The image shows a man holding a dead sheep that has had its thick wool stripped away, leaving its skin mangled and wounded in places. The words, 'Here’s the rest of your wool coat' appear, finishing off the stomach-turning reality of how we kill poor sheep in our quest for winter warmers.
The activist in the picture is Jona Weinhofen, an Australian musician living in the U.S. This image was used in PETA’s anti-shearing campaign, but it has got under the skin of Australian farmers who are brazenly claiming this image is a complete fake. Australia’s agriculture minister, Barnaby Joyce, has since jumped on the issue, defending farmers.
Just because the sheep is not real in the image doesn’t mean that the realities of sheep shearing are not, however. There have been news reports of animal abuse that goes on in the sheep shearing industry. See this footage of how sheep are roughly handled and abused for their wool. In response to this shocking video, which was launched last year, The Shearing Contractors Association of Australia (SCAA) backed PETA’s investigation and claimed that they would take a 'zero tolerance' approach to the horrid animal cruelty that was taking place.
This latest PETA campaign featuring Jona Weinhofen shouldn’t be making anyone’s hairs stand on end. Whether or not sheep shearing in Australia is cruel or not is only one part of the issue. We need to ask ourselves if it is really necessary to take wool from sheep for our own material needs, especially since they do undergo distress, if not abuse. Why do we really need wool?
Interestingly, Joyce has claimed that activists want us to be stark naked instead of covering ourselves up, and that this is not a sign of a thriving economy. Someone needs to inform Joyce that there are organic clothing options out there free of animal products! Without wool, we can survive and stay warm. Some vegan alternatives to wool include cotton flannel and polyester fleece, to mention but two.
Even if sheep are not abused during the shearing process they can still face harm and even death. Since shearing has to occur before they would shed their winter coats naturally, sheep often get sheared when the temperature is still cold, leading hundreds of thousands to die from exposure. What happens when sheep don’t offer much wool anymore? They are sold to be slaughtered. Based on this reality, is that image featuring Jona Weinhofen really that much off the mark?
*Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons