“Sugar-coating the cruel world of wool!”

Late last year I received an e-mail message that I answered personally, but I haven’t had time for blogging in a while (as some may have noticed), so this inquiry and my response didn’t get shared. This morning on Twitter I was asked for information on cruelty in shearing, which led me to find my previous blog post on the topic and to pull out that December 2014 message and my response to share here. I was going to write a blog post this morning on a different topic. Perhaps I’ll have time early next week to get to that one.

Hello Deb,

I just came across an older blog of yours where you fail to expose the horrors of wool! Now that we know how horrific it actually is for the sheep, I wish you would update the inaccurate information stated there.

Here is an extremely educational link from PETA!

Thank you,


My response:

Thanks so much for caring about the sheep, C. I am working (hard) to support the NON-cruel collaboration between humans and sheep—in direct opposition to the highly industrial practices that are being exposed by PETA. The raising of animals for wool in small, well-managed flocks does not involve *any* of the activities in that article, with which I am all too familiar. And shearing doesn’t have to be any more “cruel” than a haircut, when done with skill. I’d invite you to explore the differences between the types of shearing equipment and the techniques of using it in order to understand this.

As another example, mulesing applies only to specific breeds bred in specific ways (large flocks) within specific environments. It is, fortunately, being eliminated from husbandry practices. The difficulty is that the problem for which it is the cure (flystrike) is worse than the mulesing. In my opinion, the answer is to raise different breeds in smaller flocks, chosen to suit the environment.

And so on.

My blog is not a place where I choose to engage in the extended discussions of these topics that are necessary to cover them adequately. Those are matters for longer-form consideration and writing. The primary goal of my work through the blog is to support the people who are caring for animals responsibly, in part by helping create a more robust market for cruelty-free wools. That involves helping crafters sidestep the vast majority of manufactured fibers and go direct to the source, using their own hands to prepare and use fibers from carefully raised animals to make textiles that will last for decades, if not generations.

I agree with you (and PETA) that large-scale, industrial production harms animals, humans, and the planet. I do not agree with you or PETA that all sheep (and domesticated animals) are treated cruelly and thus should be eliminated from the biosphere—which is the logical result of following the PETA point of view to its end. Humans have domesticated some animals and have an ongoing responsibility to treat them with great care. In my personal case, that involves (1) vegetarianism (of many decades’ standing) and (2) educating people about wool and sheep in ways that foster respect, gentle husbandry, and the conservation of genetic diversity.

I would also add some notes on statements in the final paragraph of PETA’s article. The first statement is this: “No amount of fluff can hide the fact that anyone who buys wool supports a cruel and bloody industry.” I would agree that anyone who buys wool without knowing where and how it was grown might be supporting practices that we need to eliminate (“might be supporting” because it’s possible to have purchased well-sourced fibers and not be aware that that’s what they are; if you’re not paying attention, then you wouldn’t know). The second statement is this: “There are plenty of durable, stylish, and warm fabrics available that aren’t made from wool or animal skins.” That’s true; yet many of those fabrics depend heavily on the petrochemical industry for both the materials and their processing, and as a result they produce huge amounts of pollution and economic and social instability, even wars. Far better, I think, to be fully conscious of and to mend our relationships with sheep, and to move away from the throwaway culture that has led to industrial-scale production of all fibers.

For a fuller example of what I think about these topics and what we can do about them as individuals, please see the following blog post: http://independentstitch.typepad.com/the_independent_stitch/2011/04/is-using-wool-cruel.html

With best wishes,

Deb Robson


1 thought on ““Sugar-coating the cruel world of wool!””

  1. Thank you for your very wise reply. I doubt if more than a very, very few shepherds intentionally inflict harm on their sheep (who are, after all, their livelihood, and mistreated animals are not as productive/profitable), if only because of the profit motive, and because most people are raised by their parents *not* to be cruel and abusive. I would much rather wear wool – a sustainable, flame-retardant, breathable fiber – than a petrochemical garment. Also, perhaps the writer/PETA are not aware of the heavy amount of chemicals (petrochemicals, at that!) used to fertilise/prevent disease and weeds in cotton raising (some of which are harmful to wildlife)? Or the quantities of bleach (not precisely a mild chemical!) used to whiten cotton fibers to a snowy state?

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