Is Wool Moral & Environmental Impacts of Wool

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Is wool moral? Nicely, to reply that, let’s dive into the environmental impacts of the wool trade and its impacts on sheep (plus share some ace wool different materials too!)

A thick woollen jumper… a pair of mountaineering socks… winter gloves… it’s fairly simple to have a look at them and assume that they’ve come from blissful sheep grazing in wealthy pastures. Nonetheless, the truth is commonly very, very totally different.

Wool is often depicted as a by-product of sheep’s seasonal trim. Rigorously taken from them to keep away from their coats getting too huge and heavy. However, behind the scenes, the wool trade can maintain a a lot darker aspect of animal cruelty and hurt to the atmosphere.

As the general public places persevering with stress on manufacturers for transparency, we’re getting extra of an perception into the realities of the wool trade.

When the Pulse of the Business Vogue Report, named wool because the fifth-worst product when it comes to environmental hurt, it induced huge model names like Boohoo to announce it will ban wool altogether (although they did find yourself reverting this choice…).

With wool usually depicted as an ‘moral’ materials, with plenty of outside makes use of, we thought we’d take a better inspection. Hold studying to see simply how the clothes trade impacts our fluffy buddies and the environmental impacts of wool that made us cease utilizing it within the first place. Plus the superior vegan wool alternate options accessible now.

merino wool environmental impact
Holding heat with out using wool within the outdoor

Animal cruelty from wool

First off, the place does wool come from?

There are fairly just a few various kinds of wool, and a variety of them come from totally different animals:

  • Cashmere is taken from Cashmere goats
  • Angora is taken from Angora rabbits
  • Merino is taken from Merino sheep
  • Lambswool is taken from lamb

Although there are many totally different wool sorts, most frequently, and significantly inside the outside trade, it’s wool taken from sheep. Wool is commonly used for gloves and hats, and for thermal merchandise or baselayers, Merino wool can be quite common.

The wool trade paints a picture of sheep producing unnatural quantities of wool and that shearing them is a necessity. Like a seasonal haircut earlier than being despatched bounding again into the fields. The stark actuality is that sheep are overwhelmed, mutilated and sometimes killed within the shearing course of.


Merino sheep are a preferred breed of sheep, used for his or her wool as their pores and skin incorporates folds. This implies they produce extra fur than different breeds. Their wool is commonly utilized in outside gear as a consequence of its heat, wicking properties and since it’s light-weight.

These folds, significantly round their breed (their bums) and the tops of their legs, make them prone to flystrike. It’s because these folds get moist with urine and faeces, creating the right breeding floor for fly larvae. That is flystrike, which if not handled will be deadly to sheep.

Framers perform a course of known as mulesing on sheep, the place crescent form flaps of pores and skin are eliminated for these prone areas. These scars are then much less prone to breed flystrike. The entire course of is commonly carried out with out anaesthetic or painkillers on lambs who’re solely 2 – 10 weeks outdated.

This merciless course of is just not carried out for the sheep welfare however as a result of useless sheep equates to a decrease revenue margin. As you may think about it’s an extremely painful process that results in a variety of pointless struggling.

The cruelties of sheering inside the wool trade

The method of shearing sheep will be additionally result in accidents and loss of life.

PETA despatched undercover investigators into UK wool farms to get a greater perception into the method. Their findings are horrifying as sheep are overwhelmed, typically with their heads being stamped on.

Sheep usually had gaping wounds as the results of shearing. This was both untreated or sewn up with out sterilisation or painkillers. Some sheep who have been so badly mutilated they couldn’t stroll and have been simply left to die, with out veterinary care.

Is wool ethical
Wool not solely comes from sheep however typically these guys too!

Is that this the case for all sheep farms?

As is the case with most issues, as the size of the enterprise grows, revenue turns into the important thing focus. That is the place many of the struggling is seen as requirements slip. Extra sheep cramped into smaller holdings and rushed via the shearing line as shortly as doable. Simply seen as a commodity slightly than a dwelling animal.

Sheep will usually have a greater life on smaller farms, nevertheless, it’s nearly inconceivable to keep away from hurt, ache and misery through the shearing course of.

Do sheep must be sheared?

Sure and no. Not the simple reply you have been searching for…

It’s argued that sheep must be sheared to cut back the chance of an infection from parasites and infections. It additionally helps to maintain them cool in the summertime months and keep away from overheating.

Then again, it’s argued that sheep solely produce the quantity of wool they want to insulate themselves within the cooler months and shed it within the hotter months.

