Is Wool Cruelty Free?
There ain’t no shortage of bad press when it comes to wool and the ethical treatment of sheep.
As with any product that involves animals, there are those who seek to maximise profits at the cost of the animal’s health and happiness…
And there are those that don’t.
Particularly overseas there’s an unpleasant habit in the food industry for even the most reputable retailers to source their chickens from businesses that treat the animals horrifically.
Sure, their fate is to be someone’s dinner - and the reality of that can be unsettling. Although all lives end one way or another, no animal deserves to be mistreated or suffer a life of cruelty and a painful end. No way.
So - inevitably - just as there are those who mistreat animals intended for slaughter, there are those who mistreat livestock intended for other uses.
Animal Cruelty is Real
There’s no point pretending that animal cruelty in the wool industry doesn’t happen.
It does and we find every instance deeply troubling.
It’s inconceivable that a practice like ‘mulesing’ goes on in the 21st Century, but it does.
Mulesing is the practice of removing wool bearing chunks of skin from the sheep. They say it’s a way of making the skin more smooth and less prone to flies laying eggs on the skin. Poor old Merino sheep have particularly wrinkly skin beneath their wool, so are more vulnerable to receive this treatment.
Farmers have also been known to spray pesticides directly onto the sheep to prevent the wool from being infested and spoiled. You can just imagine the terrible harm this can cause. It’s so toxic for them, it can often result in death for the sheep.
On top of this, live export - notably from Australia - results in thousands of sheep starving to death or being put down upon arrival (often brutally) because they are too weak and malnourished.
This hasn’t happened by accident - live exports service countries including the US, China, North Africa and South Asia so the animals are kept locked up for days or weeks at a time in terrible conditions.
There are also recorded instances in the US and Australia of systematic cruelty, mutilation and worse.
It’s barbaric and undoubtedly needs to stop.
The driving force behind this despicable behaviour is - currently - the fashion industry, which buys in volume. The more wool, the more money - and no questions will be asked.
Ethical Farms are Real Too!
So there are some horrible practices being carried out and condoned by some despicable people, but it’s important to recognise that not all farms operate in this way.
More and more farms are adopting a more ethical business model. Why?
- Because it’s morally right
- It makes long term financial sense.
Brutalising the very thing you rely on to make money is as absurd as us pushing over our customers as they come through the door.
Ethical farms farm pasture-raised sheep. That means they are left to graze as nature intended. They are also given proper shelter and are cared for as you would expect from good and conscientious people.
We like this!
Sheep raised on ethical farms are also shorn only once a year. This balances the need for wool volume while shifting the focus to the quality of the wool.
And - again - the sheep are treated with respect.
The New Zealand Animal Welfare Act on 1999 more of less outlawed the kind of treatment we see in other countries.
The law requires farmers to provide proper and sufficient food and water and - crucially - the opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour.
This means that the farmers are feeding the animals the correct amount and doing so in conditions that are natural to the animal.
That means no cages and no troughs full of offal.
Animals also have the right to both appropriate physical handling and protection from injury and disease. Again, this requires - by law - for farmers and farm hands to treat the animals with respect. Failure to comply is a crime.
We take this stuff very seriously as a country and as a business.
That’s why we’ve chosen where we get our woolen fibres from very carefully.
While animal cruelty exists within the fashion industry and in the wool industry, New Zealand has taken steps to ensure that our sheep are well cared for.
We can see other parts of the world start to catch up but there’s a lot of work to be done yet.
All the NZ Made knitwear you buy from us will always be ethically sourced and made. We are committed to that.
We take great pride in our business partnerships. In fact we’ve got a chunky blog here about Palliser Ridge Farm and how they operate in order to show a different side to the wool industry. Take a read.
In the meantime, to check out our ranges of NZ Made knitwear, click here. If you have any questions or would like more information about our wool please feel free to get in touch.