It’s been almost a year since PETA released graphic footage of violent shearing methods on farms in the Argentina-based Ovis 21 network, prompting Patagonia to pull out of its partnership with the program.
Since then, the outdoor lifestyle brand has been working to develop a new wool supply chain that reflects high—and verifiable—standards for both on-farm animal welfare and land management provisions, and on Tuesday introduced the Patagonia Wool Standard.
“Last year, we were suddenly faced with a startling video showing callous indifference to animal suffering and a lack of compassionate handling at ranches that were part of our former wool supply chain,” Patagonia spokesperson Tessa Byers said in an e-mail sent to Sourcing Journal. “We took a step back to reassess every aspect of our wool program and ceased buying wool from any supplier until we were confident that we could meet an appropriately high standard for animal welfare, without sacrificing regenerative grazing practices.”
Over the course of 10 months, and with the help of Textile Exchange (TE) and renowned scientist Dr. Temple Grandin, Patagonia developed a new wool standard that it believes is the world’s most stringent criteria for animal welfare and responsible land management.
Using the provisions of TE’s recently released Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) as a baseline for animal welfare, Patagonia’s standard also includes provisions covering transportation and off-farm slaughter, as well as stockperson training in compassionate handling, avoiding shearing injuries, acceptable age ranges for castration and tail docking, and consistent availability of food and water.
To meet the standard, audits will be required in two phases: during shearing and during lambing. Patagonia said it’s also advocating that these be included in future versions of the RWS.
On the land management side, the brand’s requirements pertain both to grasslands and other biotic communities where sheep may be raised, including biodiversity protection, soil management, and pesticide and fertilizer use. Plus, Patagonia said it expects that quality, also a major pillar of the standard, will only increase in its new wool supply chain.
To that end, the Patagonia Wool Standard contains strong accountability measures that will assure:
• A compassionate end of life for sheep, whether through on-farm or off-farm slaughter.
• Reasonable transportation times and appropriate safeguards for safe food and water consumption.
• Careful, humane treatment by farm workers, including treatment during shearing and other practices.
• All potentially painful procedures will be done under strict control.
Partners that share Patagonia’s values are central to this. As such, and using its newly-formed criteria, the brand has paired with the Imperial Stock Ranch in Wasco County, Oregon, and the Red Pine Land and Livestock Company in Park City, Utah. These two farms will supply Patagonia with the wool it needs for production of socks in future seasons. The brand will continue to search for additional partners to round out its needs for merino baselayer and other products.