November Pain: Why Not to Wear Wool

With the warmer season waving bahh-bye, now is the time to snuggle in sweater weather.  If your turtleneck is made from wool, don’t get too comfy!  Here’s why wearing wool is a waste of time… and a cause for pain.

The fur industry is a grotesque one, killing more than 50 million animals each year.  Investigators at The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) found that many garments containing animal fur are incorrectly advertised or labeled, sometimes tagged as faux.

Shearling is not wool, but rather a yearling sheep who has been shorn once.  A shearling garment is made from the skin and coat of a sheep or lamp shorn before slaughter.  Cashmere is made from the coats of cashmere goats kept by the millions in China and Mongolia, which dominate the market for this material.

Angora rabbits scream in pain as workers rip their fur out, while they lay helplessly strapped to boards for shearing.  Female rabbits produce more wool than males, so males unintended for breeding are killed at birth.  Ninety percent of angora wool comes from China, where there are no penalties for abuse of animals on farms and no standards to regulate the treatment of the animals.

Garments are made from the pelts of fetal and newborn karakul lambs, raised primarily for their fur.  In the skin trade, fur from fetal karakul lambs is called broadtail.  The fur from newborn karakul sheep is called karakul.

In March 2000, The HSUS documented the brutal treatment of pregnant ewes and newborn lambs at a farm and slaughter facility just outside the town of Bukhara, Uzbekistan.  Graphic footage collected by The HSUS shows a pregnant ewe held down, her throat slit open and stomach slashed wide to remove the developing fetus.  The lambs are considered disposable, with newborns often displayed as “samples” for various pelt colors.  It takes 30 pelts sewn together to make one full-length, black karakul coat due to the small size of the babies.

Broadtail, the most expensive in terms of production, retails at the highest price:  upwards of $25,000 for one outfit.  A karakul or Persian lamb coat retails at from $5,000 to $12,000.  Fetal lamb fur is lightweight and flat with a wavy texture and luminous sheen.  The younger the fetus is, the smoother the fur; the younger the newborn, the tighter the curls.  Texture, pattern, and luster are the most important qualities for the fur trade.

Oftentimes in the wool industry, sheep are mutilated by being punched, stomped on and cut, leaving their bodies with open and bloodied wounds.   Without human interference, sheep grow just enough wool to protect themselves from both cold and hot temperatures.  Wool was once obtained by plucking it from sheep during their molting seasons.  Breeding for continuous fleece growth began after the invention of shears.

With app. 80 million sheep, Australia produces 25% of the world’s wool.  In Australia, the most commonly raised sheep are merinos, bred to have wrinkled, excess skin and wool.  Millions of sheep die annually from exposure to harsh weather.  In order to prevent flystrike, or flies laying eggs in the folds of sheep skin near the breeches, ranchers practice mulesing, or the removal of flesh from the backs of lambs’ legs.  Unwanted sheep are sold for slaughter.  Castration and tail docking are also common practices within the trade, as well.  An undercover investigation revealed this kind of malpractice in Argentina, too—but the sad truth is sheep are abused all over the world for their coats—even in the U.S.

Times are changing; not just the weather.  Leading global fashion house Gucci announced in October that it will no longer use animal fur, beginning with its spring summer 2018 collection.  Gucci’s President & CEO Marco Bizzarri announced the fur-free policy during the 2017 Kering Talk at The London College of Fashion.

Gucci’s commitment follows a long-standing relationship with The HSUS and LAV—members of the international Fur Free Alliance, a coalition of more than 40 animal protection organizations working together to end the fur trade.  Gucci’s fur-free policy includes mink, coyote, raccoon dog, fox, rabbit, karakul, and all others species specially bred or caught for fur.

In May, the VF Corporation—a global leader in branded lifestyle apparel, footwear and accessories including Vans®, The North Face®, Timberland®, Wrangler® and Lee®—partnered with The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International to release its first Animal Derived Materials Policy and announced that its brands will no longer use fur, angora wool or exotic leather in their products.

The company joins many other leading fashion brands and retailers in going fur-free—including Armani, HUGO BOSS, Yoox Net-a-Porter, Stella McCartney and more—and will be part of the international Fur Free Retailer Program.

Suffering for the sake of fashion is unnecessary with so many alternatives!

Organic cotton is easier to clean than wool, faster drying, and softer to the touch.  Linen is a durable material that can absorb up to 20 percent of its weight in moisture before it feels damp and releases moisture easily into the air, while wool takes a long time to dry.  Even well-groomed dog hair can be turned into wool for knitting!

That’s just to name a few!

Don’t be sheepish.  It’s your job as the consumer to research your brands to ensure that you’re not wearing the skin of an unborn baby lamb, for instance.  Here’s what you can do:  pledge fur-free; shop for alternatives and be sure to  double-check merchandise before you make a purchase; educate others by speaking up and telling your fur-free fashion story; join The HSUS fur-free campaign; and donate.

Be beautiful in your own skin… Not someone else’s.

 Viktoria-Leigh Wagner @vwaggers, Contributor