Brute Ethics





Animal Ethics Encyclopedia

To Index

New Welfarism

The view that the best way to prevent animal suffering is to abolish the causes of animal suffering, but that abolition is an ideal long-term goal and meanwhile we must be pragmatic and improve the conditions of animals by advancing their welfare.

New welfarism stands somewhere between animal welfare and animal rights. Animal welfarists believe people should use animals but treat them well. Animal rightists say people should not use animals and we must abolish the causes of animal suffering, for if there is no suffering then there is no need for welfare. New welfarists take the view that they support abolishing the causes of suffering but argue that it will take a long time to achieve and meanwhile they must do all they can to support the welfare of animals.

Thus, for instance, new welfarists try in the long-term to phase out fur farms and animal experiments, two causes of animal suffering, while in the short-term try to improve conditions for these animals. They lobby to make cages less constrictive and reduce the numbers of animals used in laboratories (for example see Three R's).

For & Against: argue your case

  • Claim: New welfarism does not stop the exploitation of animals, even supports it, and therefore is a useless philosophy and the ultimate act of betrayal for animals.

  • Claim: New welfarism is more achievable, and therefore of more immediate benefit to exploited animals, than the long-term and perhaps impossible goals of animal rights, such as demanding complete closure of anti-animal industries and changing the deep seated habits of billions of people.

To Index

Werewolves & Lycanthropy

Lycanthropy and the werewolf took an extra leap into life when The Werewolf motion picture appeared in 1913. It was the first film on werewolves and the beast has been a favourite of the film industry ever since.

Lycanthropy is the transformation of a human into the form of a wolf and a lycanthrope is someone who believes he is a werewolf. Lycanthropy takes place by magic to satisfy the taste for human flesh or by desire of the gods as punishment for wrong doing. This definition is from the British lycanthropy scholar, priest, historian and novelist, Sabine Baring-Gould (1834 - 1924), celebrated in werewolf circles for his carefully researched The Book Of Were-Wolves, published in 1865. Baring-Gould noted that lycanthropy is a madness found in most lunatic asylums.

Werewolves are men who change into the form of a wolf. But transformation is not unknown among women and children. As a werewolf you behave as a wolf and do what the body of a wolf does. Yet at the same time you retain your human power of reasoning to do what a man does. So if you wish you can combine killing sheep and cattle with breaking into houses, terrifying the occupants and stealing their beer. But you must watch out because if you come to harm as a werewolf you carry that injury back with you on returning to human form. Pick up lead in your butt from a farmer's shot-gun and you will be lame on your return to humanity.

By his own admission Baring-Gould never saw a werewolf nor ever encountered their signs. But he believed in the reality of the hybrid and hoped his book would cast light on a shadowy period in the human mind. His book begins rationally, passes to the sensational and then on to grave desecration, blood mania, cannibalism and mass murder; a shockingly grisly read for the credulous readers of the Victorian public.

The source of the werewolf's were is uncertain but it might come from Latin via German or Old English, and basically means man. Werewolves are not vampires, dead people in human form, but are living people in wolf form. The term lycanthropy is derived from the Greek lukos for wolf and anthropos for man. Greek mythology has Lycaon transformed into a wolf for eating human flesh.

Attaining Transformation
It is know that the ability to change yourself into a werewolf is hereditary but that it is also a talent you can learn. When intentionally transforming you must hid your clothes carefully because if you lose them you will not be able to change back into a human. Changing your shape can also be forced on you. Baring-Gould tells of a damned person who, before departing, is first tormented in his grave:

"...his moans and muffled howls ring from the tomb, through the gloom of night, the earth of the grave begins to heave, and at last, with a scream, surrounded by a phosphorescent glare, and exhaling a foetid odour, he bursts away as a wolf."

