the resources and land it takes to feed them. Unless you rescued a bunch of sheep from a slaughter house, and live somewhere where in the summer they beg you to free them of the wool, and you gently take it off, and always treat the sheep with kindness and respect, I am not a fan. In order to collect wool in a kind way, you would not be able to run a business – it would have to be a sort of hippie side fun project. I’m not sure how many situations there are like that, but I can assure you that 100% of the wool you purchase in the store is not produced like that.
If you have wool already, use it and love it until it’s time to give it away or say goodbye to it. Just try not to support cruel practices by buying new wool. If you feel comfy in wool, get used wool – although I have to say it always made me itch! But if you are going to buy it, it’s better to get a used product.
Now I’m sure that there are some exceptions to all of this… I recently read about The North Circular, a company started by models Lily Cole and Katherine Poulton. The North Circular rescues sheep and works with grandmothers (literally!) to knit chic apparel and accessories. It sounds pretty decent, but again, this is not the wool that you purchase in any mainstream store. So if you find a story or situation that sounds really compassionate, then that might work for you. I’m usually pretty suspicious when I’m told that certain wool came from a good, cruelty free place… I always wonder, well what exactly happens to those sheep? How are they sheared? Is this a business? I would need to fully research each situation that I hear about to make sure it seems kosher to me.
What are your thoughts on this issue?
 

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