Wool seems like a harmless fiber in the fashion industry. We need wool to keep us warm in the winter, right? Wool comes from happy sheep in Ireland as those that I have seen during my Ireland tour and they need to be sheared anyway, so where is the harm? Well, unfortunately after doing some deeper research it is easy to see that wool is just as cruel as the leather and fur industry.
1. Sheep don´t need to be sheared
Wild sheep only produce as much fur as it needs as protection against cold temperatures in the winter and hot temperatures in the summer. 1
Wool sheep instead are bred intentionally to grow more wool than what they need because more wool means more money. The sheep don't shed and need to be sheared. Otherwise, they would overheat and die because of their excessive and unnatural amount of wool.
2. Shearing is harmful to the sheep
“Shearers are usually paid by volume, not by the hour, which encourages fast work without regard for the welfare of the sheep.”, says Peta, the animal rights group. 2 And because sheep don't know what is going to happen to them and don't like to be sheared, they are not standing still during the process.
“Investigators recorded shearers who processed up to 27 sheep per hour and up to 35 lambs.” 6 The impatience of the shearers and the pressure to shear as many as possible in a day, leads to kicking, beating, punching and stomping on the sheep as a video from Peta, released in 2017 shows. 3
3. Merino sheep suffer even more
Merino sheep are a breed of fine-wool sheep and especially found in Australia. Merino sheep are bred to have wrinkly skin which produces more wool. More wool to shear means more money but also more problems for the sheep. “This unnatural overload of wool causes animals to die of heat exhaustion during hot months, and the wrinkles also collect urine and moisture. Attracted to the moisture, flies lay eggs in the folds of skin, and the hatched maggots can eat the sheep alive.” 5 Tail docking and mulesing are used to prevent this from happening.
4. Sheep suffer from tail docking and mulesing
Tail docking and mulesing are two painful methods to reduce soiling and the risk of flystrike. Flystrike is a painful condition caused by flies laying eggs on the sheep. Tail docking means that lambs that are less than 6 months old have their tail cut off without any pain reliever. Mulesing is a painful method in which the sheep buttocks and the base of their tail cut off also without any pain reliever. Mulesing is already banned in New Zealand because of its cruelty but still performed in Australia.
5. Angora Wool?
Angora wool refers to the hair of angora rabbits. 90% of the angora wool comes from China which lacks any animal welfare laws. A Peta investigation from 2013 in China showed that angora rabbits were treated as badly as sheep. They “live” in tiny and dirty cages, are sheared with sharp devices which cause open wounds and 60% die after 1-2 years because of the stressful procedure. Male rabbits on wool farms are considered the “lucky ones” because they grow less wool than females and therefore get killed right after birth. That probably says more than any further description of the circumstances.
6. Sheep are intelligent and social creatures
Studies have proven that sheep are smart, feel and can recognize emotions. In a study from 2001, Keith Kendrick found out that sheep are able to recognize and remember at least 50 individual faces for more than 2 years. 7
In another study, Caroline Lee discovered that sheep are capable of learning how to navigate through a complex maze and even get better at it after repetition. 8
7. There is no sustainable wool
After all, these undeniably horrible and inhuman ways sheep are treated, we like to think that there are “sustainable and humane farms” that treat their sheep well. Peta claims that wool is not sustainable on several of their sites and shows footage of a so-called “local and sustainable farm” which showed unfortunately the opposite of a respectful treatment. The sheep instead were shoved, hit, pulled, pushed and showed bloody wounds. 4
What can we do?
Finally, we should ask ourselves: “Is it after all humane and sustainable to breed sheep in a way that they grow an explosive amount of wool which they can´t handle themselves anymore and make them depend on us?” I read comments that asked for ending this suffering because they couldn't make this change on an individual level. Let's not forget that we all can do a lot to end animal suffering in the fashion industry. By not buying wool products, we are showing our support for the animals. By speaking up about the cruelty and sharing the message, we are helping to spread the awareness. And yet we don´t need to miss out on beautiful and warm clothes because there are a lot of eco-friendly and vegan alternatives like organic cotton, coconut fiber, hemp and more. 4
1 Peta Prime. (2017, November 16) Sheep Don’t Need to Be Sheared: Debunking Wool Myths. Abgerufen 15. July 2020, von
2 Peta. The Cruelty of Wool. Abgerufen 15. July 2020, von https://www.peta.org.au/issues/clothing/cruelty-wool/
3 Video (2017, December 13). PETA's SEVENTH Wool Exposé: Sheep Still Hit, Kicked, Cut, Thrown. 15. July 2020, von https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDogmLxGviw&has_verified=1
4 Peta (2019, October 14) Sheep Kicked, Hit, and Shoved for ‘Sustainable’ Wool. Abgerufen 15. July 2020, von https://www.peta.org/blog/sheep-kicked-hit-shoved-sustainable-wool/
5 Peta. What’s wrong with wearing wool? Abgerufen 15. July 2020, von https://www.peta.org/about-peta/faq/whats-wrong-with-wearing-wool/#:~:text=In%20Australia%2C%20the%20most%20commonly,also%20collect%20urine%20and%20moisture.
6 Beckhechi, Mimi Independent (2014, July 6). A wool jumper is just as cruel as a mink coat. Abgerufen 15. July 2020, von https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/a-wool-jumper-is-just-as-cruel-as-a-mink-coat-9610133.html
7 Macmillan Magazine Ltd (2001). Sheep don´t forget a face. Abgerufen 20.July 2020, von
8 Harriet Constable (19 April 2017). Sheep are not stupid, and they are not helpless either. Abgerufen 20.July 2020, von
9 Peta. The angora industry. Abgerufen 20.July 2020, von