Rapanui organic cotton jumpers are just as warm
Wool is indeed a natural material, and it’s true that in most cases, sheep need to be sheared. This is because today’s sheep grow coats so thick that not to shear them is like putting an extra overcoat on each year (which could cause heat exhaustion). The sheep would get so heavy, it would fall over, especially in rain. If not sheared around the head, sheep also can’t see their many predators.
If sheep fall over, they can die from bloat. So if you can’t find the farmer, turn the sheep upright by grabbing a leg or handful of fleece and roll onto her side (here’s a video) and keep hold for a few minutes until steady enough to join the flock. It’s very important to wait until rain has drained away, if wet wool was the cause.
So why then do vegans (and others) not wear wool? Because like anything, once you get big industry involved, things go awry. You can actually buy wool from sheep that are not harmed (Vegetarian Wool Company have their sheep live out natural lives in peace) and you can also buy sheepskins with the same ethos. In fact, this lets sheep farmers earn alternative income to meat from wool that would be sheared anyway, so they can spend it on medical care, food, barns etc.
The problem is that ‘big-business’ wool often shears the sheep before ready (leading to hypothermia – this happens a lot in Australia). In addition, many sheep suffer ‘mulesing’ (cutting off chunks of skin without painkillers, to avoid flystrike). And many sheep are killed, when wool production slows down. Angora wool (from rabbits) can involve plucking or shaving living animals (male angora rabbits are often killed in the industry) and rabbits bred to produce fluffy wool, can sometimes suffer sight problems.
It’s a myth that only wool can keep you warm. Hemp is a locally-grown material that is a good alternative, and Rapanui organic cotton jumpers are just as warm. Created by a fabulous company on the Isle of Wight, scraps are used to make cotton beanie hats and other accessories.
cosy scarves (from bananas!)
This alternative scarf made from banana waste is warm and cosy, and gives employment to local women in Bhaktapur. Sold in 5 colours. This makes a good alternative to scarves made from pashmina (cashmere) which comes from the fleece of Tibetan goats (often killed at the end of their ‘useful’ life). Shahtoosh (from an endangered antelope) is now banned for sale.
Although cashmere (from the long hair of goats) does not involve directly killing the animal, sometimes those who don’t ‘make the grade’ are sold for meat. And like some sheep in the wool industry, some goats are shorn too early in winter, and die from cold or stress.