If left to their very own gadgets, most sheep would shed their wool naturally as they did earlier than we got here alongside and began chopping it off for our socks. Nonetheless, domesticated sheep have been selectively bred over lots of of years to supply as a lot wool as doable. With some breeds, it’s now acquired to the purpose the place they do must be sheared.

As you may see, not an easy reply however let’s dig a little bit deeper.

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Greenhouse fuel emissions from wool farming

If there’s one factor we’ve learnt from our time dwelling within the Yorkshire Dales within the UK, it’s that sheep eat a hell of loads. Actually, that and pooping is just about all they do all day.

With all that munching, a variety of gasses construct up in sheep intestines which have to flee. This causes them to fart, burp and poop (much more than J does) releasing methane into the ambiance.

Methane is a greenhouse fuel that causes a variety of hurt when launched into the ambiance and is without doubt one of the main contributors to local weather change. Over 20 years, one kilogram of methane will heat the planet 80 instances a couple of kilogram of carbon dioxide.

Although it’s not as a lot as cows, one sheep produces round a whopping 30 litres of methane a day. In New Zealand, gasses from animals, which is usually sheep, make up greater than 50% of the nation’s complete methane emissions. Within the UK there are over 30 million sheep releasing methane into the ambiance, contributing to local weather change as they flatulate.

Is wool ethical
Choosing wool alternate options assist to guard the locations we like to discover

Water air pollution attributable to wool manufacturing

In addition to releasing dangerous methane into the ambiance, all that pooping will be actually dangerous to waterways. The environmental influence of sheep farming has loads to do with faecal matter which runs off into waterways, killing off wildlife and polluting pure water sources.

There are additionally large quantities of chemical substances utilized in wool farming and manufacturing. “Sheep dip” is a poisonous chemical used on sheep to do away with parasites. Disposing of it poses large issues that may be extraordinarily dangerous.

A examine in Scotland of 795 sheep dip amenities discovered that 40% introduced air pollution dangers. It additionally discovered proof of an incident that occurred in 1995, through which a cupful of sheep dip known as pyrethroid cypermethrin killed 1,200 fish downstream from the place it was dumped right into a river. That’s a variety of destruction from a small quantity of a really dangerous chemical.

While in Wales, sheep dip was named as the most important reason for brown trout declines within the River Teifi. This had a vastly detrimental impact on biodiversity within the area.

Water air pollution results in “useless zones”

The difficulty of disposing of sheep dip and the run-off of chemical substances from farming can pollute pure waterways. This may then result in “useless zones” in pure our bodies of water.

A useless zone is the place extra vitamins and chemical substances construct up inflicting algae to develop at unnatural charges, sapping the oxygen from the water. This kills fish, crops and different animals and creates locations just like the useless zone off the Gulf of Mexico.

Water use for wool manufacturing

Water is just not solely wanted to rear sheep, manufacturing wool additionally makes use of a variety of water.

One pound of wool makes use of 101 gallons of water.

Coupled with the water air pollution attributable to sheep farming, that’s a variety of water getting used up. When you think about there are folks on the planet struggling to entry clear water, it looks like a waste when it may very well be put to higher use.

impacts of sheep on the environment
Choosing sustainable alternate options reduces the pressure on the planet

Wool farming and land use

In an effort to produce wool, large areas of land are cleared worldwide for sheep to graze and to additionally develop their meals. This has a vastly destructive influence on the atmosphere, leading to deforestation, soil erosion and habitat loss. Notably as wool makes use of extra land than every other fibre.

Biodiversity loss

In England and Wales, farming has depleted uplands of wildlife equivalent to eagles and mountain hares. After spending a few years dwelling in Yorkshire, it’s unbelievable simply how a lot of the land is used for sheep farming and the way little wildlife stays.

It’s not simply within the UK that pure areas are being devoured up for farming. Rainforests are being felled at an alarming price to make room for corn and soy plantations used to feed sheep. This results in damaging biodiversity loss in these areas.

Soil errosion

With such a lot of land used for sheep farming or sheep feed, this causes dangerous soil erosion. Animal agriculture finally ends up being one of many main causes of soil erosion worldwide.

Land use

Enormous quantities of land are wanted to rear sheep and develop their meals which depletes pure landscapes and wildlife.

Sustainble alternate options to wool

Amongst all of the destruction of the wool trade, there’s hope within the type of sustainable, vegan alternate options.

Recycled polyester or rPET

Ever puzzled what occurs if you put plastic bottles into the recycling bin? It might simply find yourself being a coat or rucksack in your subsequent journey. rPET is commonly used to make outside gear and gear because it’s fairly sturdy.

