CineReplicas, the purveyor of officially licensed, premium Harry Potter apparel and accessories, has just dropped a new collection of non-wool Hogwarts House sweaters. Yes! These officially licensed, film-accurate Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, Slytherin, and Gryffindor sweaters are knitted from a cotton-polyester blend instead of wool!
Designed with each House’s embroidered crest and signature colors, these totally vegan v-neck sweaters come in children’s and adult sizing.
Here at Protego, we’re as thrilled as Dobby when he’s gifted a pair of socks to hear this news!
Why? Because beyond the standard Hogwarts uniforms in the films and movies, sweaters, or jumpers, make up some of the most iconic outfits in the Harry Potter universe. Especially when the holidays come to Hogwarts! What Potterhead hasn’t dreamed of unwrapping their own handknit, woolen Weasley sweater on a snowy Christmas morning?
But for vegans, the desire for a wool-knit Weasley sweater becomes a bit knottier. Much like the shady leather industry, there’s a dark side to wool and those cozy sweaters.
Here’s why wool hurts sheep and some tips for how you can avoid it:
1. It’s not just a haircut
The wool industry is just that: an industry. In Australia, where the wool industry makes $2.8 billion per year and produces over 80% of wool used worldwide, over 145 million sheep are abused and violently shorn every year.
There’s no kindly, ruddy-cheeked farmer gently combing through the thick, curly hair of his flock and carefully snipping away the excess wool at the turn of each season. The commercialized wool industry has just two motives: profit and speed. These massive operations don’t have the time or patience to carefully shear each sheep individually. Shearers are frequently paid by the volume of wool they “harvest”, so they’re encouraged to treat sheep as just another product, which means that many of these sheep are thrown onto the ground, pinned down, punched, and even maimed as shearers race against the clock. Undercover investigations conducted by Mercy For Animals and PETA have revealed that some sheep have also had their tails and ears ripped off and their necks snapped in the process.
2. Sheep are held in poor, unsanitary conditions and are prone to illness
Sheep are sensitive, highly intelligent, and emotionally complex animals. They form strong social bonds with other sheep (and humans!) and experience fear and anxiety to nearly the extent that we do! The wool industry disregards this and keeps sheep in extremely crowded, unsanitary, and stressful conditions. Sheep are often deprived of proper food, water, and shelter. And, because of the profit-and-speed-driven wool industry, sheep are often shorn “out of season” and left prone to the elements. An estimated 1 million sheep die from exposure every year. Merino sheep are also prone to suffering heat exhaustion during summer months and can come down with infections and illnesses from the sweat and urine that gets trapped in the wrinkly folds of their skin.
3. Sheep are deliberately mutilated
One major wool industry standard is mulesing. This violent, bloody, procedure involves cutting away chunks of flesh from fully-conscious sheep. The intention is to eliminate the risk of sheep coming down with deadly cases of flystrike. This is when flies, who are attracted to the sweat and urine in sheep’s wool, lay eggs in the folds of the sheep’s skin. These hatch into maggots that can actually eat the sheep alive.
The mulesing process involves hacking off large chunks of that wrinkly, moisture-trapping skin on sheep’s backsides. Done without painkillers or anesthetics, mulesing leaves sheep with raw wounds in a poor attempt to create “smoother” skin. Many of these sheep develop life-threatening infections from this routine mutilation and can still be victims of flystrike. Tail docking, dehorning, and castration are also commonly inflicted upon these wool-bearing sheep.
4. Sheep are bred to grow more wool than they need
Wool isn’t something sheep naturally produce in high quantities. Sheep in the wild and domestic sheep hundreds of years ago produced just enough wool to keep themselves warm. Much like many domesticated cats and dogs, these sheep would naturally shed their extra wool at the turn of the season.
Modern-day sheep are a whole different animal.
Modern-day domesticated sheep, especially Merino sheep, have been specifically bred to produce enormous amounts of wool, a minimum of 11 pounds every year.
In 2015 in Australia, a stray Merino sheep was found wandering the bush. But his appearance was far from ordinary. The Merino sheep, dubbed Chris by the bushwalkers who found him, was so massively overgrown with wool that his head and legs were almost entirely obscured. The weight was so much that he could barely walk. Rescued by the RSPCA, Chris was put under an anesthetic to make the wool-shearing process as painless as possible, and was found to have been carrying 89 pounds of wool. Clocking in at just 97 pounds himself, Chris was nearly carrying his entire body weight in wool. This is all due to selective breeding in the wool industry.
5. Sheep are still slaughtered
Just because wool-bearing sheep aren’t victims of factory farms, this doesn’t mean they get a free pass from the slaughterhouse. When sheep stop producing enough wool to make a profit, they don’t go off to a vast green pasture for a happy retirement. Just like dairy cows and egg-laying hens, once they’re “spent,” these sheep are crammed into trucks, ships, or trains and rushed off to the very same slaughterhouses that kill pigs, cows, and chickens who’ve been raised for their meat. Australian Merino sheep are often packed into overcrowded ships, deprived of food and water, and sent to Middle Eastern and North African markets and slaughterhouses with little to no regulations or welfare standards.
Here’s the bright side: you don’t have to buy into the wool industry! There are so many affordable alternatives to wool sweaters. Plant-based materials like cotton and flannel, and synthetic materials like polyester fleece and acrylic fabric, are all cruelty-free alternatives to wool. These animal-free, vegan-friendly fabrics are widely available and are just as effective in banishing the wintery chill as their wool counterparts. And now, with CineReplica’s new cotton-polyester blend Hogwarts House sweaters, you can rock some cruelty-free wizarding world style!
Written by Victoria Tomis
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