Photo of Tamerlaine resident Pipa
Many people are under the impression that sheep naturally need to be shaved for wool. However, without genetic selection, these animals would only produce enough wool to keep them warm and be spared the cycle of violence and eventual slaughter they undergo in this industry.
Sheep living to grow this unnecessary product we use in clothing are at risk of something called Fly-Strike, in which flies attracted to sheep waste can enter the animals bodies and lead to mortality. Rather than simply keeping the animals in more sanitary conditions and making an effort to keep their hind-quarters consistently clean, wool producers generally select cheaper options. To avoid Fly-Strike, 90% of sheep in the United states have their tails docked. This is done without anesthesia and frequently completed in such a rapid and cheap way that tails are cut too short and rectal prolapse occurs. Merino sheep, who have been breed to produce even more wool, endure a similarly horrific procedure of “mulesing” in which a large piece of skin is cut off their back side, leaving scar tissue that wont attract flies; again, no anesthesia is used.
Further mutilations that are routine in the wool industry include dehorning and castration via a ring placed over the testicles to cut off blood and cause them to eventually fall off or, slitting a hole in the scrotum and pulling testicles out. An anesthetic is again absent from these procedures.
In order to get the most possible product for the least amount of money, this industry pays shearers by volume of wool and not by hour, meaning shearers are far more inclined to move fast and hastily to increase their wool volume than to worry about shearing each individual sheep without injury. During the shearing process strips of skin, teats, ears, and tails may be torn or cut off the alive and fully conscious animal as the result of this fast paced, careless shearing. The worst open wounds that occur are frequently sewed together without anesthesia with a quick needle and thread.
While forcibly and roughly being held down in awkward positions by strangers, sheep are naturally inclined to struggle or attempt escape. Frustrated shearers, focused on getting paid the most for their day's work, have been recorded punching, kicking, and stomping on sheep who struggle, to the extent that some sheeps' necks or other bones are broken during the process.
Sheep whose wool production rates begin to decline are almost always killed for meat. Lamb or the flesh of a baby sheep under a year old, is also frequently a sub-product of this industry.
Sheep and lamb slaughtered at commercial facilities are stunned by captive bolt pistols, which fire a bolt into their skulls causing spasm, collapse and ideally loss of consciousness. Though meant to render the animals unconscious before slaughter, ineffective stunning has lead to sheep being awake while hung upside down by their feet and sliced open from throat to stomach.
Sheep and lamb slaughter is also involved in some religious occasions and governed by Halal (Muslim) or Kosher (Jewish) standards. Such methods of killing are not governed by the Humane Slaughter Act, and it is actually against ritual that the animals be stunned or unconscious before their throats are cut, meaning that they often have to be held down as they are killed, and are required to feel every moment of their slow death.
In total, over 2 million sheep and lambs are killed each year.