As the temperatures have now dropped significantly, you have probably pulled out your heavier clothing. I have these two adorable gray cutout sweaters that I’m in love with! Cotton is great( don’t get me wrong) but winter calls for the layering of heavier fabrics. Like leather and wool. Later we can dive into some information about where your leather jackets come from. But we’re going to start out by discussing the myths and facts surrounding the wool industry.
In fact if you google “Wool Industry,” the majority of content near the top isn’t positive. The fact of the matter is that only two percent of Americans farm, so knowing one personally may not be very likely. This makes turning to the internet seem like a grand idea when you have a question. While there is a lot of great information on the internet, there’s also tons that is misleading and frankly confusing.
Today we’re going to be addressing five of the top myths surrounding the wool industry.
Myths and Facts Surrounding the Wool Industry
1. Myth: Sheep must die for you to enjoy your wool clothing.
Fact: Harvesting wool does not harm sheep.
There seems to be some general confusion about the difference in sheepskin and wool. If you are wearing a wool sweater this means that you are essentially wearing the ‘hair’ of sheep.
If you are wearing a product with sheepskin then the animal did move on to serve a larger purchase, as this includes the pelt. However, this was not the only reason that the animal was processed.
Just like any other part of agriculture, the sheep industry champions sustainability. When sheepskin is harvested so are other products. These include but are not limited to primary products like lamb or mutton (meat) and byproducts that go into items like crayons, candles, etc.
2. Myth: Shearing sheep is unnecessary for the sheep.
Fact: Shearing sheep is necessary for the health of sheep.
A common myth surrounding the wool industry is that shearing is just profit driven. That sheep would do just fine on their own without our assistance. However, this is not accurate. In fact sheep produce so much wool that in order for them to maintain healthy body temperatures they must be sheared. Another thing that many don’t consider is that just like any other animal, sheep need to use the bathroom. But excessive wool can cause a lot of debris to become trapped which seems appetizing to a number of pests. By keeping them sheared regularly potential infection is avoided. Another aspect to consider is the fact that sheep look mighty appealing to predators. While farmers have a plethora of methods to ensure that their sheep are as safe as possible, it is easier for sheep to escape predators when they are sheared.
3. Myth: Sheep farmers are only profit driven.
Fact: Even if sheep farmers were only profit driven, there is no incentive to mistreat their flock.
Even if sheep farmers were just in it for their paycheck it wouldn’t be profitable to abuse their flock. What many don’t understand is that for animals to produce anything well (meat, milk, eggs) the animals have to be in as low stress of a situation as possible. Small things that are not even abuse can cause an animal to stress and produce less or a lower quality of product.
Let’s take sheep for instance. For sheep that are producing wool if they become stressed their wool can form what is called a ‘break,’ typically caused by poor nutrition. Typically wool is priced based upon it’s diameter and length. Meaning that if there is a ‘break’ in the wool there will be less financial return. Sheep farmers honestly want to care the best for their flock. But even if they were just financially motivated there is not a return on investment for at the very least stress and the very worst abuse.
4. Myth: Sheep farmers will never change their practices nor focus on improving the health and welfare of their flock.
Fact: Sheep farmers are committed to providing the best for their flocks.
Many who are not involved in agriculture on a day to day basis probably don’t consider all of the research that is constantly happening. That is because in any industry, including the wool industry everyone is striving to be better. People who are involved in agriculture are often painted as having limited education and holding steadfast to the past. While there is a lot to learn from those who are leaders in any industry, it’s also important to note that leaders will always look towards the future. In fact in 2016 the American Sheep Industry Association focused on six different facets of how they could improve. This included but was not limited to producing safe and wholesome products in a way that was environmentally friendly while making animal care a priority.
5. Myth: Wearing wool is bad for the environment.
Fact: Raising sheep has several positive environmental effects.
Another myth that is common regarding the wool industry is that it is bad for the environment. In fact, properly monitored grazing can do great things for the land! Many people don’t look at a heavily weeded area, or one full of forage and realize the fuel potential. But it’s there. When sheep graze it helps control the potential for fire – even though you’ve probably never pictured a sheep in reflective clothing with a helmet on. Also when they graze it helps prevent erosion and improve the health of the soil. In addition to this sheep need access to clean water, and by raising sheep this gives many shepherds the ability to strive for clean accessible water on their land. This water may also be utilized by wildlife for drinking.
Thanks for reading!