Sunday, May 28, 2006

Horror on the Sheep Farm!

Edit: Since posting this entry I have had communication with several informed persons in the US sheep industry, some of which have never even heard of these practices. I think I can say with confidence that these are isolated instances. Even in Australia, the practice of "musling" is being phased out. I am happy to say that I don't think that my notion of happy sheep is a romantic one. It is truly a realty and I think I can buy wool with confidence. I am, however, going to try to do more to support local American wool production, even if it is at times more expensive. I think that buying US products is the best way to know what I am getting. By the way, Beaversilde Dry Goods gave me a lot of great information when I emailed them about this subject.

Also, many of comments were also very helpful. Thanks!

I saw this horrifying video aptly titled The Horror of Wool on Katie's blog. It is about the Merino sheep industry in Australia. Although this may be old to some of the knitters out in blogland, it sure was news to me. Beware if you watch it. I had to close my eyes a couple of times and I am not really a squeamish person.

The Australian Merino Sheep

Now, the video is produced by Peta, which would like us knitters to use only acrylic yarns--which is NOT going to happen. And although they are often extreme in their views of animal treatment (like we should all be vegeterians), their concerns seem founded in this case. I guess I had the romantic notion that the sheep lived in some kind of pastoral utopia, wandering through green fields, all happy and well-fed.


Jennifer said...

Very disturbing video. I'd heard about some of these practices.

Stephanie said...

Thanks for the list. There are some superior yarns on there so I don't feel like I would be deprived if I worked only from that list. I wonder what Rowan's policy is.

There's no reason why we can't have wool without cruelty to the animals. PETA is not an organisation I would support, but there's no room for cruelty in my world!

Katie said...

That is an awesome list of cruelty-free manufacturers--I will be sure to bookmark it. (Waiting eagerly on Knitpick's response!)

I certainly hope that the video is not much more than a piece of propaganda for PETA. (but still...those poor sheep!) There was a page about why you shouldn't use ANY wool, ever, like because shearing is a cruel practice (?) but I don't think that wool production will stop with any amount of boycotting...

chittavrtti said...

I remember this discussion coming up on another knit list about a year ago. I do not know if this situation is different. However there was some intelligent feedback from farmers and herders regarding the practice of having to shave sheep and apply a chemical in ordwr to prevent the far worse case of insects breeding inside the area so "treated". Thus it was a case of the prevention looking far worse then the infection because we could see it.***CV

rebecca said...

PETA is opposed to domestication of animals in general, but I don't think that they have considered that modern sheep cannot live in the wild or go get jobs, and would not survive without human assistance. The practice they describe is one that Australian sheep farmers are concerned about and trying to move beyond, but according to the industry journals, they haven't come up with an alternative yet, and leaving the animals alone makes them prey to health problems. Apparently, the difficulty is really with the merino breed -- as with so many animals that have been bred just for production, they aren't well-designed animals any more. So avoiding merino wool would, I think, be the solution. I have the impression that the Peruvian wools are okay, and so have been sticking with them, but will be interested to know if someone else has more data.