There are three commonly accepted ways to change into a werewolf. You can dress in the head and pelt of a wolf and the change is immediate when you don the attire. Alternatively, your essence can leave your human body and enter a second body you must borrow or create, in which case your cast off human form will appear dead or comatose. Or you can remain in your body but onlookers are spellbound and apprehend you as a werewolf.

You know you are transforming into a werewolf because there are certain indications. Your perceptual awareness changes (wolves have a different visual capability, sharper hearing and a better sense of smell); your tongue dries, you get thirsty and have an abnormal fear of water (akin to a rabid dog); your thumb nails grow long; your eyebrows meet (because you get hairier); and you show the devil's mark (a sign of ownership stamped on you by the devil).

You are most likely to change into a werewolf in the winter, especially February. Then at night you can retire to your local isolated cemetery and live like a wolf or dog. These ideas possibly arose because people were more likely to see wolves in winter and they assumed the wolves were werewolves. The bit about cemeteries likely comes from associating wolves with digging up and scavenging corpses.

Twisted and fearful superstitions abound. Apparently you are more certain to become a werewolf if you are murdered, the son of a priest, eat a wolf, drink from a wild wolf's paw print, drink from haunted water, are born on Christmas eve, conceived under a new moon, or sleep at night in the open with moonshine on your face. Furthermore, as a werewolf you must sleep with your mouth agape as your jaws are difficult to free once shut.

How Did it Start?
Lycanthropy may have begun when prehistoric people donned wolf heads and pelts to capture the spirit of the wolf. Cave paintings thousands of years old show people dressed as animals. Baring-Gould suggests that transformation permits men to assume the nature of the creature they change into. So lycanthropy would grant you the vigour, cunning and hunting dexterity of the wolf, or whatever attributes you see in a wolf.

Transforming into beasts is an important part of many mythological beliefs and is not confined to turning into wolves. Diverse cultures have their own style of 'lycanthropy', with transformations into werefoxes, werebears and weredogs in Europe, weretigers in India, werehyaenas and wereleopards in Africa, and werejaguars in South America. Non-predators can also be were-animals, like weredeer, but were less important than the were-predators.

In biblical times, the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar (605 - 562 BC), is described in the Bible as imagining himself to be a werewolf for some years. Lycanthropic beliefs are found in folklore, fairytales and legends around the world and written accounts of lycanthropy go back at least to Ancient Greece and Rome.

Herodotus, the world's first historian, living in Greece in the fifth century BC, travelled the known world learning first hand about the peoples he met. His book The Histories (originally written on papyrus scrolls) records him learning about the tribes living around the Black Sea. He says of the Neuri that each Neurian changes himself once a year into a wolf in which form he remains for some days before changing back into a human. Herodotus does not say whether he believed this or not.

Caius Plinius Secundus, know in English as Pliny the Elder (AD 23 - 79), was a Roman senator and military leader who spent much of his life keenly observing the world. He left voluminous notes on all kinds of subjects and wrote a substantial encyclopedia on natural history, Historia Naturalis, based on his observations. Pliny says he does not believe men can transform into wolves, however, at least the stories of transformation existed or he would not have recorded them in his writings.

In one story Pliny recounts a race that lives in Arcadia, the Antaei, from whom one of their number must change into a wolf; Pliny does not say why. They choose the lucky man by casting lots, take the wolf-to-be to a lake and strip him of his clothes which they hang on a tree. Then he swims to the wilderness on the far side of the lake, transforms into a wolf and lives there in the company of wolves. After nine years he can return to the lake. Then he can swim back, find his clothes still hanging from the tree, put them on and resume his human shape, but only if he has not eaten human flesh during his time as a wolf.

Medieval Europe was obsessed with werewolves, witches and demons. Werewolves were powerful because the wolf is the enemy of the 'lamb of God' and werewolves made pacts with the Devil selling their souls to him, hence the devil's mark. Many unfortunate people were burned alive as werewolf suspects. Our present ideas of protection against werewolves possibly derive from these times. Should you meet a werewolf you might protect yourself from his attentions by haranguing him with a sign of the Christian cross or by piercing him with a wooden stake; exorcism might help in a difficult case if a priest is handy.

Lycanthropy in the 21st Century
Lycanthropy in the 21st century is recognised as a rare psychosis. The more physicians look for this illness the more cases they find. People believe they turn into wolves and into other kinds of animal too, typically dogs, cats, tigers, gerbils, rabbits and birds. A sick person may pass through several animals one after another, so called 'multiple serial lycanthropy'.

Psychotic lycanthropy can be dangerous to the public because psychotic lycanthropes may turn from simple aggression to brutal acts and murder. Mobs in past centuries pursued and killed werewolves partly for this reason. There are many reports of people, perhaps with a lycanthropic state of mind, killing children. A celebrated case, described by Baring-Gould, is the woman from a powerful family in Hungary around 1600. She lured hundreds of young girls to the cellar of her castle, tortured them and cut them up. Eventually the local authorities had enough, invaded the castle and tried her and the servants she coerced into helping her. They executed her helpers and incarcerated her for life.

Lycanthropy is for people who take pleasure in supernatural beings. Yet the lives and times of real wolves are far more unusual, attractive, inspiring - and entertaining. The ethically relevant part is that if we are to understand our moral obligations to animals we must understand animals and our relationship to them; we must understand animals as they really are and as we really are and not base our presumed obligations on fantasy. Lycanthropy and werewolfery are instructive for keeping a rational mind.

Also see Therianthopy and Wolf Children.

To Index

Wolf Children

How close a relationship can humans have with animals? If we grew up among them, could we converse with them as fully integrated members of their community? Have animals ever raised humans and spoken with them in their own animal language? How much of us is specifically human and how much is animal?

Wolf children throw some light on these and many other questions. Wolf children are human children raised by wolves. Their upbringing by wolves excites our wonder and disbelief. But their stories are anecdotal so can easily be dismissed as unreliable or false. Or can they? We cannot ethically deliberately raise children in isolation with wolves to answer such questions, but the study of feral children gives us some insight.

Feral Children
Wolf children belong to the broader category of feral children. Feral children grow up from a very young age isolated on their own or somehow adopted by animals. Adoptive parents of feral children turn out to be not just wolves, but dogs, chimpanzees, monkeys, goats, bears, leopards, jackals, ostriches, pigs and other animals. The children were abandoned by their parents or lost by accident and have strictly minimal or no human contact for a significant period of their lives. They are then discovered, sometimes years later, and returned to human society, often against their will, when their stories unfold.

Feral children in fictional and mythical literature grow up as intelligent, physically strong and morally virtuous personalities. Their unusual childhood upbringing imprints on them a wild and uncorrupted state of nature that favours their later social relations with humanity. Tarzan, a creation of Edgar Rice Barrows, brought up by chimpanzees, is a prime example.

Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli is another wholesome character. Mowgli is possibly the most famous wolf child. When just old enough to walk his parents lose him in the Indian jungle. He stumbles upon a mother and father wolf in a cave with their four cubs and they adopt him and raise him to manhood as one of their own. He hunts with his pack, has many adventures with his wider animal friends, and rises to be champion beast of the jungle.

Another widely circulated tale about wolf children is the story of Romulus and Remus of the 8th century BC. Their mother abandons the twins to die on the banks of the River Tiber, a mode of infanticide, but a wolf saves and suckles them. After many dangers the mature twins discover their heritage, kill the man who made their mother abandon them and who usurped their grandfather's dominion, and go on to found Rome on the River Tiber. There is no good evidence that any of this actually happened, but it makes a ripping good yarn.

Feral children raised by wolves and other animals are common themes in legend and fiction but the reality is more peculiar. When Carl Linnaeus, the eighteenth century Swedish naturalist famous for classifying creatures to show their biological relationships, tried to classify feral children, he was confused. He thought they were a separate class from the rest of humanity, a kind of non-human gnome, and categorised them as Homo ferus (wild man) to distinguish them from the human species Homo sapiens (wise man).

