Warm yet comfortable, wool is not only the preferred choice for winter clothing but is also the most long-lasting and hard-wearing fibre around. However, the methods of procuring and producing virgin wool are often met with controversy. Ahead, we take a closer look at the problems surrounding the wool industry and figure out the sustainable alternative.Key takeaways:
Annually, around 1,160 million kilograms of virgin wool is obtained from a global herd of over a billion sheep — that’s enough wool to make one sweater per person on the planet each year. But in reality, only 1% of the fibre used in clothing is wool or wool-based, other uses for the textile produced are furniture and carpets.
Wool is essentially made of keratin, the same protein substance as human hair. And just like human hair, sheep are usually shorn once a year for their fleece (or hair) and then more wool starts to grow, making it a renewable resource. Unfortunately, malpractices like premature shearing and sheep abuse plague the wool industry. According to PETA, sheep and lambs in Australia (where 80% of Merino wool is produced) are forced to endure a gruesome procedure called “mulesing,” wherein huge chunks of skin are cut from around the breech of the sheep is often carried out without any painkillers.
Furthermore, sheep are sheared each spring, after lambing and just before they would naturally shed their winter coats. Since the timing on this is critical, shearing too late would mean a loss of wool for producers. As a result, in the rush to get their share of fleece, an estimated one million Australian sheep die every year of exposure after premature shearing. Since a sheep’s normal body temperature is about 102 degrees F (much higher than a human), a closely shorn sheep is, more sensitive to the cold than a naked person.
Worker welfare is also one of the least spoken about issues within the wool industry. Sheep shearers are usually paid by volume and not by the hour, which encourages fast work without regard for the sheep’s well being. Experienced shearers clip more than 350 sheep in a day, and that pace is usually maintained for up to four weeks.Sustainable wool and its versions
Despite being 100% natural, renewable and biodegradable, environmental rating agencies tend to rate wool poorly against synthetic fibres. Land use, water pollution and global warming are just some of the other negative factors associated with wool production.
Fortunately, sustainable wool production and fabric comes in different forms:
Published by: Jharna pariani/ 2021-11-06