View Full Version : Australian Wool, Peta, Cruelty Free, etc.

City & Country
09-10-2007, 01:08 PM
Hello all -

I think this is probably a hot-button topic, and one that has been explored before (I did a search of prior posts), but as the last thread went all over the map as far as topics go (but WAS a lot of fun to read!), I wanted to ask again what knitters' thoughts were regarding Australian wool.

I'm not a PETA person, for various reasons, but prefer that animals be given as humane a life as possible (I am a F.A.C.T. supporter). Through an e-mail well over a year ago, I heard about the whole Australian merino wool controversy, and decided to boycott wool from Australia. As peru seems to be supplying more and more wool, at inexpensive prices, my boycott hasn't been too difficult on my wallet.

However, the issue arose again this past Saturday when I visited Seaport Yarns here in NYC. Andrea, the very nice woman who owns the business, suggested I consider 'Aussie Wool' rather than the 'Brown Sheep Nature Spun' I was looking for. She felt it was a better deal for the money. When I told her of my concern, she said that the wool products she buys from Australia come from smaller farms (there was another brand the name of which I can't remember) where they care for their sheep well and wouldn't WANT to damage their own flock.

I didn't buy any then (I wanted to be consistent with my wool and I had already bought 2 of the 3 colors needed in Brown Sheep), but thought I'd throw the topic out for your thoughts.

By the way, for those who don't know, F.A.C.T. is the 'Food Animal Concerns Trust' which recognizes that, while people eat meat from animals, there is no need for those animals to be treated cruelly during their lifespan. They were big in the 'nest egg' movement (free ranging chickens).

Thanks for reading. I look forward to hearing YOUR thoughts!

09-10-2007, 01:27 PM
i see it this way: if you have ANY concerns or doubts about whether or not something conflicts your beliefs... stick to your beliefs. you could probably do a search online or through your group to find out what's changed and what hasn't. This is something i can't get my dh to comprehend... i refuse to wear leather/suade/etc. I refuse to eat red meat (personal choice, i used to love it but since going low to no carb i can't even stand the smell of it), so on and so forth. I can't use wool (allergy) but if i were in your place, i'd do my research first.

Susan P.
09-11-2007, 05:14 AM
City and Country. I am a very proud Australian so let me state that from the outset.

Let's deal with some global facts because why one would concentrate on Australia - and why PETA did - is highly questionable.

Is the sheep indigenous to Australia? No. It is indigenous to America? No. Thus where ever you have animals not indigenous to a country you have a greater chance of ill issues resulting.

There are breeds of sheep that do not require mulesing. Look that up and see if you can find breeders who spin and sell their yarn. The merino does need mulesing (as this time) so any country that is selling yarn from large flocks is probably using mulesing. Not just Australia, any country.

I don't like mulesing but I like a fly blown sheep less. I've seen them and it is horrific. There is no current process to prevent mulesing with large flocks but a LOT of scientific work is going into research and those research bodies have given themselves a very limited time frame to arrive at an alternative.

In terms of the merino at least, you would have to purchase from someone with a small flock and/or someone with the labour force required to check sheep at least every second day for fly strike to feel your purchase was well placed.

So, go online and check breeders who have either sheep that don't require the process or breeders who have small enough flocks/land et al and who guarantee they are able to manage their flocks without the process.

You need to keep this in mind for wool bought from ANY country. Australia was targeted for socio-political reasons and I do not support such exclusive targeting.

PETA has been proven to not be guilt free from environmental issues itself and hence I would suggest as I have, not listening to the biased 'research' from any one lobby group and rather do your own research on breeds and breeders. Easy to do because I have found such people online before myself.

Susan P.
09-11-2007, 05:41 AM
re my first comment about questionable. I believe YOU were well motivated in your question. I don't believe all the hype from other quarters was, as equally.

