Footage filmed by Peta between October 2013 and February 2014 which has been published online shows sheep shearers violently punching, kicking, and throwing terrified sheep during their shearing session. One clip depicts a shearer twisting and breaking a sheep neck, before dumping the body, another shows shearers jabbing at sheep eyes and hitting them on the head with a hammer.
Undercover footage exposes animal cruelty at the expense of the wool industry
Peta argues that the horrific treatment of the sheep shown in the two videos “does not represent isolated incidents.” During its undercover probe, the animal rights group documented 70 workers, who were employed by nine shearing contractors abusing sheep in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia and the neglect and abuse of sheep at 14 ranches across Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska in the US.
Claire Fryer, Peta's Australian campaign coordinator, revealed that a number of shearers were aware that cameras were in place and filming them, after questions were raised asking how Peta obtained its footage. “It's also important to mention that there were station managers, farm hands and workers affiliated with producers in some sheds, and no-one was remanded for any of the abuse,” she said to ABC Rural.
Last week, Wool Producers Australia, one of the industry's main bodies, president Geoff Fisken said that the shearers behavior seen in the footage is “unacceptable and unsupportable.” However he also added that the investigation exposed isolated occurrences, which does not “portray the 99.9 percent majority of wool shearers,” according to Australian daily The Land. The Shearing Contractors Association of Australia shared its support for Peta and said it “applauded” the group for revealing the footage, saying it was a wake-up call for the industry.
“Obviously we want people to realise Australia is the top wool exporter in the world - if you buy wool then the chances are good it came from Australia - and this video has highlighted some of the systematic suffering of sheep that goes into the production of that wool,” added Fryer. “We’re asking people to leave wool out of their wardrobe and to choose some of the more stylish and warm, cruelty-free materials available.”
Last Friday a group of animal rights supporters gathered outside of J.Crew's flagship store on New York City's Fifth Avenue and showcased footage from Peta's video exposé. The American fashion retailer previously decided to banned fur after a Peta campaign, and as a leading seller of merino wool the animal rights group hopes the retailer will “set a standard for the industry by ditching wool, too.”