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NOV 30, 2012: The cruelty behind the wool industry

Originally posted on this blog.

Apart from one jacket made from recycled wool, I have no clothes that that are made from any animal products. The only reason I have this jacket is that several years ago, when I made the decision to stop wearing leather, I didn't know that wool also had its dark side. More and more people realize the horrors behind the fur industry, and most Vegans (and some vegetarians) realize that leather is, at best, a by-product of the meat industry and, as such, is symbolic of lot of animal suffering and death. Still, a lot of people who come to the above realizations do not realize that wool involves a lot of cruelty as well.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

Shearing sheep is big business, and many suppliers try to speed up the process as much as they can in order to sell more wool. This, of course, means that shearing sheep becomes a mechanical (and often rushed) process, one that often causes painful lacerations and other damage to a sheep’s skin. While most types of shearing operations treat sheep as mere objects, causing them to suffer, the common process of "mulesing" is particularly cruel, and routinely involves cutting off chunks of a sheep’s skin and flesh along with its wool. To make matters even worse, this is often done without any anesthaesia. Apart from the skin damage and the negative consequences thereof, there are other issues that make wool an unethical choice. One of these involves the way that these animals are transported. Many of the same sheep that are used for wool are later transported across continents, often in filthy, cramped conditions, only to be slaughtered for food. This article talks about some other negative practices associated with the wool industry, such as the painful castration of lambs. It also reminds us that the production of other types of wool, such as mohair, cashmere, pashmina, etc. involves as much if not more suffering as the production of "generic" wool.

All of the above things should lead us to reconsider buying wool in the future. While it is important to try to minimize our involvement in the death cycles of the meat and fur industries, we must also be conscious of the needless suffering of animals in other industries (such as the dairy and wool industries) and do our best to avoid these products as well. Wearing wool is not necessary, as we have progressed to a level where synthetic fibers, such as polar fleece, are, in fact, much warmer than animal products such as wool and fur. After all, these synthetic fibers are what you see on polar and mountain climbing expeditions, or any other such trips in extremely cold weather conditions.

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