Shearling is a popular animal-based fiber between leather and wool, made from the recently shorn skin of sheep with the wool left on it. But how cruel or ethical is it? And do sheep die to make shearling?
Shearling is made from sheep's skin and involves animal exploitation and cruelty. Sheep are killed to make shearling after being shorn to take their wool. It isn't the most ethical or sustainable fabric and has a disastrous impact on the environment.
Thankfully, more people are asking for ethical and environmentally friendly clothing. They are concerned with the compassionate treatment of animals.
To answer the increasing demand for cruelty-free products, brands and retailers release eco-friendly collections and make more cruelty-free and vegan options available worldwide.
Animal products, including shearling, should be avoided because the industrial farming of animals is cruel, unethical, environmentally damaging, and unsustainable.
To help you make conscious decisions as a well-informed consumer, here is everything you need to know about shearling, how it is made, and how cruel it truly is.
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What is shearling?
Shearing is an animal-derived material made from the recently shorn skin of sheep or lamb with the fleece still attached. Similarly to leather, shearling is widely used in the textile and apparel industry. It is warm, soft, smooth, breathable, strong, durable, and highly resistant.
Shearling is often used in the fashion industry to make comfortably warm clothing, such as jackets, coats, vests, puffers, parkas, bombers, blazers, boots, slippers, bags, and other accessories.
Sheep naturally produce the right amount of wool they need. They shed their winter coat before spring in natural environments like many animals.
However, profits often come first before animal welfare in many industries, including textile and fashion. And most sheep are sheared at the wrong time of the year to make wool and shearling.
Shearling is considered a luxury and one of the finest fibers in the fashion world. But the fashion industry is responsible for the exploitation, farming, and skinning of billions of animals every year.
Shearling production is very exploitative and cruel. Billions of animals live in poor conditions to make the clothes we wear. They suffer inhumane treatment to produce shearling and wool.
Are animals killed for shearling?
Shearling comes from animals and involves the suffering and killing of sensitive animals, sheep or lambs. They are shorn before slaughter then manufacturers use their skin with the wool left on it to make shearling. More than 715 million sheep are slaughtered for their skins each year worldwide.
Sheep don't need shearing, contrary to popular belief. They don't like any shearing at all. It's simple to understand because they produce wool, a winter coat that grows to maximum length by mid-winter and naturally shed it at the right time of the year, in early spring.
However, for the textile and fashion industry, profits often come first. Manufacturers very rarely consider the welfare of animals. So most sheep are sheared too soon and too often.
Animals suffer immense pain, are castrated, and many even die prematurely from exhaustion, exposure to the cold, disease, lack of shelter, or neglect.
As soon as they don't produce enough wool or poor quality wool, sheep are killed for their meat and skin. Sheepskin or shearling is the sheep hide with the fur left on. Sheep leather has the fur removed before tanning.
Animals are often killed very young to preserve the smoothness and softness of their skin. The best shearling quality comes from skins and hides that don't have any damage, scratch, parasite, or contamination yet.
Is wearing shearling ethical?
Shearling is an animal product and isn't ethical since it comes from sheep or lambs' winter coats and involves animal exploitation, slaughter, cruelty, stress, injuries, and diseases more often than not.
Sheep have a nervous system and can suffer and feel pain. They want to live harm-free and stress-free as they would do in nature. They shouldn't be exploited and subjected to inhumane treatment.
Sheep often live in crowded conditions and must walk very long distances. Many even die prematurely from dehydration, infection, starvation, or injury.
No animal should suffer to make beautiful, stylish, and affordable clothing. Animal cruelty has no place in modern societies. Life in every form is more valuable than things.
We have been conditioned to believe that seeing animals as commodities is OK. But the mass farming and killing of animals isn't sustainable and has a high cost for all of us in the long run.
A common misconception is that shearling is simply a by-product of the wool industry. Many people believe that they prevent more waste by buying and wearing shearling clothing and accessories.
Animals are slaughtered for their meat and skin. And the most expensive shearling is made from very young animals, some even unborn, taken from their mother's wombs, purely for aesthetic reasons.
All animal products and by-products are interdependent. Animal parts are sold not to minimize waste but to maximize profits. Skins and hides are the most valuable parts of animals. And textiles are produced first and foremost to meet consumers' demand.
Can vegans wear shearling?
Vegans avoid all harm and exploitation of animals, even wool, leather, and shearling, because it's cruel and unnecessary. All animals have the right to live free of exploitation and suffering. Shearling isn't a vegan-friendly fabric. It's a natural and luxurious fabric, but it's harmful and unsustainable.
Contrary to popular belief, wool production is cruel and unethical. Wool is arguably the most misunderstood animal product used in the fashion industry.
We don't need to exploit sheep to survive. There is simply no excuse to use animals as a resource for fashion in our modern society. Sheep are bred, enslaved, and slaughtered for an unnecessary luxury fabric.
Sheep are oppressed, abused, subjected to painful treatments, and exposed to dangerous substances with long-term harmful consequences on ecosystems and human health.
Under pressure from consumers and animal rights organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), many fashion brands and retailers abandon the use of animal products, including wool and shearling, for their new collections and choose better alternatives.
Is shearling eco-friendly?
Shearling is a natural fiber, bio-based, biodegradable, and recyclable, but it has a high environmental impact. The farming and processing of shearling pollute the air, soil, and water, producing greenhouse gases and wastes.
Large-scale, intensive animal farming and fast fashion practices deplete resources and release gases into the atmosphere at a high rate. They use synthetic chemicals to make the land and animals more productive.
Farming practices like intensive grazing and high stocking density are widespread and fundamentally unsustainable. Farmers regularly use chemicals for worm and disease control.
Hazardous chemicals pollute air, soil, and water, endangering human health and ecosystems. Wastewater is highly polluting and contains residual pesticides and insecticides.
Sheep digestion produces methane as a by-product. And of all the greenhouse gases, methane is one of the most potent because of its ability to absorb heat in Earth's atmosphere.
Over 20 years, one kilogram of methane warms the planet as much as 80 times more than one kilogram of carbon dioxide. One sheep can produce about 30 liters of methane each day.
Wool has the fifth most harmful environmental impact among all materials used for textiles. It's even worse than manufactured fibers, such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon.
Are there better alternatives to shearling?
The better alternatives to shearling are more sustainable and cruelty-free. They are eco-friendly, vegan, and ethically made from organic or recycled fibers. They are also comfortable, lightweight, breathable, durable, and luxurious.
Choose vegan textiles that don't involve animal exploitation and are better for your skin and the planet. There are many eco-friendly and cruelty-free vegan options for beautiful fashion.
Some ethical and vegan fabrics to wear instead of shearling include organic cotton, linen, hemp, and lyocell. Many sustainable clothing brands choose to avoid textile fibers obtained from animals. They use these eco-friendly alternatives to wool.
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