Making kind choices in your everyday life.

Crocheting with a conscience !

Posted by on Aug 9, 2014 in Kind Companies, Sheep - Wool | 6 comments

“I have to say, I am off men after seeing the PETA footage of Australian shearers punching and murdering sheep” –  actress, Rachel Ward.

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Saved and living the dream at Little Oak Sanctuary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just to add to my list of  coveted hobbies that I want to squeeze into my life somewhere – I have made the decision that I am going to learn to crochet. My Blog with Pip course teemed with all kinds of talented, crafty people (check out “Made With Loops” as an example, beautiful hey ?) and, I want a piece of this creative action too !  As I was recently planning the best way to learn how to crochet and select the required yarn – having never touched a crochet hook in my life – this report came to light in the media. For those who want to be spared the details, it concerns recently obtained footage obtained from shearing sheds around Australia where the sheep are shown to be treated extremely brutally by the shearers.

It was a timely reminder to me about the ethics of using wool which only really came onto my radar a few years ago.  Prior to that, I had viewed wool, particularly “merino wool”, as a superior, cosy, wholesome fiber. I believed that it was as simple as the sheep growing their fleece each year prior to being shorn when the warmer weather set in. Humans could then have the fleece converted into a cosy woolen hat, beanie, jumper etc – simple hey ?

Hmmmmm, the ethics behind wool production are unfortunately not so simple or idealistic.

The main arguments by those in the know regarding how sheep are raised for wool and meat in Australia  are mulesing (the cutting of flesh away from around the sheep’s hind quarters to prevent fly strike) and tail docking without pain relief, live animal export (when the sheep pass their wool growing use by date) , massive numbers of deaths of newborn lambs (15 million lambs per year in Australia – unbelievable) due to inadequate shelter from the elements / predators. Older sheep are shorn at times which make best economic sense rather than what is going to make the animal comfortable – I have seen this first hand, driving past groups of freshly shorn, freezing sheep in the middle of winter in country NSW – a very sad vision. As per the above mentioned report, there is also the issue of brutality during the shearing process in some of our Australian shearing sheds.  All of these issues are common place in Australia and are preventable and unnecessary. 

Our Federal Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce often describes anybody who dares question the treatment of animals used for food, wool , milk or egg production in Australia as “extremists”. I cannot see anything extreme or radical about acknowledging that  sheep are surprisingly intelligent, social animals who feel pain, fear and cold/heat and that they should be treated accordingly.

So, what can you do to be a kind wool consumer ?

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Sweet faced creature !

1. Support retailers who only use wool from sheep who have not been mulesed (and have gone to the effort to invest in other husbandry means to prevent fly strike). The New Zealand brand “Icebreaker” is a good one. Others include Laura Ashley and Country Road – see more companies here.  NewMerino® “is a certification system for Australian merino wool grown by professional wool producers using sustainable farming systems and holistic animal welfare standards” and worth investigating.

2. Buy wool yarn from one of the following fabulously ethical sources. I know I will be ! This well researched blog article discusses the myriad of kind little wool farms mainly in the US. As the world’s largest producer of wool, there is massive scope for Australian farmers to follow suit and meet the growing demand for ethical products. Here are some similarly kind options in the UK – Izzy Lane (they rescue rare breed sheep from slaughter and produce the most heavenly looking garments out of the wool) and The Toft (I am enviously eyeing off their “crochet hamper”) – their wool comes from locally sourced, well treated Alpacas.

Back in Australia however, I am excited about discovering these 2 gorgeous companies :

EWE Ethical Wool Enterprises

Based in Daylesford, Victoria, this farm obtains fleece from it’s rescued sheep and alpacas who live out their natural lifespan on the farm. 

White Gum Wool

Based in Tasmania, this farm is run by an American woman, Nan, who cares for the land and the sheep in her care in a holistic manner. The sheep are not mulesed (and even keep their tails) and their family groups are respected. Her “unique” farming practices are indicative of a woman who obviously loves and respects her animals. I wrote to Nan to find out what happens to the sheep once their wool production wanes and she wrote me a lovely, informative reply about how she will be letting her sheep live out their lives (10-12 years) on her farm – partly to ensure the supply of suitable “matriarchs” in the group (you can read more about the “Power of the Matriarch” here – I found it a fascinating read). There is a gorgeous supply of yarn for sale too through the on-line shop.

3. Buy less wool by considering other materials for your jacket, thermals, yarn etc. It is like everything in this world, when reliance and demand on a product is so large, the animals are usually the ones who suffer to meet our consumerist demands for cheap and plentiful products. As outlined by Animals Australia, there are some great alternatives (eg bamboo, modal, microfibre, Tencel (made from eucalyptus!) ingeo (made from corn fibres), Primaloft and Microcloud) which will keep you snug, or you could re-visit my post here for some more suggestions. As for yarns, Ecoyarns.com.au stock a variety of “plant based” yarns such as hemp, organic cotton and bamboo (as well as the more traditional wool yarns) and an excellent guide to the weird and wonderful array of non-animal sourced yarns is outlined here.

4. Slightly off topic and I will cover it more another day, but never use angora wool. The way it is produced – mainly from angora rabbits in China is the stuff of nightmares.

5. Remember that sheep are individual, sentient beings. Have a look at the gorgeous Edgars Mission or Tamara Keneally woolly residents if you need a reminder.

As for my future crochet-ing endeavours, my plan is this one.

1. Learn how to make granny squares via Meet Me At Mikes “A Granny A Day (How To Crochet A Granny Square)” – a series of very uncomplicated, basic looking videos lessons.

2. Once the granny squares have been mastered, I will move onto recommeded U-Tube videos Bella Coco and The Purl Bee and bobwilson123.

3. Should I need further clarification, invest in a couple of books – recommended ones from crafty people being Learn to Crochet by Patons and Mollie Makes Crochet.

4. My ultimate aim is to be capable of making an exquisite creature such as these squids ……………………………….. !!!!squid.

Want to know a bit more ? Read on here :

* Wool Exposed by Animals Australia

* Mulesing by Animals Australia

* Sheep in Australia by Little Oak Sanctuary

 

 

 

 

 

6 Comments

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  1. One Small Life

    I totally LOVE the way that you not only bring an issue to our attention, but you also arm us with further reading/ information AND simple steps we can take to help (or at least not contribute to) the problem.

    So often when I read about these sort of issues I feel overwhelmed – but never when I am here, because of the useful, accessible tips you provide. Thank-you so much. x

  2. Tread Kindly

    Thanks Kate, your feedback is so appreciated and helpful. That has been one of my aims – to provide constructive things we can all easily do to do our bit in an often overwhelming world – so it is great to hear that you do find it accessible and useful. Thank you ! x

  3. Lisa

    Thanks Ing – I’m bookmarking this post for future reference! 😀

  4. Tracey

    What a great article. It is difficult to be ethical in everything, and there always seems to be more negatives than positives. I like to use cotton to crochet, but not Australian cotton, as the production in incredibly water intensive. It’s also interesting to use wool from second hand jumpers and old knits. You’ve got some great tips here!

    • Tread Kindly

      Many thanks for your kind words. I appreciate your tips too (and, yes, things like the water useage in cotton growing, the chemicals used in producing bamboo fabrics etc are a whole other ball game – it IS hard to do the right thing !). Love your blog too by the way !

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