When most of us think of a lamb, we get images of a baby’s room, with mobiles twirling over a crib and fluffy white stuffed animals ready to receive a child’s love. Or maybe we think of that little white newborn lamb, sweet and innocent, laying in the green grass next to his mother, a vision of innocence and purity. There are of course many religious images of lambs, too – they represent dependency upon the shepherd, a parable for a human who must trust his god or higher power; or they may represent the innocent who is a sacrifice for the guilty, a more unjust practice than that would be hard to imagine. One thing is for sure – whatever we visualize, we do not visualize the reality for these gentle creatures today.
Vegans Do Not Wear Wool!
Many people do not understand why vegans do not use wool, since it is often misperceived as a harmless commodity. But nothing could be further from the truth – this is a cruel, bloody and vicious industry that causes immense suffering and cruelty for the animals. Sheep have been bred to have especially thick wool to make them more valuable to wool producers, especially breeds like the Merino sheep. But those thick coats also leave the animals prey to fly strike, a situation where the thick folds of their skin harbor infestations of maggots which can eat their flesh in their hindquarters near their points of elimination. To avoid fly strike, many farmers use a technique called mulesing, in which the sheep are pinned hind quarters up, all four feet together, and a wide strip of their skin is removed without anesthetic by instruments like gardening shears. This leaves a wide, bright red, and most painful raw area where the flies are less likely to strike; it also leaves the sheep in agonizing pain. They are in effect partially skinned alive. While the farmers excuse this practice as being less harmful and painful than the potentially deadly fly strike, the truth is this is a manmade disorder exacerbated by the trait-specific breeding mankind has unleashed on the sheep.
Other cruel practices included punching a hole in the ears of the lambs a few weeks after birth, docking their tails, dehorning them, toothgrinding, and castration. These practices are often done without anesthetic and without sensitivity to the animals. Then there is shearing in order to steal the lambs’ wool. Shearers work by volume and therefore cut the lambs quickly, often leaving cuts, nicks and infections in their wake. None of this is pleasant for the animals. For a lamb, the approach of a human often means pain and cruelty; humans are clearly bullies to these young and innocent animals.
Commodification of Lambs is Widespread
Lambs are used for their meat, their milk, for wool, for their internal organs, for lanolin production and as living drug factories. As cruel as the wool industry is, it is only one of the several ways lambs are commodified. The internal organs of the lambs are being used for research with an eye towards replacement parts for humans, many of whom have worn out their own organs in part due to eating animals. So how to resolve their health issue? By using more animals, in an insidious vicious cycle of abuse and speciesism.
Lambs Used for Food
Lambs killed for meat are usually no older than three or four years, when their normal lifespan is nearer twenty years. Some are sent off to slaughterhouses, the horrors which most of us have seen all too often to dismiss casually. But even more unfortunate are the lambs shipped off in live transport to the Middle East and North Africa. If they survive the voyage over the sea, where they are taken off their normal food and may starve, they are then dragged to unregulated slaughter, where some are dismembered while still fully conscious. The emerging ethnic demand for lambs as a food source has increased the likelihood of very young lambs and smaller lambs sent to slaughter to meet these preferences.
Predators are also frequently killed off if they pose a threat to profits, rendering the sheep as an industry a threat to animals such as kangaroos, coyotes, and wolves as well as the lambs themselves.
(Wooly Bully refrain)
Pharming – Lambs as Living Labs
The hybrid of traditional farming and pharmaceuticals has created a new industry, PH pharming. Lambs used in the PHpharming industry are prepared for blood products and collect the antibodies humans need towards creating antivenom for snake bites and chemical components for certain drugs. Baby lambs are immunized every four weeks for about 18 weeks; they are then bled monthly and their blood is used for rattlesnake antivenom and other pharmaceutical purposes. The animals are bled from age 1-1/2 years to about 7-1/2 years old and are kept in herds raised specifically for this purpose.
Lambs are used for orthopedic research, spinal cord research, heart valve replacement, ovarian frozen transplant experiments, lung transplantation, and many other types of research to aid human beings in their quest for perennial health and longevity. Chimeras are lambs who have had human stem cells injected into the lamb as a fetus in order to create organs for potential donation to humans waiting organ donors. Lambs are also used as a research model, as a test kit, and as pharmaceutical production units – transgenic animals or pharming. Lambs are currently used in treating emphysema, cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, and thrombosis.
Entertainment – Lambs used For “Fun”
Mutton busting is a rodeo game for young children from 4 to 7 years old. The young children ride the sheep until they fall off. The children, of course, are well equipped with helmets and padding, but the terrified sheep are on their own. Imagine having a human put on your back surrounded by the same beings yelling and screaming as you run out into the arena. It doesn’t sound like much fun for the children, either, since most just fall off in short order.