Kamala & Amala
Possibly the most broadly documented wolf children are the two Indian girls, Kamala and Amala. Villagers in remote countryside west of Calcutta caught the girls in 1920. The two children had been spotted previously with adult wolves and were eventually found in a wolf den with two wolf cubs. The den was dug up, the mother wolf killed and the girls taken away. J A L Singh, an Anglican missionary, who ran an orphanage, took them in and gave them their names.

Singh thought Kamala was five or six years of age and Amala about two years old. He describes the girls as dishevelled, indifferent to temperature (a characteristic of people leading rugged lives), with sharp hearing, good vision in the dark and a strange gleaming look in their eyes. They howled but could not talk and ate raw meat in the style of dogs. The girls stood and walked on all fours and Kamala was so adept as a quadruped that she could outstrip anyone on two legs and climb and jump easily. But like many other children of her feral background she never seriously mastered walking upright and resorted to hands and knees when needing to. Amala died the year after the villagers found her. Kamala survived into her teens and managed to learn some three dozen words.

Djuma the Wolf Boy
Travellers found a boy of about seven years old running with wolves in the desert of Turkmenistan in 1962, according to unsubstantiated newspaper reports. The wolves charged when people grabbed him to take back to civilization and were all shot. The boy was named Djuma and cared for in a hospital in Ashkhabad. After a few years Djuma acquired a small vocabulary and was able to describe how he went hunting with the wolves riding on the back of his mother wolf and how later he hunted with them running on all fours. Another newspaper report years later described him eating only raw meat and still quadruped and his carers thought he would never stop being a wolf.

Two Dog Children
Newspapers reported the case of Ivan Mishukov in 1998. Mishukov was a six year old boy who lived for two years with feral dogs on the streets of Reutova, west of Moscow. Mishukov quit his mother and her alcoholic boyfriend when he was four years old and took to begging on the streets. He shared portions of his food with a pack of dogs. The dogs accepted him and they all slept huddled together to keep warm through the icy winter nights and the dogs kept him safe from anyone who tried to accost or attack him. Mishukov escaped from the police a number of times. But after nearly two months of trying they finally managed to distract the dogs with food and snatch Mishukov away. He was placed in care and, having learned to speak when he was with his mother, he was able to tell social workers that he felt at home with the dogs as they gave him the love and protection he needed.

A newspaper story, circulated by Reuters in 2001, tells of another dog boy, Alex Rivas, a ten year old who survived for two years living with a pack of stray dogs in the town of Talcahuano, Chile. His 16 year-old mother abandoned him when he was five months old, several orphanages brought him up but he managed to escape. Alex lived at night in a cave on the outskirts of the town with over a dozen dogs. By day they scavenged the streets eating out of garbage cans and looking for thrown out food. He was know to locals and snarled at anyone who approached him. Eventually, the police separated Alex from the dog pack and captured him. He was dirty, aggressive, clothed in rags and had broken teeth. He could talk but was inarticulate, uncommunicative and depressed. It emerged that he had suckled from a bitch, who had recently given birth, because he had been hungry and wanted food. Alex was taken to a hospital and then to a child care centre but fled before they could place him with foster parents.

Skills Acquisition
Many feral children on examination are found to be seriously mentally retarded and physically small for their age, depending on how young they were when abandoned. Children abandoned very young may never make up for lost experience because their nervous system is malleable and depends on us to shape the behaviour and skills needed for later life. Children who do not learn the basics of, say, language during this period may never be able to learn more than a rudimentary vocabulary, like Kamala. Feral children adopt the habits of their adoptive animals; if they live with wolves or dogs they growl and howl or bark. Alex Rivas, on the other hand, had already acquired some language before he took up with his dog friends so could outline his story.

Non-invasive scanning techniques carried out on contemporary feral children show their brains can be 30% smaller than a normal brain, evidence that the right kind of early interaction is essential for normal development. However, it is not always clear whether feral children suffer trauma during their feral years, which subsequently affects their ability to learn, or whether there were abandoned because of a pre-existing sub-normality.

Determining the history of young children living wild for a long time is difficult. Unless the children can talk after they are found, the circumstances of their upbringing can only be surmised. Even if the children manage to talk after they are found, we cannot take it for granted that what they say is correct.

The evidence that wolves have raised children invariably rests on the testimony of a handful of well intentioned but possibly misled people. Their reasoning may be that young children cannot survive alone, wolves are in the area or the child is found in a wolf den, therefore wolves adopted the child.

A child actually living with wolves would be remarkable. Wolves are not known to adopt babies of other animal species, so why would they adopt humans? It is difficult to see what might lead wolves to take in such a strangely smelling, clumsy animal. However, living alongside urban feral dogs is credible. So it seems that some animals can accept very young human children and that the children can establish rapport with their adoptive group.

For more about wolves see Wolf Ethics.

To Index

Wolf Ethics

Wolves (Canis lupus) stir up people more than most other animals. They are important for us because their health is mixed up with human health, physically and certainly morally.

It is a myth that wolves go around killing people. Biologists tell us that many more people are killed by domestic dogs, horses (in riding accidents), elephants and lightning strike - and are we afraid of these? So wolf myth is worse than wolf bite and you have no need to be afraid of wolves, even if you live in the countryside. Wolves are not 'beasts of waste and desolation' but nor are they benevolent animals. Wolves are just wolves. They are just another species, but a species that sometimes conflicts with some of man's activities, like raising livestock and changing the landscape to suit himself.

Wolves, like people, are a part of our moral community, within the expanding circle of animals with moral standing to whom we owe our moral responsibility. How we share the world with wolves and what happens to them is important for us. Wolves are a biting test of human morality and toleration for other beings. Wolves are applied ethics. Living with wolves in our backyard is a vital test to show how well humanity can learn to understand and live with other life.

Man has extirpated wolves from many parts of the world. But he has gone much further than that. Humanity is changing Earth's landscape, changing Earth's climate and wiping out millions of other species in a mass extinction. Learning to live with free-living wolves, as our forebears did, is instructive for learning to live with the whole of nature, especially with other predators in competition with us.

Harmonising with wolves equips us better to share Earth with other forms of life. On the small scale, wolves are important because each small point gained by tolerating, saving and respecting them contributes to understanding, protecting and honouring life as a whole. On the big scale, wolves occasionally conflict with fundamental human activities, like farming and walking the hills. But if we cannot compromise and deliberately kill them off then we shall lose a major battle to live with animal life and nature. We shall be morally impoverished as a species and morally diminished as individuals.

Our early hunter-gatherer ancestors reared tame wolves, the forebears of dogs. These wolf-dogs helped our species in the remote past to survive and prosper in a tough world. Now the time is here to pay back our debt to wolves by helping them survive in the face of direct human destruction of nature and direct hostility. But are we as a species willing and clever enough to do so?

To Index


Woollen clothes and textiles are very attractive and are made from the hair of animals like llama, rabbit, goat, antelope and sheep. But wool-producing animals can suffer many pernicious treatments that go unseen by the public. Take sheep, the most populous wool-producer. Among the problems they suffer are mulesing, tail amputation, castration and minimal to no care.

Mulesing is the partial skinning alive of lambs, especially in Australia and New Zealand, where millions of lambs are treated this way. Stock hands cut away the skin and wool from the lambs' backsides with shears. They may amputate the lambs' tails at the same time (see below) and peal the skin from around the lambs' tail stumps. Stock hands carry out the operation with no demand for competence and no anaesthetic for the sheep. Million of lambs are mulesed every year in Australia and they suffer; for days they stand with lowered head, body hunched, moving only short distances with an unnatural tread.