09-11-2007, 06:02 AM
I've never heard of this before and i'm just horrified! What i'm wondering is if they do this only in Australia? And if they do, why is it? Sorry, i'll keep searching for info on this subject, i just whanted to say that i was :noway::!!!:

Susan P.
09-11-2007, 06:42 AM
No, it is NOT done only in Australia. We need to be mindful that if this goes offtopic too much then we are not really talking knitting. Mulesing is done to prevent flystrike and maggots developing in the flesh. They cut off a stretch of skin and wool around the bottom area. No anaethetic.
It sounds cruel and it's not nice but it IS better than flystrike. I have been around a LOT of sheep farmers and they all care for their sheep; they do. As I said, if it worries you buy wool from breeds that doesn't need it or from breeders who can manage small flocks without the need of the practice.

But unless you are vegetarian or vegan one needs to consider how cattle and chickens et al are farmed and killed for meat production and so on.

I suggest we call a halt to this topic now. Not because I am trying to have the last say but because we're not talking knitting now as such. You could start the subject in the OT forum, however this topic HAS been done before.

Just please all do me a favour and don't try to claim Australia is the devil on this issue as it is not. All countries could do better in terms of their large scale animal production houses.

09-11-2007, 06:50 AM
Let's deal with some global facts because why one would concentrate on Australia - and why PETA did - is highly questionable.


EVERYTHING PETA does is highly questionable!!!!!!!!!!!!

09-11-2007, 06:55 AM
sorry, i was just asking, i had never heard of this before and my intention was not to offend you, as i said, i was just asking. :oops:

Susan P.
09-11-2007, 07:15 AM
You didn't offend me sig albeit I had already said it was not confined to Australia. My ending comment was to the forum collectively. I can see how in the context you thought it meant for you and I regret I didn't make the comment clearer.

09-11-2007, 07:22 AM

09-11-2007, 07:53 AM
Wikipedia has good information on mulesing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulesing). If you're curious, it's a good read that sums up the facts without a lot of added commentary.

Susan P.
09-11-2007, 08:00 AM
I'm not critiquing Silver for the referral to that and I haven't see it however just as a general comment, people should be very wary of using Wiki. I raise it because I've just completed work for kids TV shows and you cannot use Wiki as a source. The information in it is only as good as whomever submits it . I've seen some great pieces and some very error ridden pieces. Just don't use it for assignments! I use it as a prompt only.

09-11-2007, 08:15 AM
I respect your opinion on Wiki, and I agree that it can be distorted, but did you read the mulesing article?

Susan P.
09-11-2007, 08:32 AM
I hadn't because I didn't need to do any more research than I have already done (and knew first hand) before. I wasn't asking about the process of course as others were. I took a look at the article out of courtesy - I don't agree with all the article and it misses some steps and distorts/misinforms small elements in the process also.

09-11-2007, 08:45 AM
INMHO Wiki isn't all that bad. I'm not saying Wiki is the most highly regarded source of information. I'm european, and our school books, which is supposed to be good information I'd suppose, mention the geneside of the Jews only. Not of the inca indians, not all the genesides in africa (that we are definitly to bear blame for), my point being that all information is angled in one way or another and researching many different sources is always good for increasing accuracy, even if ones initial source isn't Wiki. So as long as one doesn't believe sources to be absoluetly true or rely soley on one source Wiki aint that bad.

09-11-2007, 09:12 AM
ok, so back on topic here:

anyone know WHERE to find some wool that doesn't come from sheep treated cruelly (wherever the country is, that's irrelevant) at a decent price? and does anyone know of any acceptable alternatives to wool as I have an allergy yet love the look of the wool....

Susan P.
09-11-2007, 09:36 AM
Alpaca, camel, possum, rat. Joking about the rat :)
Or try non animal fibres entirely like hemp.
England does not mules so any yarn you KNOW comes from English sheep you are safe with. (The KNOW is operative as sometimes large yarn houses buy in imported wool etc). One of the english folks like Limey may be able to recommend.

I personally like alpaca but some people here have found it itchy on their skin.

City & Country
09-11-2007, 10:59 AM
Susan P.
I thank you for your response, and appreciate your pride in Australia. I hope to go there myself someday, as the people, culture, spiritual movement, aboriginal culture, animal and plant life all intrigue me greatly.

