Fur protesting is nothing new to the world of fashion. As ever, swarms of anti-fur organisations filled the London Fashion Week streets earlier in September. However, emerging among the multitudes of fur slogans from ‘London Fashion Week Go Fur-Free’ to ‘Cruelty is never in style’, were placards repeating PETA’s established slogan: ‘I’d rather go naked’. But this time it wasn’t just for fur, instead, wool.
The ‘I’d rather go naked’ campaign has been in action for more than thirty years, and the purpose is pretty self-explanatory; to spread cruelty awareness. However arguably, fur related slogans generally seem to circulate more widely than those associated to woolens. Such was until last November, when Alicia Silverstone stripped bare to share the increasing danger of sourcing wool in the textile industry.
With enough online dissemination, more and more people are becoming educated to understand the torments inside fur farms. From the tiny cages that lead to self-mutilation, poisoning via hot unfiltered engine exhaust, to electrocution and neck breaking, it is unlikely that one cannot see the wrong in producing fur for industry. However, others – myself previously included – are less informed on the dangers of the shearing process in order to obtain wool.
While many farmers take pride and care in shearing and caring for their flock, cruel measures are found to be inflicted on sheep specifically reared for wool. Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA, outlines to the Guardian the naivety yet potential dangers in domestic shearing:
‘People would always say: ‘It’s just shearing. It’s a haircut …’ [But] ‘The shearers, a lot of them, are on amphetamines because they have to work at speed. Men punching these sheep. They smash them on their backs, they punch them on their face. With their fists, with the metal clippers, they sew them up without painkillers’. So the actual human shearers are stimulated to perform this operation by having a rush of norepinephrine. The fact one needs a stimulant to get through the process surely explicates the disastrous nature of this activity – for both the sheep and its shearer.
Silverstone similarly talks about the conveyer belt process: ‘They’re cut. They’re harmed. They get very seriously wounded, and there is no care for them when they are wounded.’
— Alicia Silverstone (@AliciaSilv) November 22, 2016
Alongside the wounds that result due to the quick ‘on to the next one’ process, domesticated sheep cannot shed their own fleece. VeganPeace, a page that focuses on animal rights, introduces us to the process of museling, an equally harmful procedure aside from sheering:
‘If the fleece is not shorn, their wool will grow longer while flies lay eggs in the moist folds of their skin’. Consequently, museling takes place, ‘where without anesthesia, large strips of flesh are cut out of the backs of lambs and around their tales’. Along with transportation where the sheep are packed tightly into holding pens, with lambs trampled to death, one really starts to question why this ethical emergency is not getting more press.
Now knowing the thorough, harmful system in place behind shearing wool in select industrial practices – and I emphasise select for it would be entirely wrong to claim that all shearers treated their sheep as such – it certainly appears the fashion world has a long way to go before it gets its ethics right. Though wool does not sell for the same margins that fur can through haute couture fashion, the same principles can be applied – if the process is harming the animal, it simply should not be happening, and the designers we idolise should not be endorsing it either.
What are your opinions on using wool in the fashion industry? Let the Style team know: