Wool is the hair of sheep, alpacas, or goats. The crinkled nature of wool makes it easy to entangle to form yarn, thread, and felt. Every year more than one million tons of wool are produced globally, the majority of which is used for clothing. The top wool producing countries are Australia and China, which unfortunately have weak animal protection laws regarding sheep.
Wild sheep do not require shearing, and typically only grow as much wool as they need to stay warm. However, humans have bred sheep to grow extremely thick coats of wool. The wool industry’s practice of letting sheep grow thick coats that are annually shaved down to bare skin has obvious welfare implications, since the animals can thereby suffer exposure to weather extremes while either having thick insulating coats or no protection at all.
Even more disturbing is a widespread procedure called mulesing, which entails slicing off the wrinkly flesh near a sheep’s behind which can attract flies. Australia further participates in the “live transport” industry in which sheep are shipped all the way to the Middle East for slaughter. This means fresher meat for consumers but untold misery for the animals who must live aboard terribly crowded ships for weeks at a time.
Several animal protection organizations have released undercover footage exposing the wool industry and there are active campaigns urging consumers to boycott this cruel commodity.
Products that May Contain Wool:
- Business Suits
- Coats and Jackets
Some great wool alternatives are wood wool, wire wool, cotton, polyester and other synthetic materials. Vegan yarn, suits, pea coats and other typically wooly items can be found with careful searching.