Forever 21 is under fire after People’s Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) accused the Los Angeles-based retailer’s Australian wool suppliers of punching sheep in the face, slitting the throats of still-conscious animals and slicing and burning off lambs’ tails with no painkillers.
One of the two videos PETA released showed shearers striking sheep in the face with sharp metal clippers, kneeling on their stomachs and flinging them around. Another caught a worker bragging he once “hit one [sheep] so hard I knocked it out.”
The animal-rights organization, which called the scenes it captured a “total horror fest,” says it’s now launching a worldwide campaign to dissuade Forever 21 from supporting the “abusive” wool industry. In addition, PETA has asked law-enforcement officials to investigate the farms for violations against each Australian state’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and to file appropriate charges.
Forever 21 did not respond to requests for comment.
“Forever 21 knowingly supports cruelty to animals by selling clothing that’s a product of violence and extreme suffering,” Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, said in a statement. “PETA is appealing to the company to show that it opposes such horrific abuse by going wool-free.”
Forever 21 has bowed to pressure from PETA before. In June, following violent footage of Angora goats being abused in South Africa, America’s fifth-largest specialty retailer joined 110 other brands, including Gap, H&M, Uniqlo and Zara, in banning mohair from its inventory. (Similar calls for companies to abstain from wool, on the other hand, haven’t gained nearly as much traction.)
“PETA’s exposé pulled back the curtain on the gentle baby goats who cried out in fear as they were sheared until bloody for mohair sweaters and scarves,” Tracy Reiman, PETA’s executive vice president, said at the time. “Forever 21 has joined the quickly growing list of top retailers that recognize that today’s shoppers don’t support cruelty to animals.”
PETA notes its latest videos are the 10th and 11th global exposés of the wool industry it has shared with the retailer, with the oldest going back to 2014. The organization and its affiliates have documented cruelty to sheep on 27 farms in Australia and a total of 99 properties across four continents, it added.
Update: In a provided statement, Forever 21 said it takes the issues of ethical sourcing and animal welfare “extremely seriously” and has worked with PETA over the years on initiatives such as its fur-free policy and permanent ban on angora rabbit hair.
“To the best of our knowledge, Forever 21 does not source any materials from farms in Australia and therefore refutes the accuracy of PETA’s claims,” a spokesperson told Sourcing Journal. “We remain deeply committed to working with vendors that employ strict animal welfare practices.”