Uggs

Uggs are hideous overpriced sheepskin boots that have been popular among teenaged girls since the 1990s, when Pamela Anderson started wearing them with her iconic red swimsuit on the “Baywatch” television show.

Ironically, Anderson has since become one of the celebrity world’s most dedicated and outspoken animal advocates. During Baywatch’s run she was under the false impression that Uggs were merely made from shorn wool (which has its own set of ethical problems)—she did not realize they’re actually made from the fleeces of slaughtered sheep.

Upon learning the truth, Anderson went public with her disgust:

I’m getting rid of our Uggs — I feel so guilty for that craze being started around Baywatch days — I used to wear them with my red swim suit to keep warm — never realizing that they were SKIN! I thought they were shaved kindly? People like to tell me all the time that I started that trend — yikes! Well let’s start a new one — do NOT buy Uggs!

The fleeces used to produce Uggs come from Australia’s sheep industry, which has a long history of animal abuse. For its part, UGG Australia does not own or raise the sheep killed to make its boots, and to its credit the company has a policy against purchasing fleeces from producers that practice mulesing.

However, UGG Australia claims that the fleeces it purchases are a “byproduct of the meat industry.” This claim is clearly intended to create the impression that the fleeces in question are karmically neutral since they would go to waste if not made into garments.

But even a cursory look at sheep industry economics reveals this assertion to be disingenuous. The reality is that Australian sheep producers essentially have two streams of income derived from each animal they raise—revenue from meat and revenue from the fleece. It turns out that the value of fleeces accounts for a significant portion of the total revenue gained from each animal. Fleece values fluctuate dramatically but, based on USA prices and the fact that Australian fleeces are heavier than American fleeces, it’s safe to say the fleece from each animal provides sheep producers with something like an additional $10 in revenue. And given that UGG Australia has sold more than $700 million worth of their sheepskin boots in a single year, this brand is certainly a major factor in propping up Australia’s entire sheep industry.

One of the foundational principles of macroeconomics concerns elasticity of supply. When this concept is applied to Australia’s sheep industry, it means that the more money a producer gets for each sheep, the more sheep the producer will raise. Sinces fleeces account for a significant portion of the total carcass value of each sheep, this in turn means that consumer demand for fleeces is responsible for driving up the number of sheep raised and slaughtered in Australia. For UGG Australia to contend that the fleeces they purchase are a mere “by-product” of the meat industry is therefore deeply dishonest. If the demand for Uggs and other products made from sheep fleeces disappeared, the number of sheep raised and slaughtered in Australia would shrink significantly.

Fortunately finding cheaper and more stylish boots that have no link to animal cruelty is simple. check out our vegan boots page for some cruelty-free shoes you’re sure to love.

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