Is Shearing Sheep Cruel



by Becky // in Clothing

You wouldn’t be the first person to wonder if shearing sheep is cruel. Is cutting all the beautiful fluffy wool off sheep, leaving them skinny and pink, humane?

Does it hurt them, and is it even necessary? After all, an enormous protective layer has just been unnaturally removed for commercial purposes.

Is Shearing Sheep Cruel

Fortunately, the physical act of shearing sheep is not cruel, especially for domestic sheep. There are many types of sheep that cannot shed their wool coats naturally. Without human assistance, these coats continue to grow and encumber the sheep. Eventually, the unhygienic state and unbearable weight of the coats result in serious health issues.

Although domestic sheep shearing is not cruel, this isn’t the case for wild sheep that can self-regulate their woolen coats. In saying that, there are many ways that sheep shearing can be cruel, especially when it is done too quickly and en masse.

When Not Shearing Sheep is Cruel

When it comes to domestic sheep, it is usually cruel not to sheer them. Depending on how long their coats are neglected, it can even become animal abuse. Unless you own a breed of hair sheep that naturally sheds throughout its life, you will need to sheer your sheep and we’re going to discuss why.

Prevention of Skin or Parasitic Infection

If sheep are not shorn regularly throughout the year, there is always a higher chance that their wool will become matted with urine and fecal matter during the year which will inevitably impact the sheep’s health.

This buildup irritates the skin, often causing wounds or even infections from ked, lice, or mites. Not only does this affect the sheep’s health, but they can also damage their wool coat as well as reducing its overall quality.

Prevention of Wool Buildup

If a domestic sheep’s wool is not shorn, then their coat will continue to grow and matt over time. The size and weight of excess wool will impede the sheep’s mobility and sometimes even vision, making it difficult for them to move around and avoid obstacles.

And should a predator slip into a flock’s habitat, an encumbered sheep is going to be the weakest link and most likely target. Apart from the wool’s sheer weight, this is dangerous to the sheep because it impeded its ability to regulate its own body temperature.

Sheep are typically shorn in the spring to remove their heavy winter coat. If farmers don’t remove this layer of their coat, then the sheep can’t regulate their body temperature, making it far more likely for them to overheat and potentially die in the heat of summer months.

Maintain a Healthy Environment

Unshorn sheep are also more likely to attract disease-causing flies, maggots, and parasites that other members of the flock can catch.

Another danger to a flock’s health, especially lambs, is if the sheep have urine and feces matted to their coats. By shearing sheep, the odds of these attracting diseases diminishes significantly.

The Cruelty-Free Process of Shearing Sheep

Cruelty-free way of shearing sheep

Yes, there are cases of inhumane treatment of sheep during the shearing process. However, the claims that humane wool does not exist is not an accurate statement. If it is done properly, you can remove a wool coat carefully, respectfully and in a manner that does not harm the sheep.

You can even compare sheep shearing to cutting a persons’ hair. It’s not painful for us – it’s not painful for them either as long as it is done with the best practices of animal husbandry. Cuts occasionally occur when a sheep moves unexpectantly, or the skin is not entirely flat.

Once again, you can compare these knicks to shaving your legs when you’re new to the process. Although you should always avoid any injury to the animal, these knicks can occur and should be the extent of any potential harm to the animal. Over time, and with good practice, these cuts become a rare occurrence.

Sheep shearing is a trained profession where individuals attend trade schools to learn the humane and proper techniques to remove a wool coat. Ultimately, all you should need to shear a sheep properly is shearing sheers and training.

Absolutely no forms of restraint should be necessary other than your own two legs. Sheep are incredibly calm, compliant, and docile animals. You should be able to properly hold and maneuver the sheep with the weight of your legs while you shear them.

When done correctly, shearing is a relatively straightforward process performed with minimal to no fear or harm inflicted on the animal.

How Shearing Sheep Can Be Cruel

The cruel way of shearing sheep

Sheep shearing should never require violence or cruelty towards the animal. Professional and lifelong members of the sheep industry do not condone these acts, and the examples provided in no way reflect the ideologies of the industry as a whole.

Unfortunately, there are ways to buy sheep coats that were obtained inhumanely. Unsavory businesses that prioritize quick work and profit over the sheep’s wellbeing are often to blame.

Inhumane Methods

Below we talk about some of the brutal ways that people perform sheep shearing that make the practice cruel.

Unnecessary restraint

The only form of restraint necessary for sheep shearing should be your legs. Sadly, certain inhumane professionals will tie-down or place the sheep in a metal holder for the process. This is extremely frightening for the sheep and increasing their chances of hurting themselves and others.

Excessive Use of Violence

To pacify sheep that retaliate in fear during the shearing process, some individuals even go as far as to punch, kick, or throw the sheep around. This is abusive and is not appropriate under any circumstances.

Rushed Shearing

Sheep shearing should be calm and methodical. The priority here should always be the animal’s comfort and wellbeing. Inhumane people will shear the sheep quickly, particularly when restrained, and prioritize the time taken to shear the wool over their animals’ wellbeing.

As a result, sheep are often injured or severely cut in the process. This traumatizes the animals and, if the wounds are not treated properly, can become infected or even fatal.

Shearing Wild Sheep or Hair Sheep

Someone should never shear a Hair sheep or any other sheep breed with a coat that sheds naturally unless it’s to help with a serious health concern and recommended by an animal specialist.

There would be no reason or circumstance to shear a wild sheep, especially if they are returned to the wild after getting medical attention. If there is a legitimate concern for a wild sheep’s health, contact an animal specialist or rescue team. Wildlife veterinarians are trained to handle these situations appropriately.

Final Thoughts

Shearing sheep is a practice of good animal husbandry that is essential for the wellbeing and health of most domestic sheep. When performed correctly, with the right equipment and techniques, it is not harmful to the animal in any way.

It is crueler not to shear a sheep, especially when it is warmer or their health is in immediate danger.
Wool and fleece products are humane and cruelty-free, as long as the companies that harvest the wool are reputable and proven to treat their flocks with care and respect during the shearing process.

So, if you’re worried about where you’re sourcing your wool from, look for brands that give you some insights into the wool they use. As long as the sheep get cared for properly – you know it’s to get that woolen jumper on and keep cozy in cold weather.

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