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Exposed: Sheer Misery for Sheep

Sheep are left terrified, gashed and bleeding from their eyes after attacks by wool industry workers.

A disturbing undercover investigation by PETA US – the first of its kind – has revealed how scared sheep are harmed and systematically mistreated in the wool industries in Australia and the US.

The shocking findings from the investigations include:

  • Shearers violently punched sheep in the face and beat and jabbed them on the head with sharp metal clippers and even a hammer. These attacks often left the animals bleeding from their eyes, noses and mouths.
  • One shearer repeatedly twisted and bent a sheep's neck, breaking it. After the shearer kicked the sheep headfirst down a chute, PETA US' investigator found her dead. The shearer bent, twisted, and bounced his bodyweight on dozens of sheep's necks and forelimbs and poked his fingers into sheep's eyes.
  • Shearers are often paid by volume, and they shear up to 35 lambs an hour. This encourages fast, rough work and can lead to severe cuts on sheep's bodies – even on at least one sheep's penis. Many sheep had large swaths of skin cut or ripped off by the clippers.
  • One shearer cut off part of a sheep's ear. At another ranch, workers hauled a dying, lame ram – gasping for breath – into a trailer to be sheared. The ram was left overnight in the trailer, apparently without care, and found dead the next morning.
  • Workers didn't give sheep any painkillers before pushing needles through their flesh to try to sew up gaping, bloody wounds caused by shearing. The investigators never saw any veterinarian give care to injured sheep. Sheep are deprived of food and water before being sheared, in part so that they'll feel weak and put up minimal resistance.

"Imagine if someone attacked you after … you'd been starved for 24 hours, you wouldn't have much of a fight." – Australian shearer

  • When sheep panicked and struggled after being pinned down, shearers stamped and stood on their heads and necks, threw them around and slammed their heads and bodies against hard wooden floors. The first time they're sheared, distressed lambs cry out loudly in fear.

"[T]hey've been separated from their mums and they're calling for them. … They're going, 'Mom! Mom!'" – Wool industry worker

  • Farmers put tight rings on some lambs' scrotums – without using anaesthetics – in order to castrate them. When the testicles didn't fall offas expected, shearers just cut off the lambs' scrotums and testicles with their clippers. Workers made crude sexual jokes about the sheep they were shearing and called the animals "f***ing" and "God damn cunt[s]".
  • One rancher boasted that he had "the 'all permission' to pound the f*** out of" sheep.

"I want to choke that sheep. Cut her air supply off." – US shearer

  • Injured and unprofitable sheep were shot and even butchered and left in full view of other sheep.

Each year, millions of sheep – including those no longer wanted for their wool – are shipped on long journeys to the Middle East and North Africa on severely crowded, multitiered ships and, if they don't die in transit, are slaughtered by having their throats cut while they're still conscious.

The treatment shown in the two videos does not represent isolated incidents. PETA US’ video exposé highlights just some of the cruelty observed in 19 shearing sheds visited by investigators in Australia. They documented 70 workers (employed by nine shearing contractors) who abused sheep in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. Annually, these contractors' workers may shear a total of more than 4 million sheep.

In the US, PETA US' investigator documented workers' abuse and neglect of sheep at 14 ranches across Wyoming – the country's second largest wool producer – as well as Colorado and Nebraska. In 2013, 3.7 million sheep were shorn in the US.

How You Can Help

As you've seen, abuse in this callous industry is commonplace. Fortunately, it's easy to avoid clothing that was produced by hurting sheep – just check the label before you buy, and choose coats, jackets and other items that don't contain any wool. Please also join the international campaign asking leading sellers of wool J.Crew and Ralph Lauren to drop wool immediately in favour of animal-free materials that are cruelty-free.

David M.
Global Human Rights Compliance, Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren

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