Today, The Guardian newspaper published an article about the animal rights Charity Peta, titled "Forget fur - is it time to stop wearing wool?". (You can find the article in question here; it's well worth reading). The title is a little misleading, seems as the bulk of the article is about Peta Co-Founder Ingrid Newkirk, and the charity's often-radical approach to creating awareness about their causes. The title refers to the latest of these causes: cruelty to sheep in the wool industry. The charity had been secretly filming Australian sheep-shearers acting cruelly, which lead to some men being convicted of animal cruelty, and they wish to stamp out the use of wool as a result.
As a knitter, who uses a lot of wool-based yarn, and coincidentally grew up on a farm with a shepherd father, this sort of news is very difficult. I'm sure my Dad would agree that sheep-shearing, when done properly, causes no harm to the sheep, and is vital because it stops them overheating in the hot summer months.
Unfortunately, there is always a price to be paid when we (or the retailers, designers and manufacturers) demand lower prices for our clothes and other everyday items (it's not just fashion - Fairtrade food, anyone?). I sincerely hope that any cruelty towards sheep was a few isolated incidents, but my suspicion is that shearers would only act in this way in order to fulfill quotas, meet deadlines and keep costs down in a industry where margins are so small, it can be hard to break even, let alone make a small profit.
I spent a lot of time at university delving into the vast world of ethics in the fashion industry, and it saddens me greatly the amount of shocking practices that take place in order to make things we buy and wear on a daily basis (did you know: in Uzbekistan, every summer the state forces children to harvest cotton, unpaid and mistreated? And that's just scratching the surface. You can read about it Here).
As a small-scale knitting business, I will aim to use yarn from reputable sources, and where possible, find out the origin of the fibres that make up my yarn. As consumers, the same applies to the products we choose to buy. I don't think we should stop using wool altogether based on the cruelty of some individuals - wool is a wonderfully versatile fibre that is biodegradable and renewable, and in most cases, a natural bi-product of the farming industry that does our woolly friends more good than harm.
I would love to hear your views on this issue! Please leave a comment. (Nothing rude or offensive please, we're all friends here).
(picture source: https://www.timeout.com/london/blog/a-sheep-cafe-could-be-opening-in-london-031317)
The most important thing in my life is my relationship with the God who made me and loves me!