You should stop wearing wool. Contrary to popular belief, wool is a very cruel animal fiber. It's not an ethical or sustainable material.
Wool is often used in the fashion industry to make warm technical clothing, such as shirts, socks, gloves, coats, pullovers, jackets, sweaters, leggings, and slippers.
Wool is obtained from animals that are enslaved, exploited, subjected to painful treatments, and exposed to dangerous substances with long-term disastrous effects on ecosystems and human health.
The fashion industry kills billions of animals each year around the world. Wool is obtained from animals such as sheep, goats, muskox, rabbits, and camelids.
There is a lot of animal cruelty going on in the textile and apparel industry. It's very shocking, especially when there are already so many alternatives available.
Why do fashion brands and retailers keep using animals and inhumane practices to make clothing?
About wool obtained from sheep
Sheep don't need shearing, contrary to popular belief. They don't like being sheared at all. It's simple to understand because they never like being caught for any reason.
Sheep naturally produce the right amount of wool it needs. In natural environments, they shed their winter coat before spring like many other animals.
In the industry, profits often come first. That's why most sheep are sheared at the wrong time of the year.
They live in crowded conditions and must walk very long distances. They will often end up dying from dehydration, infection, starvation or injury, according to PETA.
There is no need to wear wool to stay warm for most of us. Unfortunately, the demand for wool obtained from sheep and other animals keeps rising.
There is no excuse to make animals suffer for clothing. There are already plenty of other alternatives.
We have the power to make change happen as consumers through the clothes we buy and who we support with other money. Simply refusing to wear any wool already helps many animals.
Alternatives to wool
Many environmentally friendly fabrics can replace wool effectively. Instead of wool, wear these natural cruelty-free fabrics that are ethical and sustainable.
Many ethical fashion brands choose to avoid textile fibers obtained from animals completely. They don't support the cruelty of the wool industry and use these alternatives.
Here are some of the vegan fabrics you should be wearing instead of wool:
- Organic cotton requires fewer resources than wool, dries faster, is easy to clean, and grown without harmful chemicals.
- Linen is made from flax plants, very durable, absorbent, quick-drying, and cool, environmentally friendly, recyclable, and biodegradable.
- Organic hemp is grown without pesticides or fertilizers, fast-growing, sustainable, breathable, soft, and lightweight.
- Lyocell is a regenerated cellulose fiber like rayon, made from wood pulp, bio-based, biodegradable, and recyclable.
There are many other man-made fabrics made from cellulose fiber, manufactured by turning plants into the fabric, such as soy, seaweed, bamboo, and coconut. Be careful when buying these because they undergo heavy chemical treatments and oftentimes aren't eco-friendly.
Read up our article on eco-friendly fabrics to learn more about other fabric choices.
What is wrong with wool
Wool is the result of awful abuse as animals are mutilated and cut into slavery. The wool industry raises animals for a profit. The well-being of animals is rarely considered.
Around 1.155 million kilograms of wool were produced in 2018 by more than 1.177 billion sheep around the world, according to the International Wool Textile Organisation. Sheep numbers rose by 2 million from 2017, continuing the rising trend since 2009.
Australia produces about 23% of all wool used worldwide. Merino sheep are often bred to have wrinkled skin that produces more wool than they would need naturally.
Animals suffer immense pain, being castrated, dying prematurely from exhaustion, exposure to the cold, disease, lack of shelter, or neglect.
Animals who don't produce enough wool are destined to be slaughtered.
More than 95% of all wool comes from mass production globally. And mass production isn't ethical. Wool is also typically a byproduct of the meat industry.
Environmental impact of wool
Is wool environmentally friendly? The green movement is booming. Consumers are asking for more eco-responsible products.
To assess a material's sustainability, we have to consider it's entire life-cycle, from raw material production to distribution, consumption, recycling, and disposal.
Sheep farming requires an enormous amount of resources. Water, energy, feed, and land. It also produces a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
Methane is the dominant gas emitted as a by-product of the sheep digestion. One sheep can produce about 30 liters of methane each day. Fabric production is also responsible for carbon emissions: weaving, knitting, and fabric treatments.
The Higg Materials Sustainability Index attributes wool fabric a Global Warming Score of 40.0, which is more than 4 times worse than 8.8 for cotton fabric.
Wool requires more land than many other types of fibers. The land has to be cleared and trees cut down to make room for grazing sheep. Sheep farming leads to soil salinity and the destruction of biodiversity.
According to the report from the Global Fashion Agenda, wool is one of the five most environmentally damaging fiber worldwide. Wool production involves high eco-toxicity and human toxicity due to processing with chemicals, as well as a very high contribution to global warming.
Pesticides and insecticides are often used on sheep to keep them free of parasites. Hazardous chemicals pollute the air, soil, and water, endangering human health and ecosystems.
Wool production has a negative environmental impact and is responsible for horrendous cruelty that sheep face in the industry. It's time to switch to sustainable vegan fashion.
It's time to shift away from fur, wool, and silk. As consumers, we have to lead the way and invest in sustainable ethical clothing.
Let's buy from companies that express deep concerns for people, animals, and nature.
There are already plenty of great alternatives to choose from. Even if it might be a little costly for the coming years, buying less and higher quality is the way to go.
I recommend choosing environmentally friendly natural or recycled-synthetic materials. You can also buy second-hand clothing or rent your clothes for a special occasion.
Cruelty-free and vegan eco-friendly fabrics are the future.
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MSc) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks four languages and holds two Master of Science in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.