If you'd rather go naked than wear fur, you're in good company. Olivia Munn, Taraji P. Henson, Penélope Cruz, Eva Mendes, and Charlize Theron are just a few of the kind celebrities who have teamed up with PETA to speak out against fur. But with the release of a damning new exposé revealing systemic and entrenched abuse in the wool industry, PETA is launching a new million-dollar multi-platform advertising blitz to inform consumers that wool is just as cruel as fur.
From video ads and celebrity public service announcements to protests across the country by activists with "bloodied sheep" and signs reading, "Here's the Rest of Your Wool Sweater," it will be the biggest push for cruelty-free shopping since our "I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" campaign in the early '90s.
Here's why we're calling on caring style influencers and the fashion savvy to think beyond fur and take the #WoolFreeWinter pledge. An eyewitness who visited a massive sheep farm in Australia —the world's top wool exporter — found hurried workers hurling sheep several feet off the shearing platform, slamming them to the floor, kicking them, twisting and standing on their necks, and worse.
One shearer stomped on a sheep's face a dozen times before tearing off one of the animal's horns. Another repeatedly kicked a sheep in the face and jammed his finger into the anuses of two sheep to drive them up a ramp to the shearing stand. A supervisor slammed a lamb against the wooden floor and then threw the young animal into a paddock to die. As the lamb kicked and convulsed in the dirt, a shearer callously laughed.
These abuses are not the actions of a few "bad apples." Time and time again, when PETA or one of our affiliates has taken a closer look inside the wool industry, egregious abuse has been uncovered. At this farm, as has been documented previously at other facilities, the shearers work so quickly and carelessly that many sheep are left with gaping wounds. One sheep's leg was turned into an oozing, bloody mess by a shearer who inflicted a wound nearly a foot long that appeared to cut down to the bone. To the investigator's knowledge, this sheep was never provided with any veterinary care. Most of the photos are too graphic to even post here.
The eyewitness also documented mulesing, a gruesome mutilation that continues to be widely performed on lambs on Australian sheep farms, despite industry promises to phase it out. Farmers use shears to cut chunks of skin and flesh off lambs' backsides — as they writhe in agony — in a crude attempt to prevent maggot infestations (flystrike). Less cruel and more effective methods of prevention are readily available, but many farmers refuse to use them.
The cruelty documented at this shearing operation is not unique, and similar abuses have been observed on three continents. PETA's international exposé of shearing sheds and ranches in Australia and the U.S., for example, revealed that workers punched sheep, beat and jabbed them in the head with sharp metal clippers, kicked them, poked them in the eye, twisted their necks, and threw them against the floor. Terrified lambs, taken from their loving mothers, cried out before and during their first shearing. "They’ve been separated from their mums and they're calling for them," one worker told PETA. "They're going, 'Mom! Mom!'"
PETA's investigator never saw any workers reprimanded for their callous treatment of the sheep—nor any veterinary care administered to them. Instead, injured sheep are often shot and even butchered in full view of their companions, and the bodies left where other sheep can see them.
Whenever animals are viewed as nothing more than commodities to be turned into wool coats or scarves, fur trim or leather boots, cruelty will always be a part of the production process. Luckily, companies are beginning to respond.
Patagonia, which claims in its code of conduct policy that its suppliers must "respect animal welfare" and adopt "humane practices," recently discovered this firsthand when PETA released disturbing video evidence of workers in Argentina on so-called "sustainable" farms in its network of wool suppliers kneeling on conscious lambs and sawing through their necks. Patagonia quickly announced that it had stopped buying wool and is instead promoting its eco- and animal-friendly "Better Sweater" polyester fleece collection this winter. Stella McCartney has begun researching alternatives to wool in the same way that she's developed alternatives to leather and fur in past years.
And VAUTE, the first all-vegan fashion label to show at New York Fashion Week, touts a 100 percent "vegan wool" coat collection made from a blend of organic and recycled fibers that completely takes animals out of the fashion equation and is also better for the environment.
Sheep suffer immensely in the wool industry, and no amount of fluff can conceal that fact. For sheep's sake, take the #WoolFreeWinter pledge, and be empowered this winter by dressing in stylish and ethical vegan clothing. It's actually really cute — just like sheep.
Image: Pexels; PETA