I have a confession to make: I’m wearing wool socks. And I almost wore my leather and wool winter boots, except I thought I’d get kicked out of the vegan store when I went shopping there today. It’s just so cold today, and my wool socks are my warmest. You can ask anyone who knows me – I am ALWAYS cold. It can be the middle of summer and I’ll be cold. Yesterday night my hands were so cold they started to lose circulation and my finger tips went white. I’ve had this my whole life, no matter what diet I have, whether I do exercise, what vitamins I take. I just have to accept I will always be cold. And once I get cold, it’s really hard to warm up.
I’ve tried every kind of material and the only thing that really keeps me warm is wool. I know it is completely against vegan rules that I wear the fur of an animal. I know that I’m cheating. But when I’m cold everything else in my body gets sore, especially my muscle from tensing up in order to try to keep the heat in, and I’m easily susceptible to sickness. So I’m going to wear my wool socks.
Where wool comes from…
I have another confession: I don’t really know anything about the wool industry. My adamant wool-sock wearing comes from ignorance. I picture sheep living happily, grazing in the fields, then being sheared in the springtime by hand by a farmer and his wife. With the constant desire for more wool, though, I realize this idealized image in my head is probably wrong. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Elisa Camahort, blogger for Hip & Zen, on treehugger.com, explaining why vegans feel so strongly about not wearing any wool:
Lambs born for wool production are castrated, have their ears punched through and their tails cut off, all without anaesthesia.
One might think that wool production is benign…like getting a haircut, and perhaps it was that way before sheep were bred for constant wool production, rather than seasonal production linked to their natural molting schedule. Now, sheep are sheared before they naturally would shed their winter coats, then the wool grows back during the summer months. Many sheep die of exposure (heat and cold) every year.
Worst of all is a technique called mulesing. Merino sheep produce the most wool because they are bred to have the most folds of skin. Unfortunately all those folds of skin become breeding grounds for fly infestations around their tail area. The factory farm solution for this problem is to carve off folds of skin, yes, their skin…hoping to create a smooth, scarred surface where the flies can’t lay eggs. And no, they don’t use anaesthesia for that either.
There is more detailed information about the wool industry on PETA.org.
What kind of clothing can you wear as a vegan?
Some alternatives to wool, suggested by PETA: “cotton, cotton flannel, polyester fleece, synthetic shearling, and other cruelty-free fibers”. They also suggest the relatively new wool substitute, Tencel, or “Polartec Wind Pro, which is made primarily from recycled plastic soda bottles, is a high-density fleece with four times the wind resistance of wool, and it also wicks away moisture.” There are also natural fabrics like organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, and soy.
I will try to find Tencel or Polartec Wind Pro socks (if they make socks) and try them out, but I’m not guaranteeing anything… Maybe there are ways to make sure the wool socks I buy aren’t from factory farm sheep and those farms who use mulesing?