Updated: May 18
When searching for ethical or sustainable wool online, you will probably bombarded by posts from PETA or vegan activists stating that wearing wool is cruel and unethical. That sheep or goats should not be sheared, and we are harming them by doing so. But there is some truth that needs to be shed on this subject. Wool can be ethical.
If you love natural dye, ladies linen dresses, eco friendly shopping make sure to check out our other posts.
Part of them is right, and part of them is very wrong.
There have been too many videos that have surfaced of workers shearing sheep to attain their daily wool quota, at such a speed that they simply don't give two sh*** about the live being they are holding. This ends in stomping, beating, cutting, and sometimes death of the animal. Now that is something we can all get behind, that is needs to STOP and we mean now!
So why do we keep shearing sheep you ask ? Well, for centuries now sheep have been bred in a way that they don't shed their wool naturally anymore, and they rely on us to remove all that wool for them. A prime case study is Shrek 1 and Shrek 2, the two sheep who escaped from farms in New Zealand and Australia respectively and was running wild for six years. When the sheep were found, they grew over 60 pounds of fleece on their bodies. It would be such an uncomfortable weight and heat to bear they they must be shorn.
Fast fashion being at its peak and there being more labels than ever, every designer needs to include seasonal pieces to that means sweaters, coats, hats, jackets, scarves etc... That is A LOT OF WOOL ! Let us not forget that we are also mixing wool with plastic and unnatural fibers, because it is cheaper and faster, so that puts a whole new problem on the table.
to quote The Minimalist Vegan:
"According to Business Wire, global wool production generates about USD $2.2 billion annually. The International Wool Textile Organisation states that the wool industry cares for approximately 1.1 billion sheep. So 1 billion sheep generates over 2 billion in annual revenue for fleece.Wool is supplied from all over the world. However, the largest producer is Australia which is responsible for 25% of the wool industry."
There are in some countries, regulations regarding the handling of the sheep when shearing them. However, a part of us just can seem to shake off the feeling of stress the sheep must go through when shearing day comes and the shearers in these MASSIVE SHEEP FARMS are trying to reach their quotas as fast as possible. The dreamy image we have in our heads of small farms and attentive shearers not rushing through the process does exist though. These small farms that produce wool in a more ethical manner are out there, we just have to find them and work with them!
Kathleen is wearing our sustainable and cruelty-free french wool sweater
Due to the lack of transparency of many brands and labels regarding the origin of their wool it can be very hard for the consumer to make a conscious choice in regards to the sake of the animals, the farming conditions, the quality of the professional shearers, the mileage the wool traveled just to get into your closet etc. It is becoming way too easy and apparent that brands are sticking the words sustainable, ethical, vegan just to attract the consumer.
So what can YOU do to choose your next wool piece?
RESEARCH is all we can really do for now, as individual customers. You can contact the label you are interested in and try to get more information about the origin of their fibers and wool. If they give you a super vague answer, then they probably have no clue and don't really care.
You can SHOP SECOND HAND which is great for the planet, your closet and your piggy bank.
learn to KNIT YOURSELF! Knitting is such a calming pass time that is also great for the brain studies have shown. Youtube is a great leaning source, and so could be your grandmother or the retired neighbour down the road (make sure to wear a mask around your elders).
You can check out the website GOOD ON YOU that we love using before shopping for any new clothing. They tell you how ethical the brand is you are looking at and share some top sustainable designers you could potentially love. Here is a little snippet on their tips for shopping for wool:
"When buying wool, look for standards and certifications that ensure the fair treatment of animals and the respect of the environment, such as the Responsible Wool Standard, ZQ Merino Standard and the Soil Association Organic Standards.
You can look out for clothing made from recycled wool, and of course buying pre-loved or vintage wool items ensures the garment gets a longer useful life. The Good On You ratings reward brands that endeavour to avoid wool from mulesed sheep and use recycled wool, like Hopaal or no animal products at all, like Vege Threads."
AS FOR US ?
We are so happy that we found that dreamy little french farm that cares for goat and sheep in the south of France in a little town called Ariège. Here is a rough translation of their process from their website:
"We have 130 Angora goats whose main concern is to produce mohair, and 500 sheep who also produce fine wool (the sheep are also raised to make lambs which we then market).
The calving periods take place in the spring, from March to the end of April, and the goats always start!
Goats are shorn twice a year because their hair grows very quickly and each adult goat will give us 3 to 4 kg of mohair. The fleece will be sorted and classified into different categories of fineness.
The sheep will only be shorn once in June, we keep the longest fleeces of the youngest animals for processing (balls, plaids, etc.)
The mohair and wool will then be entrusted to the best fabricators to be transformed into different yarns intended for weaving or knitting."
Their goats which make the softest mohair
Kathleen wearing our sustainable cruelty-free wool cardigan from the farm in Ariège
Thank you so much for reading our blog ! Have a magical day and stay safe !
Mary Madeleine designer at OLIVE + BLUE