Mulesing is a treatment for countering flystrike, an infestation of blowfly larvas. Blowflies look like house files and lay their eggs on the moist parts of the sheep, such as around the anus and vagina and also like to live in wounds. Merino sheep, the major breed of sheep in Australia, are particularly prone to flystrike because the folds of skin that characterise the breed make good homes for the blowfly larvas. The hatching maggots eat into the flesh and madden the sheep, who stop eating and die if left untreated. Sheep are therefore mulesed, which leaves a big smooth scar that is unattractive to blowfly.

Some of the problems with mulesing are that mulesing wounds take three to five weeks to heal and the wounds often succumb to flystrike; mulesing does not stop flystrike on other parts of the body (which have to be treated with chemicals); and lambs stricken with pain can lose support from their dams and starve.

Thus mulesing can harm many sheep. One of the suggested long-term solutions against flystrike is breeding sheep who are resistant to blowfly. Vaccination of sheep against blowfly larvas is still at the research stage.

Mulesing is illegal in Britain. Flystrike occurs there but it is not as great a problem as in Australia and New Zealand.

Tail Amputation & Castration
Ranchers castrate and amputate (or 'dock') the tails of millions of lambs every year. They cut their tails off to minimise the sheep soiling themselves with urine and faeces and by this make them less likely to attract disease like flystrike. They castrate them so that males who live to sexual maturity are less aggressive, easier to handle and will not breed indiscriminately. They also believe that castration makes lambs fatter for the market.

A ranch worker bloodlessly removes a tail and scrotum by slipping tiny tight rubber rings around them. They constrict the blood supply so that the parts wither and each drops off with its ring. Sometimes they cut the bottom of the scrotum with a knife and squeeze the testicles out. Cutting with a hot blade or crushing to remove tails are more painful procedures.

Stock hands require some skill to carry out these operations but can easily bungle them:

  • The tail stump is not always left sufficiently long to cover the vulva and anus. Without a protective fly whisk the sheep is left exposed to flies and their infestation.

  • Anaesthetic is not used and lambs plainly get distressed. Lambs may roll onto their back, bleat, kick the air and hyperventilate, or they stand hunched with their back legs spread apart, and may be lethargic and socially unresponsive.

  • Dams may reject or neglect their suffering lambs adding to the lambs' health problems. Very young lambs may stop suckling and, even if they stop for just a short spell, may haemorrhage or come down with a disease.

  • Unfortunately, castration and tail amputation are often carried out solely as a matter of routine. Official bodies agree that castration and tail amputation are ordinarily not called for and urge farmers not to carry them out unless they improve the long-term welfare of individuals, and anyway not on lambs who are soon going for slaughter.

    The proportion of sheep to shepherds in a flock is an indication of the standard of welfare for the sheep. Large numbers of sheep to one shepherd is poor welfare. Any individual needing attention is unlikely to get it from an overworked shepherd. Many lambs can die at birth or die in their first weeks from starvation or exposure to bad weather. Nor is there anyone to rear lambs by hand if their mother dies, unlike traditional shepherding of past centuries.

    The number of sheep in a flock to the number of shepherds in attendance has deteriorated from 350 sheep per shepherd to 700 sheep per shepherd in Britain - the largest wool producer in Europe (see Table 1). In many parts of Britain it is more like 1,000 sheep per shepherd. Most flocks in Australia contain over 2,000 sheep per stock hand. This trend is the same in other Western countries

    Some shepherds can manage more sheep successfully than others. But no shepherd can adequately manage a flock of more than 250 sheep single-handed. A decline in the health and well-being of individual sheep is inevitable. Among the first signs of under-shepherding to look for in sheep is a high occurrence of lameness and soiled wool around the rear.


    Cast - A sheep stuck on her back, so heavy with wool that she is unable to get upright. She will die if not helped.

