In an ideal world, the production of wool would not cause any harm to sheep. The process of shearing the thick wooly fur off the sheep in the summer time, is often equated to getting a buzz cut, but is this really what the experience of sheep in the wool industry is like? With most other industrialized processes involving animals, the answer is no.

In fact, sheep in the wool industry are bred to have a coat that is so thick they become more prone to heatstroke and there are a number of other alarming practices carried out by the industry. According to PETA, nearly three million sheep have to endure the process of live export to be brought to wool facilities, every year.  Sheep travel far distances, crammed together in deplorable conditions, but that is not where the horror ends for them.

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A new investigation by PETA into the “humane” wool industry in the U.S. and Australia reveals the incredible cruelty that is enacted on sheep. Ninety percent of the world’s Merino wool comes from sheep in the U.S. and Australia. The investigation looked into 19 shearing sheds in Australia and 14 ranches in the United States. The results are nothing short of revolting.

In many instances, workers were documented abusing animals, punching and kicking sheep, even hitting them with hammers, or pinning sheep down and twisting their necks until they broke – all in the process of violently shearing them for their fur.

While shearing does not need to be a violent or cruel process, as this article explains, shearers are usually paid by the sheep, not by hour, meaning there is even further incentive to manhandle and abuse sheep who won’t sit still out of fear.

PETA has called on state and local authorities to file criminal charges of animal abuse, but in the meantime, Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, advises “shoppers around the world to reject cruelty to animals—and that means never buying wool.”

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Image source: Eugenio Hansen/Wikimedia Commons