Let's Not Forget
Down and Feathers
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.