Artificial insulation

For those who’re seeking to keep heat and need outside merchandise with thermal qualities, artificial insulation is your reply.

This vegan down different is similar to birds’ feathers, however stays insulated when moist and is cruelty-free. Plus, plenty of analysis is being performed to make artificial insulation from 100% recycled supplies.

Aren’t synthetics dangerous for the atmosphere?

Though wool has its destructive implications, synthetics do carry their very own dangers to their atmosphere.

Synthetics are petrol-based, a non-renewable useful resource that may trigger a variety of air pollution within the mining course of. Synthetics additionally take for much longer to biodegrade and may trigger microplastic air pollution.

This isn’t the case for all synthetics, as recycled synthetics use supplies which have already been mined. This makes use of merchandise that might in any other case trigger air pollution within the ocean or in landfills. Numerous analysis can be being performed into making synthetics extra biodegradable too.

information on wool fabric
Wool-free alternate options may help defend the locations we discover


A little bit of an unsung hero, linen is hypoallergenic, biodegradable and robust.

It may stand up to excessive temperatures so is a well-liked selection for wading via jungles within the tropics. Linen manages to soak up moisture with out holding micro organism and turns into stronger when it’s moist. It may soak up 20% of its weight in moisture earlier than it feels damp. It even turns into stronger the extra it’s washed, which is a few fairly cool pure wizardry occurring there.


Lyocell is taken into account environmentally pleasant because it’s created from wooden pulp in a closed-loop course of.

It’s one other hypoallergenic cloth that doesn’t cling making it wrinkle-free and delicate. It’s 50% extra absorbent than cotton which implies it’s a preferred selection for sports activities and outside put on.

Lyocell is sourced from the eucalyptus tree which grows shortly, with out irrigation and only a few pesticides. It will also be grown on land not match for meals as a consequence of soil erosion. The manufacturing of lyocell doesn’t use any poisonous chemical substances and 99.5% of the dissolving agent will be reused.

In comparison with cotton it makes use of lower than half as a lot water in manufacturing and fewer water all through its life. As a result of its good breathability, it doesn’t scent piffy as shortly as different materials. Avoiding the must be washed as regularly.

higg materials sustainability index scoring
HIGG supplies sustainability index soring. Supply: attire insider

Soy cloth

A by-product of soya bean processing, soya cloth has been nicknamed “vegetable cashmere”. Not the perfect selection for outside escapades, none the much less it’s nonetheless an important different to wool.

It gained its nickname for its silky clean contact, the sturdiness of cotton and heat that rivals wool-cashmere. Only a extra sustainable choice.

For those who’re searching for vegan outside gear and wool alternate options all of our gear guides are animal-free

Natural cotton

When grown organically, cotton doesn’t use any dangerous chemical substances. It may be recycled and made into new garments or yarn. It’s extremely versatile, so can be utilized to make denims, jumpers and hats. It additionally mixes effectively with different materials to make distinctive blends.

The carbon footprint of wool vs cotton is far larger as demonstrated by the Higg Supplies Sustainability Index. Wool has a world rating of 40.0 which is 4 instances greater than cotton at 8.8.

That is due to the rising course of and since cotton makes use of loads much less water to supply than wool. It’s additionally simpler to scrub and quicker to dry in comparison with wool.


Hemp establishes itself effectively with out using pesticides or chemical substances and renews itself 3 times per yr.

It’s nice for soil because the plant’s roots defend the soil from run-off, while increase and preserving topsoil and subsoil buildings.

It’s a pure and biodegradable cloth that’s much like linen in texture. It’s breathable and doesn’t lure warmth, which might promote the expansion of micro organism. And, it’s 10 instances stronger than cotton.

Is Wool Ethical & Wool Environmental Impacts
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Hopefully this text has shed a bit of sunshine on the cruelties and environmental impacts of the wool trade.

The explanations listed are why we determined to cease utilizing wool all these moons in the past. Though wool is hailed for its wicking properties and being so light-weight. We felt the cons outweighed the professionals. particularly when you think about how merciless the trade is.

The goal of this text isn’t to induce you to throw out all of your wool. As a substitute, to present an perception into the realities of the wool trade and what alternate options can be found.

For those who’re looking out for brand spanking new gear however need to keep away from wool our gear guides are an excellent place to start out. Our guides are all vegan, so we by no means suggest wool and as at all times when you have any questions drop us a line and we’ll see how we may help.


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