People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has obtained graphic hidden-camera footage that indicates widespread animal abuse in sheep farms across Australia and the United States. A pair of videos, stitched from observations in 19 shearing sheds in Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, as well as 14 ranches in Wyoming, Colorado, and Nebraska, reveal farmhands violently kicking, stomping on, punching with clippers, mutilating, and even killing their charges. These so-called “attacks,” the animal-rights group notes, often leave petrified sheep “bleeding from their eyes, noses, and mouths.”
“INFESTED WITH VIOLENCE”
“PETA’s in-depth investigations show that—no matter how much anyone might wish it to be so—there is no such thing as ‘humane’ wool,” Daphna Nachminovitch, vice president of PETA’s cruelty investigations division, told NBC on Wednesay. “The industry is infested with violence and PETA documented cruelty in nearly every shearing shed that we entered.”
PETA investigators, who shot the video between October 2013 and February 2014, say that sheep are deprived of food and water before they’re sheared so they’ll put up minimal resistance. “Imagine if someone attacked you after…you’d been starved for 24 hours,” the organization quotes a shearer as saying. “You wouldn’t have much of a fight.”
For animals that still panicked, PETA says shearers stomped or stood on their necks and hind legs, One worker allegedly beat a lamb over the head with a hammer, while others allegedly slammed sheep against hard wooden floors. When shearing resulted in gaping wounds, PETA says workers didn’t administer painkillers before using needles and thread to close the cuts. Neither did investigators see veterinarian provide injured sheep with medical care.
“A shearer cut off part of one sheep’s ear with no pain relief whatsoever,” an investigator described. “At another ranch, workers hauled a dying, lame ram—gasping for breath—into a trailer to be sheared. The ram was left overnight in the trailer, apparently without care, and found dead the next morning.”
“A COMMODITY, NOTHING MORE”
PETA says that most shearers consider sheep a “commodity and nothing more.” Because these workers are usually paid by volume, rather than by the hour, “fast, violent work” that creates severe cuts and ripped skin is often the result.
But a representative of Australian Wool Innovation, a nonprofit trade group the represents more than 27,000 Australian wool growers, defended the standard of care at Australian sheep ranches.
“Australian wool growers genuinely care for health and welfare of their animals so such alleged behavior is very concerning,” said Michelle Lee. “AWI categorically and unequivocally condemns the mistreatment of animals. AWI has invested $2.8 million in the training of shearers and wool handlers, training in excess of 4,500 in the past twelve months.”
Similarly, a spokesman from the American Wool Council, the main U.S. wool-industry trade group, told NBC that the behavior described by PETA was “unacceptable.”
“We do not condone or support the actions of anyone that results in the abuse of sheep either intentionally or unintentionally,” said Rita Samuelson. “Rough handling of animals that might result in the injury of a sheep is an unacceptable maneuver during the shearing process or anytime when sheep are handled. Kicking, throwing, and poking the eyes of sheep are also unacceptable practices.”
PETA is calling on leading sellers of wool, such as J.Crew and Ralph Lauren, to drop the fiber immediately in favor of animal- and cruelty-free materials.