    Dock - Amputate the tail, leaving a stub behind.

    Fleece - A sheep's woolly coat.

    Flystrike - Infestation of sheep with blowfly maggots; potentially fatal.

    Lamb's wool - Wool from a lamb up to seven months old.

    Merino - The majority sheep breed in Australia, famous for fine wool.

    Shearing - Removing the fleece from sheep.

    Skin wool - Wool removed from dead sheep in abattoirs.

    Wether - A castrated adult male sheep.

    Woollens - Quality apparel with a rough feel made from short wool fibres.

    Worsted - Quality fabric with a smooth feel made from long wool fibres.


    Domesticated sheep bear little similarity to their self-reliant wild ancestors from which the early farmers bred them 10,000 years ago. Today's sheep are raised mainly for their meat and wool. The wool is traded internationally and turned into carpets, upholstery, blankets, knitwear and knitting yarn.

    The Merino is possibly the world's number one popular breed of sheep. Merinos are the most common sheep in Australia, the world's most populous sheep country after China. They are bred for their fine white wool and wrinkly skin. A wrinkled surface has more skin than a smooth surface and therefore grows more wool per sheep. An adult Merino produces four to five kilograms of wool annually.

    For the number of sheep worldwide see 'Table 2. Sheep numbers' in Livestock Numbers Worldwide. Half the world's billion domestic sheep live in just ten countries. China and Australia produce by far the greatest numbers of sheep, a quarter of the world's total.

    The table below shows the amount of wool produced by the top ten wool producing countries.

Table:  World Wool Production
Top Ten Countries for 2002
Country Tonnes of Wool
Australia 544,000
China 302,000
New Zealand 235,000
Commonwealth of Independent States 133,000
Argentina 72,000
Turkey 70,000
Britain 50,000
South Africa 45,000
Uruguay 43,000
Pakistan 40,000
Worldwide 2,200,000

Produces most wool, about a quarter of the total output worldwide, half the world's wool apparel - over 500,000 tonnes annually, employs some 200,000 people in the industry, and exported over A$3 billion worth of wool in 2002-2003

The United States has very few sheep compared with Australia, fewer than five million sheep (for 2002). They yield less than 10,000 tonnes of wool per year. The US imports most of its wool from Australia and New Zealand.

Britain is the largest wool producer in Europe. The forty million British sheep are organised mainly for the meat market and most are slaughtered as lambs. Most of the sheep who produce wool live in the open all year on the northern bleak uplands, shielded from the weather only by their fleece. About a third of the wool is skin wool - taken from dead sheep, mainly lambs, after they are slaughtered at abattoirs. British wool is low quality so most of it is used for course textiles, like carpets.

For & Against: argue your case

Buying Wool
  • Claim: You are not abusing sheep if you merely buy wool.

  • Claim: By buying wool you are paying someone to be cruel to sheep.

  • Tradition
  • Claim: Traditions would die out and a lot of people lose their jobs if people do not buy wool.

  • Claim: Cruelty is not an excuse for tradition and jobs should not be dependant on cruelty.

    Tradition vs Commercialisation
  • Claim: People have worn wool for thousands of years, so sheep farming is built on solid traditional custom.

  • Claim: Hundreds of years ago sheep flocks were small and carefully tended and there were few people. Today's flocks are commercialised for a global market of billions of people. So the comparison with past values is false.

  • Suitability
  • Claim: Whether Blackface sheep in the cold and wet windswept hills of the Scottish Highlands or Merino sheep in the heat, cold, droughts and floods of the Australian outback, the sheep are well suited to climatic extremes and well adapted to survive on sparse vegetation and poor water.

  • Claim: Sheep are forced to live off the land all year with little if any help during harsh conditions. Sheep cannot survive on their own and die without adequate shepherding. They are not well adapted and their lifestyle should not be forced on them.

    © 2004 Roger Panaman All rights reserved