Ruth is from Wales and has lived abroad for nearly 10 years, she enjoys her vegan lifestyle, loves animals and hopes to inspire others along the way. Her new blog is up and running at http://ruthculbreth.wordpress.com
After reading so much recently about how we treat each other and how we treat animals nothing surprises me anymore. I have an inability to be surprised. I knew when I became a vegan (2012) that I shouldn’t be wearing wool. I must admit I wasn’t 100% sure why and I fear most people aren’t, but now I know.
Tragically, I have started watching ‘Sex and the city’ for the third time all the way through. I am disappointed in my lack of willpower, but in a way it has opened my eyes to how atrocious our society has become. Let’s put aside the fact that 1 out of every 8th person in the world is chronically undernourished and yet the developed world is obsessed with fashion, but let’s look at what we do to the voiceless.
One episode caught my attention the other day, the Birkin bag episode, in which Samantha puts herself on a waiting list to buy a $4,000 bag (apologies to those who are much more intelligent than me and therefore have no idea who Samantha is).
In September of this year, a Birkin bag made from the skin of an almost albino crocodile was sold for nearly £120,000. I don’t know how humans are so different from each other that one person sees a beautiful bag worth £120,000 and others (me) see an animal that got nothing out of life. The crocodile was bred, lived in captivity and then got skinned for someone to walk around with a carry case for their lipstick.
My heart bleeds for the state of the world and then we move onto wool. I understand that it is easier for someone to understand the anger at the crocodile bag in comparison to the woolly jumper, but there isn’t much difference in the worthlessness of the animal’s life here and we need to focus on making things better for everyone/everything.
I looked up some ‘fun’ facts about wool and here are two to share:
Fact #1 – Bedouins (desert dwellers) have used wool for centuries to keep them cool in the summer heat. This fact made me think about the continual question I get as a vegan about my diet, ‘but we have been eating meat for years, why are you stopping something that is tradition?’ If culture didn’t evolve we would still be living in caves, there needs to be a shift in how we do things for us to continue on the path to becoming civilised human beings.
Fact #2 – The fastest recorded shearing of a sheep was by Hilton Barrett from Australia, 39.31 seconds. Seriously, try giving a very hairy man a shave in 39.31 seconds without hurting or causing him any discomfort. This to me screams an absence of empathy. We use these sheep as machines, we discard their feelings and we praise those who beat records without once a thought for the sheep he sheared.
Animals have been taken out of all equations and it is cleverly done so that consumers’ minds won’t wander and questions won’t be raised. PETA has undercover videos graphically showing sheep being abused for their wool. Dragged. Beaten. Stabbed. Punched. Bear in mind shearers get paid by volume of wool not by hour! The lambs have their ears hole-punched, tails are cut off and males from 2-8 weeks are castrated, all without painkillers. But that woolly jumper sure looks good.
Wild sheep that haven’t been bred for their wool do not need to be sheared. There was a time before man invented cutters, it makes sense that sheep were and are able to live free of haircuts, otherwise there wouldn’t be any sheep! Their wool grows just enough to keep them warm in winter and cool in summer, just like the Bedouins use it for. On the other hand, there are sheep such as the Merino sheep that are genetically engineered to have wrinkly skin for more wool growth and therefore do need shearing.
There are many problems with this, if they are not sheared in time, and many aren’t, they die of heat stroke. If the shearers shear them early, sometimes Spring to meet high demand, many die of exposure.
Because of the Merino sheep’s wrinkly skin around the buttock area, urine can gather and that moisture attracts flies which lay eggs. This is called flystrike. To resolve this issue, the wrinkly skin is cut away with metal shears so no moisture can gather. This is called Mulesing, and by law in Australia, antiseptics, anaethesisa and painkillers are not required for this procedure; can you imagine the pain?
All too often I have seen this type of picture, the sheep/lamb restrained and an open sore wound where he has just been sliced like meat without any painkillers. If we cannot fathom enduring such pain then we shouldn’t inflict it on any other creature.
Unfortunately, the Australian Wool Industry, which produces 1/4 of all the wool worldwide, seems to be avoiding the issue and trying to get away with continuing this inhumane treatment. But there is s big outcry against the practice and with more and more pressure things will hopefully change for the better.
Finally, we should discuss what is done with these sheep when they are no longer used for wool, off to the slaughter house of course. Australia does have certain animal welfare laws, but these all become null and void when they ship 3 million live sheep a year to the middle east for slaughter. The voyage can take days to weeks and in cramped, filthy conditions death and disease is inevitable. The middle east has little to no animal welfare laws and once the sheep arrive, those who are still usable are thrown around, beaten, stabbed and killed by having their throats slit while fully conscious dying slowly and painfully.
This winter season please pick up a jumper that doesn’t have a horror story knitted into its fabric. Let’s take a step back and remember the animals behind the fashion. After all, you can’t take a woolly jumper and a Birkin bag with you in end but you can take a clear conscience.