The Horrific Truth About Wool (and What to Wear Instead)

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It is a common misconception that wool is obtained through the peaceful shearing of happy lambs and sheep, but this is entirely false. Wool is the product of immense suffering which is largely overlooked. 

Sheep naturally produce enough wool, or natural fur fibers, to effectively insulate and protect against extreme temperatures. Now, sheep have been bred to grow excessive amounts of wool to increase profits, which weigh down on their bodies and make it difficult to move and stand. 

Sheep are often held in crowded pens and denied the proper care, protection, and freedom they rightfully deserve. Lambs are subjected to tail docking, or having their tails chopped off, and having their ears hole-punched to indicate gender, age, and/or “ownership.” Males are castrated without the use of painkillers within weeks of birth by cutting their testicles out. The babies may also be victims of the monstrously painful method of castration known as elastration, which uses a rubber ring to cut off blood supply to the testicles until they fall off. 

Lambs may also be forced to endure a brutal procedure called mulesing in which large strips of skin and flesh are cut from their backs above their tails, and they often undergo this unimaginably agonizing procedure without painkillers.

Sheep may be sheared of their wool manually with hand blades or scissors, electric shears, or shearing machines. Sheep, who are living animals capable of love, pain, and fear, sustain wounds during the terrifying process of cutting and tearing wool and skin from their bodies. Farmers and shearers work to shear sheep as quickly as possible to increase profits, therefore, sheep may be roughly thrown about, restrained, slammed, or even punched and kicked to allow humans to violently steal their wool against their will.

If the sheep survive the torture on the farms, they may be further abused and neglected on live export ships that may last for weeks. Their well-being and treatment are not at all considered as they reach the unregulated slaughterhouses in the Middle East where their throats are slit while they are still conscious. Their body parts are then sold to be eaten by humans. 

While news of top designers and retailers enacting fur-free policies have dominated the headlines in recent years, the wool industry often goes unchallenged because of its direct ties to farming and animal agriculture. Tragically, the wool industry is just as cruel as the fur trade.  Sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas, rabbits, camels, bison, and oxen are among the innocent animals who suffer and die as a result of the wool industry. 

A pair of socks or a sweater is not worth the immense torture wool-bearing animals are forced to endure. When selecting new items to purchase, please pay careful attention to the labels as wool products and wool blends have many names.

Check out the shift toward sustainable, vegan fashion.

The Do-Not-Buy List

the natural fibers taken from sheep or lambs, goats, camels, alpacas, llamas, rabbits, bison, and oxen. 

Fleece: the wool coat covering sheep, goats, or other wool-bearing animals or the wool obtained from one shearing.  Synthetic fleece or “polar fleece” is available, so be sure to check the label for “man-made” materials to avoid animal fleece. 

Wool Product: any product containing wool or recycled wool.

Shearling/Lambskin/Sheepskin: the skin from a shorn sheep or lamb with the wool still attached after the tanning process. 

Lambswool: wool taken from a baby lamb’s first shearing at just a few months old.

Merino wool: wool sheared from the bodies of Merino sheep. It is thinner and softer than standard wool. 

Cashmere: the lightweight hair fibers taken from cashmere goats, pashmina goats, and other breeds of goat. 

Camel Hair: the soft undercoat of camels that is often combined with other types of wool or the coarse outer hair. 

Melton Wool: thick wool fibers that are typically woven into a twill textile.

Mohair: lightweight wool sheared from Angora goats.

Shetland Wool: soft, lightweight wool sheared from Scotland’s Shetland goats.

Alpaca Fleece/Wool: the wool taken from Huacaya and Suri alpaca breeds.

Angora Hair/Fiber/Wool: the wool taken from Angora rabbits, it is often blended with other fibers to increase the strength of the textile.

Qiviut: the undercoat taken from the musk ox.

There are many alternatives to animal wool that are not a product of immense suffering. Opt for natural fibers such as cotton, lyocell, hemp, bamboo, soybean fiber, coconut fiber, natural linen, or jute. Synthetic fibers such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic blends are also widely available, but like all plastic materials, they are not entirely eco-friendly. These are good options for individuals who do not want to support the horrifically cruel wool industry, have a limited budget, will keep and wear garments for many years, and will eventually donate items when they are no longer needed. 

Please share this resource to shed light on the brutal wool industry and pledge to never buy animal wool. If you’re on TikTok, share our video about cruelty-free fashion.


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