The animal advocacy group PETA wants the village of Wool in Dorset, England, to be renamed “Vegan Wool” in order to spread awareness about the cruelty of the sheep farming industry and to promote kindness toward the fuzzy livestock.
In a letter presented to the Wool Parish Council in late November, a PETA representative argued that the word ‘wool’ has dark connotations by citing horrific findings from a series of recent undercover investigations at sheep farms.
“With a simple name change, your village can take a stand against this cruelty,” the letter reads, “and remind everyone that it’s easy to stay warm and be warm-hearted to sheep by choosing vegan and other animal-free materials.”
Unsurprisingly, the townspeople were not thrilled with this suggestion.
“This person needs to check her facts. As we residents are aware, Wool does not refer to a fibre,” Dorset resident Maggie Caudell wrote on a Facebook post by the Wool Parish Clerk. “Also, our sheep would be very uncomfortable in summer without shearing.”
In a decision posted five days after the letter was received, the council used palpable sass to explain why they were rejecting the proposal.
“The village of Wool has never been named after the wool industry but after the Anglo Saxon word for a spring as in a well,” they stated. “Had PETA engaged with the council before using it as a means of promoting their investigation into the wool industry we could have enlightened them of that fact.”
But aside from the fact that the town of Wool has nothing to do with the fabric, should animal lovers be concerned with the industry?
PETA might be infamous for their over-dramatic antics, but there is no denying the inhumane practices their investigations revealed. Extremely disturbing videos taken at wool farms in America, Argentina, and Australia showed workers violently restraining and/or kicking and hitting sheep during shearing, using so much force that animals' bones were broken. Many sheep were also accidentally cut with the sharp shearing tools and not treated for their wounds. Upsettingly, the undercover individuals also documented workers removing lambs’ tails with no pain relief and skinning them alive.
Using this shocking evidence, which garnered a storm of media attention, PETA successfully convinced several clothing manufacturers – including Patagonia, Stella McCartney, and major brands owned by the company Kering – to stop using wool from Argentinian farms in the Ovis 21 supply network. And in a world first, the footage from Australian farms, shot in 2013 and 2014, led to six wool shearers being charged with counts of animal cruelty in 2016.
However, PETA’s claim that there is ‘no such thing as humane wool’ was a step too far for many. Wool suppliers across the world responded with assertions that abusive shearing practices are not the norm.
To ensure that your wool products come from well-treated sheep, look into companies that source from farms with the Animal Welfare Approved seal, a designation awarded to companies that meet the highest standards of animal care. The Responsible Wool Standard, created in 2016, now offers a similar certification.
As of now, companies that follow the Responsible Wool Standard include H&M, Eddie Bauer, Marks & Spencer, Patagonia, REI Co-op, and more.
If you want to opt out of animal fiber entirely, the plant-based alternative mentioned in PETA's letter is actually quite a promising invention. Created by design scientists in Colombia, Woocoa is made from hemp and coconut husk fibers that are softened with mushroom enzymes. When woven into yarn-like strands, the finished fiber reportedly looks and feels like wool, though it is unclear whether it provides the same amount of insulation and breathability.