Braving a cold winter morning, three nearly naked activists – led by Stefania Ferrario and Tash Peterson – held a powerful demonstration in Melbourne’s bustling Bourke Street Mall.
Cradling a “bloody lamb” and holding signs reading, “Wool Hurts” and “Wool Is Just as Cruel as Fur,” the activists drew attention to the Australian wool industry’s appalling treatment of sheep.
Just last week, PETA Australia released new eyewitness video footage filmed earlier this year inside a shearing shed in Victoria. The video shows a badly bleeding sheep – injured during shearing – being held between the knees of a shearer, who crudely stitches up her gaping wound without administering any pain relief. The shearer then mops up the animal’s blood with her own fleece.
This isn’t the first time cruelty has been documented in the wool industry. PETA entity investigators have visited more than 100 wool industry operations around the world and have documented cruelty at every single location. Shearers have been caught on camera punching sheep in the face, jabbing them in the head with sharp metal clippers, cutting large swaths of their skin, and crudely stitching them up by pushing huge needles through their bleeding wounds.
Shearing Is Terrifying
Sheep are gentle prey animals who are petrified of being held down, yet they endure vicious beatings and sustain bloody wounds and broken legs when they’re used for wool.
Shearers are paid by volume, not by the hour, which encourages hurried, violent handling that leaves gaping wounds on the animals’ bodies. Shearers crudely stich them up without providing the sheep with any pain relief.
You’ve probably heard that sheep “need” to be sheared, but that’s only because humans have genetically manipulated them over thousands of years to produce an unnatural amount of wool for our own purposes. Without human interference, sheep produce just the right amount of wool to keep them warm in the winter, and they shed it naturally during the warmer months. It’s arrogant to think that animals whose bodies we have altered in order to make money wouldn’t be terrified when we pin them down to rob them of their coats.
Mulesing Mutilations Continue
Mulesing is the practice of cutting chunks of skin and flesh from lambs’ hindquarters in order to address problems caused by breeding them to produce excessive amounts of wool.
Merinos – the sheep most commonly used for wool in Australia – are bred to have wrinkles in their skin and therefore produce more wool due to the larger surface area. Because of this, urine and faeces often collect in folds of skin around their hindquarters, attracting flies who lay eggs and hatch maggots.
In 2004, PETA Australia founder Ingrid Newkirk exposed to the world the reality of wool from mulesed sheep in Australia – and after legal proceedings, the wool industry promised to phase out mulesing by 2010.
But now, more than a decade past the deadline, at least 74% of Australian wool still comes from mulesed sheep.
We will continue to seek justice for sheep, but this abuse is systemic. The best thing you can do for these animals is refuse to buy wool. It’s easy to check the label before you buy clothing and other items. If it says “wool”, leave the item on the shelf and look for an animal-free alternative.
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