As I said in my original post, I am NOT a fan of PETA. What you said in your post makes sense to me as well . . . why would this practice be done ONLY in Australia? At some point, I would be curious to learn what PETA's political motives were, but will look into that another time. I try not to give energy to anything I feel is a negative force in the world, which I feel PETA is. There are MUCH kinder and more loving animal rights groups out there.

I also understand the concept that sometimes one needs to be what appears to be cruel to be kind in the long run.
A number of posts have responded that I should do some research. I thought that that was part of what I was doing when I posted this here. I figured some of the members would have looked into this topic and would have advice, suggested sources of information, etc.

Perhaps my personal boycott of Australian wool was hasty -- when things are inexpensive, I tend to question whether some resource, labor force, or animal is being exploited. That certainly has often proved to be the case in the past with cheap merchandise.

I posted this topic on this forum because the question to me comes down to wool, and because similar threads were posted in this forum, not the off-topic forum (with the Harry Potter book given as an example of off-forum topics).

Again, I want to reiterate that I HEAR you regarding the practice of mulesing, 'though I will look into it more. Often, those who have no experience in the growing of vegetables, fruits, or raising of animals have no idea of the horrific pests, parasites, etc. that can cause such misery and death.

Again, thank you for your post.

11-07-2007, 01:44 AM
Alpaca, camel, possum, rat. Joking about the rat :).
Sorry to go off topic... rat is a joke but possum isn't? :roflhard:

Also, not trying to bring this subject up again, I found the post while searching for something TOTALLY unrelated and couldn't resist.

11-07-2007, 03:22 AM
Animal husbandry practices may seem cruel to those not actually involved in the raising and caring of livestock, but that is simply not the case. Anybody that makes their living of animals regardless of the end product ( I am calling it that because it is such a wide ranging area ) must put the welfare of their animals fairly high. Without being able to maintain healthy stock there would be no profit = no business.

I was not aware of the practice until this thread however I do not find it cruel rather a somewhat archaic method, however until a better method can be found this is the safest way to maintain the health of the sheep. If you truly want to be informed you really need to check into the reason why this is being done. Yes it would be possible to use anethesia but the stress to the animal is greater in most cases than not using it.

As another poster suggested if you want to be assured that the fibers you are working with were produced in a manner with which you agree, you must do the legwork and find a supplier that will guarantee this. The price will be higher as it will add to the cost, period. Any fiber that comes from an animal is going to have some discomfort added for the animal regardless. Anybody that has shed out a double coated or longhaired dog or cat knows this. Even little Angora bunnies get pulled and tugged on to get the wool to come out. Please keep in mind that while I havve no issues with this cotton plants die after they bolt and hemp is killed in the process of harvesting, sad very sad :verysad:

11-07-2007, 05:28 AM
I don't think that cutting off skin without anaesthetic is comparable to rabbits being brushed or to plants dying at the end of a natural life cycle, and I don't think the fact that it's necessary or the better option makes it humane, cutting away skin without anaesthetic is cruel regardless of whether it is the lesser evil and the horror of flystrike. And anaesthesia is stressful? Do you think that if someone cut off pieces of your skin, you would prefer it to be done without anaesthetic rather than with?
Jess, wool with possum fur in it is wonderfully soft and fluffy, like a cat! Also very warm as the hairs are hollow, I think.

11-07-2007, 01:04 PM
Maybe I haven't thoroughly researched the problem, but I do not buy wool from countries where, at least it seems to me, a sheep-type animal would not naturally live. Whenever you try to raise an animal in an environment extremely unlike one to which it would be more adapted, there are going to be problems.

So I would rather not encourage the sheep industry in a place where these flies are a huge problem for sheep. I don't imagine my non-buying will put a dent in the industry, but it's what I feel better doing.

Also, I read that once these sheep no longer produce, the conditions under which they are shipped overseas for food are very bad. Who knows if that's true?