Save a sheep

by Nina de Haan

Winter collections have been in stores since the end of the summer, but new batches are still popping up. Today fashion brand H&M launched a new collection: the Holiday Collection, consisting of a bunch of cosy knits to keep you warm during the coldest days of the year. I have to say, it looks quite nice, but I am picky when it comes to clothes. Main advice is that when searching for your winter wardrobe, you should pay attention to the labels. Wool is the fabric you want your clothes to be made of, ’cause it’ll keep you warm. This is what people tell you. I am now going to tell you what they don’t.

Please take a moment to think about where the wool comes from. Sheep, it comes from sheep. Men shave it off the sheep. That’s right. There seems to be no problem there, the sheep should be fine, taken care of. There are some problems present though. At first, with my inner biologist talking, how do you think the original sheep survived in the wild? With the wool growing and growing… Well, originally, sheep didn’t grow that much wool. They produced just the amount they needed to keep their own body at temperature. Over the years, sheep’ve been selected, genetically manipulated, to grow as much wool as they can to keep all our bodies warm. That itself isn’t that bad if you ask me. If the sheep are indeed taken care of and are able to live a nice life, we might use them for their wool.

To illustrate: this is what sheep Shrek looked like after hiding in a cave for six years in New Zealand, without getting shaved. He carried 60 pounds of wool, which is enough to make 20 suits. (Source)

I want you to realize the wool industry isn’t a clean business. You’ve probably heard of factory farming to produce meat and diary, but this is even more behind the scenes.

PETA tells us here about the truth. Shearers aren’t paid by hour, but by volume, which encourages them to work as fast as possible with no regard for the welfare of the sheep. As a result sheep are punched with shears and fists, even until their noses bleed. In Australia the shearers don’t even care about the sheep’s skin to stay intact: ‘huge chunks of skin and flesh are cut from the animals’ backsides, often without any painkillers.’ Now we aren’t even talking about hole-punching one-week-old lambs, chopping of tails and castrating without anesthetics. I assume I’ve made my point: this must stop!

I believe everyone who claims wool is the warmest, but my advice is: please consider buying another, synthetic fabric. When buying wool and thereby supporting this cruel industry, you make sheep pay the price. There are plenty of durable, stylish, and warm fabrics available that aren’t made from wool or animal skins.

Note: I don’t mean to accuse H&M, they’re as far as I know no different from other brands in using wool. Also I assume it is possible to have sheep for their wool and keep them happy at the same time, but I don’t think it’s easy to know which wool is happy and which isn’t. For me the easiest solution is to don’t buy it at all.