Another way sheep are used for entertainment is in sheep fighting, a popular sport in many countries. Usually the sheep are aged between 3 to 7 years. This sport is extremely hard on the animals as their fighting is head-butting. The animals are raised specifically for fighting so one shudders to think how they are prepared for these battles for life.
Young lambs are often subjected to the rigors of petting zoos, where they will become vulnerable to a series of moves, unsafely kept in small enclosures with a variety of children of all ages and sizes.
And let us not forget the recent debacle on Hell’s Kitchen where live lambs were found as if the participants were going to have to slaughter their own lambs, following the live crayfish incident. Such appearances of animals must be doubly difficult for them psychologically since they have no way to make any sense of it at all. And the truth? It makes no sense at all, truly, that people should find this kind of insensitivity and downright cruelty entertaining. People, buy a video game or go for a walk and leave the animals alone.
(Wooly Bully refrain)
Lambs Used in Making Cosmetics
Lanolin is another commodity that has been created from the use of lambs. It consists of a complex mixture of esters, alcohols, and fatty acids and is used in adhesive tape, printing inks, motor oils, and auto lubrication. Lanolin is also used in cosmetics and in many pharmaceuticals. Virtually all cosmetics and beauty aids, such as lipsticks, mascara, lotions, shampoos, and hair conditioners, contain lanolin except of course, those made by vegan companies.
Lambs Used for Their Skins
Then there are sheep skins which are removed from the carcasses after slaughter. They are treated in a process called tanning and made into a very soft leather which is in high demand. Sheep skin is commonly used for making the chamois cloth that you wash your car with, although non-animals synthetic materials will do the job. A small number of skins are preserved as sold as sheepskins, with the wool still attached, often found as rugs, covers, and throws.
Another insidious use of the lamb comes from Karakul sheep bred for their skin. These lambskins come from the skin of a newborn lamb, 1 to 3 days old. Such newly born lambs have tightly-curled, shiny, black fur. Karakul lambskin is also known as Persian lambskin. This offensive product is typically made into garments, such as coats and skirts, and used as trimming, edging, or lining. The Karakul fur trade accounts for about 12% of the world’s fur business, and means a lot of dead newborns. It is hard to stomach that one species could devise so many ways of kidnapping and murdering the babies of another, yet here we are, kidnapping these young lambs for totally superficial purposes. In today’s world, there is no excuse, because there are so many synthetic options for garments. We do it because we can, we do it because we are bullies.
(Wooly Bully refrain)
Lambs in Dairy Production
Sheep cheeses comprise about 1.3 percent of the world’s cheese production, with increasing demand in the gourmet and ethnic markets. Some of the world’s most famous cheeses were originally made from sheep’s milk: Roquefort, Feta, Ricotta, and Romano. Sheep’s milk is also made into yogurt, butter, and ice cream. The United States is a large importer of sheep milk cheeses. Unfortunately for the lambs involved, they are subject to mastititis and infected udders, loss of their young, short lives and ultimate slaughter, much as are dairy cows.
Lambs as Landscape Management
While sheep have been use for centuries to control unwanted vegetation, grazing as a fee-service is new form of business enterprise. Sheep are known as the best livestock to use to control unwanted vegetation, such as fuel breaks, noxious weeds, and invasive plants.
While we may think about a child’s nursery, or present gifts with adorable little lambs embroidered on a baby’s nightie, the truth is that we humans have no respect at all for these precious little beings. To us, they are nothing but blood products, experimental subjects, a plastic wrapped tray of meat, a new fur coat, a bit of sport, a cheap lawnmower, or a new warm sweater. They are yarn, they are lipstick, they are skin cream.
So no, vegans do not wear wool, use any of the other products that come from these animals, do not eat them or wear them or ride on them. We believe that the animals have a right to their own lives, with their own kind, and are more significant as free living animals than they could ever be when reduced to a pot of lotion or vivisected in experiments or worn in winter woolies. It is time to stop the madness towards other species and leave the animals alone. It is time to stop being such incredible bullies.
Creative and quirky vegans to check out: @veganism on Twitter, Snargleplexon on Facebook, and a blog at spacevegans.com – creative but also substantive. Be sure to check out articles such as Sleight of Ham about B12 issue.
Also, check out Wing-It Vegan for wonderful recipes, crafty ideas, and best of all, she even shares her bloopers so you won’t feel too intimidated by her wonderful photos and creations.
Music: Little Lamb by Verne Landon and Wooly Bully by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs