Have you ever wondered, “Is wool vegan?” Here’s why animal rights activists don’t wear or craft with wool.
Back in 2011, I ran a mini series of posts called Vegan Crafting Made Easy. Here’s the p0st that started it all. A vegan lifestyle means more than just not eating animal products. Vegan crafters avoid animal products as much as we can in our day to day. As a vegan, I don’t believe that we need to exploit animals in any way, whether it’s drinking their milk, wearing their skin, or crafting with their fur.
Over at our sister site Feelgood Style, our newest writer Jill Ettinger wrote a piece recently on why wool clothing is as bad as fur from an animal rights standpoint. You can read her thoughts in full below. The points she makes about wool clothing also apply to wool and other sheep-derived craft supplies: yarn, felt, lanolin, etc.
Finding Wool Alternatives
Before we get into why wool is not vegan, I wanted to share a few resources for finding wool alternatives. The resources below are from the Vegan Crafting Made Easy series, and it explores vegan options to replace the wool in your crafty stash:
Vegan Crafting Made Easy: Knit + Crochet
Lanolin Substitutes for Vegan Crafters
Is wool vegan? Why Wool is Often as Bad as for Animals as Fur
by Jill Ettinger, FeelgoodStyle.com
Wool is everywhere. It’s in sweaters, socks, pants, even bedding. But is it an ethical fabric? Or is wool clothing as bad as fur?
We think of wool as sheep shearing, much in the same ways we think of animal farms: those bucolic images of happy animals frolicking around barns roomier than a New York City penthouse. But the wool industry has a dark side. Several, actually.
Domestic sheep and goats are bred to overproduce wool so that we can sheer it off of them. They also, as a result, produce more skin. Mulesing, is the practice of removing this excess skin around a sheep’s backside. To leave it there can allow feces to build up and (gross alert), maggots to literally infest and even kill the sheep. So mulesing is a practice of cutting off the wool and skin of young sheep’s behinds. This is almost always done without painkillers. Raw tissue is exposed and the injury can cause a lifetime of pain.
This isn’t a rare occurrence in wool production. It’s the norm, just like tail-docking pigs or beak-searing young chickens in factory farming. It’s part of industrial fashion. And while wool itself is a “natural” fiber (if you consider someone else’s fur or hair a fashionable fiber), it’s now as mechanized as our food, where compassion and ethics are passed up for profits.
The other dark side of the wool industry is angora wool. That super soft expensive wool that doesn’t come from sheep, but from some very adorable rabbits. Just like with wool sheep, angora rabbits suffer immensely during cutting processes. Their legs are tightly bound or they’re hung in the air so that they can’t try to run away (which is what rabbits are really good at doing). Thin-skinned angora rabbits are routinely injured during the cutting process, especially since they’re anxious and trying to escape the situation.
And like sheep raised for their wool, angora rabbits are kept in cages or on cramped farms where the stench of feces and urine sting their sensitive eyes.
In a recent victory for angora rabbits, Lacoste has decided to pull all angora wool products from its collections.
Millions of people have given up fur, and millions more commit to it every year because killing an animal for something that looks better on the animal than it ever will on a human is nonsensical and especially cruel. Wool may not take as many lives right away, but it does create years of suffering for animals who do end up dead eventually, not usually with the dignity they deserve.
Plenty of vegan fabrics exist that can keep you warm and toasty—from nylon and acrylic to revolutionary recycled and upcycled materials being produced by forward-thinking companies like Patagonia.
17 CommentsLeave a Reply
I’m afraid we have created the mutants that are farm animals,and unfortunately that’s hot going to change,so sheep need shearing or they suffer
Thank you for addressing this touchy topic . . . . I eat a vegan diet (12 years vegan, 20 veg). I still have wool and down from my previous life. I also have alpaca wool yardage that I’m using to make a coat. I believe in repurposing fabric but most vegans eshoo even that practice. Because I clean the beach several times a week I can no longer abide by using fleece-it’s wreaking havoc in our oceans? From what I’ve read Alpaca may be an alternative to sheeps wool. I sew mostly with linen and organic cotton.
Your article is informative and adds credence to the dark side of all of our “American Made” factory farm immoral/illicit/repugnant behaviors as a society. However, at the root, it presents us with the same message we all need to adopt who care about animals/food/farmers and the planet. (Disclaimer: I am not vegan; however, I do still care very much about animals and how they are treated.)
Know where things are coming from! I belong to a coop that collects alpaca fur from several small family owned operations who prize their animals for their fine fiber and treat them with dignity and respect at all times. I would never buy something I did not know where it came from and how it was made. You have to take the time. Period. If you can’t tour the farms and see for yourself what is happening…..well then, don’t buy it.
Thank you for the conversation. I think growth is only possible with people when confrontation is set aside for communication.
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