Sheep Sale Yards Australia

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

The Issues

Wool, Leather, and Down

Sheep Sale Yards Australia

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Factory Farmed Fashion

Leather jackets hanging on rack

Photo: Sergmam/shutterstock.com

Without fully noticing, many of us have a relationship with sheep, cows, geese, ducks, and other animals who provide us with wool, leather, and down. But rarely do we ever meet these incredible creatures whose lives are taken to be sold as sweaters, bags, coats, and other everyday items. Unfortunately, these industries take advantage of these sensitive and intelligent non-human animals. Sheep, cows, geese, and ducks are all fascinating creatures who have a multifaceted experience of the world emotionally and socially.

Sheep are highly social creatures who can recall up to 50 sheep faces for two years, recognize emotion on other sheeps’ faces, and form close ewe-lamb bonds. Mother sheep communicate to their lambs with a different tone than with other sheep, similar to many other animals!

Cows are similarly social creatures. They form life-long friendships, hold grudges, and love to play! Cows are sensitive creatures who take care of their peers by grooming and protecting them.

Likewise, geese and ducks experience the world more similarly to humans that one may think. They are flock-oriented creatures and experience grief from the loss of a loved one. These birds also travel great distances with the use of great memory and instincts.

Cows at a feed station
“Obviously I believe that using crocodile or leather to make a handbag is cruel. But it’s also not modern, you’re not pushing innovation.”
- Stella McCartney

Facts

  • Recently Slaughtered Steaming Animal Skin Being Loaded Onto A Truck

    Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

  • Sheep

    are often slaughtered for meat once they are no longer being used for wool production.

  • The skins of cows account for 7-8% of their post-slaughter value.

  • Ranchers oftentimes starve sheep 24 hours before shearing to weaken their reactions to the stressful process.

  • Down feathers are sometimes plucked from live birds who suffer excruciating pain from this cruel practice.

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Exploited for Textiles

Vertical explainer photo 1 - Tightly packed sheep at the sale yards. Australia, 2013.

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Humans have been using sheep to collect wool since 6,000 BC when ancient people would pluck the “roux” or wool coming off of molting sheep. However, modern wool production today looks drastically different from ancient wool collection. In 2018, about 1.2 billion sheep were used for wool production around the world. Ranchers oftentimes starve sheep 24 hours before shearing to weaken their reactions to the stressful shearing environments. Sheep are frequently cut during shearing and wounds are sewn shut by a needle and thread without anesthetic.

Merino sheep are the most prevalent breed in Australia, which produces more wool than any other country. Bred to have wrinkly skin, Merinos are vulnerable “flystrike,” an infection caused by filthy enclosures and maggots.  To prevent this, ranchers use a cruel practice called “mulesing” where the backsides of lamb are sliced off to smooth the skin and deter maggots. The lambs are given no anesthetics or painkillers during this mutilation.

After years of brutal and often bloody shearing, sheep are slaughtered for meat. Australian sheep are packed by the thousands onto crowded ships for torturous journeys of up to three weeks. Their destination is most often the Middle East, where poorly enforced slaughter regulations and local religious customs mean sheep may have their throats cut while fully conscious.

Tightly packed sheep at the sale yards. Australia, 2013.

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Humans have been using sheep to collect wool since 6,000 BC when ancient people would pluck the “roux” or wool coming off of molting sheep. However, modern wool production today looks drastically different from ancient wool collection. In 2018, about 1.2 billion sheep were used for wool production around the world. Ranchers oftentimes starve sheep 24 hours before shearing to weaken their reactions to the stressful shearing environments. Sheep are frequently cut during shearing and wounds are sewn shut by a needle and thread without anesthetic.

Merino sheep are the most prevalent breed in Australia, which produces more wool than any other country. Bred to have wrinkly skin, Merinos are vulnerable “flystrike,” an infection caused by filthy enclosures and maggots.  To prevent this, ranchers use a cruel practice called “mulesing” where the backsides of lamb are sliced off to smooth the skin and deter maggots. The lambs are given no anesthetics or painkillers during this mutilation.

After years of brutal and often bloody shearing, sheep are slaughtered for meat. Australian sheep are packed by the thousands onto crowded ships for torturous journeys of up to three weeks. Their destination is most often the Middle East, where poorly enforced slaughter regulations and local religious customs mean sheep may have their throats cut while fully conscious.

Recently Slaughtered Steaming Animal Skin Being Loaded Onto A Truck

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

China and the United States are the top two producers of leather in the world. Combined, these countries slaughter more than 73 million cows every year. Despite common belief, leather is not a by-product of the meat industry but rather a co-product—meaning that the leather industry fuels the meat industry’s slaughtering of cows. The skins of cows account for 7-8% of their post-slaughter value. For example, United States slaughterhouses supplement their income through exports to China where they are produced into leather goods at tanneries.

Leather tanneries have been cited for ecological destruction and infringing on human rights. It is estimated that leather tanneries in Dhaka, Bangladesh dump nearly 6 million gallons of hazardous waste, including acids, chromium salts, and dyes, in the Buriganga River every day. Many tannery workers suffer from many health issues such as respiratory and skin infections, and premature deaths.

Plucking feathers goose carcass

Photo: Pavel Talashov/shutterstock.com

Down feathers are the soft feathers closest to a bird’s skin often used for stuffing in blankets, pillows, and quilted coats. Collecting down from geese and ducks is not as innocuous as it may seem—a majority of down comes from birds slaughtered from their meat.

After these birds have their throats slashed during slaughter, they are dunked into tanks of boiling water to remove their feathers. Some of the birds are still conscious when they enter the tanks; in these cases, they are boiled alive.

Some undercover investigations have shown that feathers can also be plucked from live birds who suffer excruciating pain from this cruel practice.

Purchasing down may also support the foie gras industry. Foie gras, or fatty liver, is a cruel practice where tubes are shoved down geeses’ necks and fatty foods are pumped into their stomachs until their livers become diseased. After being slaughtered, producers will sell their feathers to supplement costs.

What Can We Do?

Liam sheep at Farm Sanctuary

At Farm Sanctuary we imagine a world where non-human animals are not used for their bodies and instead celebrate their existence as individuals, not as resources.

Companies are also recognizing concerns for the well-being of animals used in the clothing industry and are creating plenty of animal-free alternatives to wool, leather, and down. Some vegan leathers are made of pineapples, mushrooms, and recycled plastics while vegan versions of down include upcycled fibers or plastic bottles, and even wild flowers!

Another great way to reduce suffering and shop more sustainably is by buying second-hand. Buying pre-loved items ensures that you don’t contribute to the suffering of more animals. With a little searching, you can find your new favorite clothes without the guilt of harming animals!

Vegan Fashion Guide

Stay Connected

Thank you!

Join our email list to hear about emergency rescues, receive our monthly eNewsletter, learn about ways to take action, and more.

Join the millions of Farm Sanctuary followers on social media.

Dynamic Message

Captcha failed. Please try again.