Animal rights activists have been out in force again, hitting out at the farming industry about the production of wool.
After a recent ITV interview featuring sheep farmer Charles Sercombe and PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk, the internet has been littered with discussion about wool and how it is produced.
A natural fibre produced annually from a sheep’s fleece when it is sheared, activists are now suggesting sheep do not need to be shorn and the practice is only done for the farmer’s benefit.
While this claim can be laughed off by those in the farming sector, it is worrying to hear these perceptions being circulated in the public domain.
Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive, says: “Claims made by the so-called animal rights charity PETA suggesting shearing sheep is cruel are categorically unfounded.
"Anyone with sheep farming knowledge is aware the practice is essential to the well-being and welfare of an animal, and has been done in such a way for thousands of years which ensures livestock are not hurt."
Farmers Guardian have laid out some reasons why wool is a necessary by-product, produced for the health and well-being of a sheep. Share this with your non-farming friends!
First and foremost, wool production is essential for the welfare of a sheep.
Most sheep breeds need to be sheared at least once a year, something Charles says is absolutely necessary for good health.
He says: “shearing is generally carried out in the spring or early summer, as sheep with too much wool are extremely susceptible to heat stress."
When heat stress occurs it causes suffering to the sheep and renders them more susceptible to other disease conditions.
As most sheep live at grass, a long fleece is likely to become dirty, and when combined with warm weather conditions the likelihood of flystrike significantly increases
Blowflies lay white, seed-like eggs in the wool, and when they hatch, maggots start to eat into the skin and flesh of the sheep.
Flystrike is potentially fatal if not detected early enough.
Other problems caused by a heavy fleece can include lack of mobility, lameness issues and restricted feeding access.
Shearing is carried out by trained shearers, who are put through British Wool's shearing course, tailored to the shepherd’s current skill and experience.
For the flock owner, it is in their best interest to ensure the shearer is of the highest standard to avoid any damage to his flock. Shearing in accordance with best industry standards ensures that the process is stress-free for the animal.
The skill is a highly regarded practice in the sector, with prestigious competitions being held across the country to showcase the best professionals.
Phil continues: “As we’re aware, professional shearers take as little as one minute to shear a sheep with electric clippers, which is perfectly safe and poses no risk to the animals’ health.”
Contrary to what many believe, farmers actually do not receive much, if any, profit for the wool they sell. Wool has fallen dramatically in value and its sale can often not even cover the cost of shearing, leaving the task no more than a nuisance for flock owners.
Prior to sale, wool receives a grade, which is dependent on the breed of sheep it comes from. Whilst shearing is a laborious task, sheep do need to be sheared for their health and welfare.
The Wiltshire Horn is a breed which has grown in popularity as it does not require shearing due to its short self-shedding fleece, and a breed of sheep named the Exlana has been genetically bred to lose its coat automatically in Spring.
The value of wool also decreases when it becomes miscoloured or dirty, so it really is in the farmer’s best interest to keep wool production to a minimum!
Wool is one of the most sustainable and renewable sources of fibre which can be used to make clothes, textiles and carpets.
In contrast to many synthetic fabrics, wool is an active fibre that reacts to changes in body temperature. It helps you stay warm when the weather is cold, and cool when the weather is hot.
Wool is hard to challenge for its sustainable qualities. Grown on the sheep, it is produced from nothing more than a simple blend of water, air, sunshine and grass.
The versatility of wool cannot be disputed, with countless end outputs available.
Shrek is a sheep from a South Island New Zealand cave, who went missing for six years and subsequently missed his annual shearing appointment…