Environmental Hazards of Wool Production
At every stage of production, from breeding sheep to mothproofing garments, the wool industry threatens the land, air and water.
Manure generated from livestock has significantly contributed to the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases over the last 250 years. “Enteric fermentation” – a livestock digestive process that causes methane to be produced and emitted through belching and passing gas – accounts for roughly one-quarter of annual agricultural methane emissions. In New Zealand, these methane emissions from livestock (mostly sheep) make up more than 30 per cent of the nation’s greenhouse-gas emissions.
Approximately 20 per cent of pasture land worldwide is considered degraded because of overgrazing, compaction and erosion. In the first half of the 20th century, Argentina was second to Australia in wool production. But when local Argentinean sheep farmers got too greedy, the scale of their operations outgrew the ability of the land to sustain them. Soil erosion in the region has triggered a desertification process that officials estimate threatens as much as 93 per cent of the land. Today, Argentina is no longer a major wool producer – and Australia could suffer a similar fate.
Faecal matter contaminates waterways in areas where sheep are farmed. A case study conducted by the New Zealand government on two medium-sized farms found faecal contamination in the water that “exceeded levels suitable for drinking and safe recreational use in virtually every reading since 1994, and in recent times … has well exceeded safe livestock drinking levels …”.
By boycotting wool, not only will you be taking a stand for animals, you’ll also be helping to preserve our natural ecosystems.