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UK Wool Industry Under Fire After PETA Releases Graphic Footage of Animal Abuse

Wool producers in the United Kingdom are facing backlash and a possible boycott over a video released by PETA Asia that suggests a culture of violent animal abuse in the industry.

The video contains footage of sheep being kicked, punched, thrown and otherwise mistreated by workers from two separate contracting firms working in the U.K.

Wool producers typically hire these contracted workers seasonally and pay per animal sheared rather than hourly, and some feel that contributes to frustration with uncooperative sheep. Some sheep sheared in the video also appeared to have medical issues that were left unattended and ignored, including one animal that died while being sheared and was discarded near the remaining flock.

“PETA has already exposed rampant cruelty in shearing sheds across Australia and South America. PETA Asia’s investigation shows that the cruelty takes place here, too,” the activist organization said in a statement.

The U.K. is another in a growing list of locales that PETA Asia has infiltrated to expose unethical practices toward sheep in the wool industry. Their investigation in the U.K. consisted of footage pulled from 25 separate farming sheds across five different counties. Similar investigations into the Australian and American wool industries have revealed similar practices.

PETA Asia has filed a 15-page complaint with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in response to the investigation and seeks to pursue possible criminal charges toward workers if violations can be proven. However, its official goal is to change practices throughout the entire wool industry. PETA alleges that the low wages paid to contractors by wool producers create an environment that incentivizes abuse. Their renewed push against sheep’s wool comes as synthetic wool is beginning to gain steam.

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“The best thing that you can do for sheep is refuse to buy wool. It’s easy to check labels before you buy clothing and other items. If a tag says “wool”, leave the item on the shelf and look for an animal-free alternative. That’s all you have to do,” PETA said.

British Wool, an organization representing 40,000 sheep farmers in the UK, responded with a statement condemning the actions of the contractors shortly after the video released.

“We are shocked and saddened by the behaviour of the (two) contractors filmed secretly,” British Wool said. “As a farmer owned organisation British Wool collects and sells the wool on behalf of British farmers. We are passionate and committed to continuously seeking to improve shearing skills and good practice in the U.K. Every year we train more than a thousand people in all parts of the U.K. on two day training courses that are tailored to their existing level of experience and skill.”

The responsibility to police the shearing industry, doesn’t like with British Wool, however, it falls to the government and the RSPCA, though British Wool has promised to offer any required support.

The RSPCA has agreed to investigate this issue after PETA Asia released their video to Channel 4 News Wednesday.