Monday, April 26, 2010

Behind “pure wool”

And now for a look at one more facet of wearing animals, our last for awhile. Today it’s wool. Sounds innocent enough, doesn’t it? The nice wool mark symbol, the pictures of gamboling sheep, the verbiage about wool’s comfort and wearability.

Based on all that propaganda, we might think wool will take care of us. But the question is, who will take care of the sheep where the wool grows. It often seems the answer is “no one.”

Reports Ingrid Newkirk in that invaluable “PETA Practical Guide to Animal Rights,” “Some people believe that shearing sheep helps animals who might otherwise be burdened with too much wool, but without human interference, sheep grow just enough wool to protect themselves from temperature extremes.

"Most wool comes from Australia,” she continues, having pointed out that because flocks of sheep number in the thousands, individual attention, or care, is impossible. Soon after they’re born, Newkirk goes on, “lambs’ ears are hole punched, their tails are chopped off and males are castrated – all without painkillers. Many lambs die from exposure or starvation before they’re eight weeks old, and many mature sheep die from disease. lack of shelter and neglect.

Then, on numerous Australian sheep ranches, “mulesing” occurs. It involves “carving huge strips of flesh off the backs of lambs’ legs with gardening shears.” As an economy move, this is a fast and sloppy operation; volume is the basis of payment. While in the shearing shed, sheep may be punched with shears or fists; they can get nose bleeds and have parts of their faces shorn off. Little wonder they stand outside afterwards, cut and shaking.

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