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Sheep evolved to live in places that are mountainous and very often cold, hence their coat of wool. They were domesticated thousands of years ago, and now domestic sheep are quite distinct from their wild cousins.
Domestic sheep are bred to produce much more wool than they would produce in their natural habitat, often in areas that are warmer and more humid than they would naturally live.
On industrial sheep farms there are many cases of abusive practices, practices which are very much the standard.
Lambs have their tails removed because it is difficult to keep that area clean with so much wool, and there is a danger of fly strike. “Docking” the tail also makes shearing easier.
Male lambs are usually castrated – and castration with sheep happens like most other farm animals: without anesthesia.
In nature, sheep do not need to have their tails docked or their testicles removed.
In nature as well sheep do not need to be shorn. They shed their wool like other animals shed their hair. Sheep are bred to produce more wool than is healthy, which causes problems like fly strike since it is difficult for the sheep to keep themselves clean. Some sheep are bred to have wrinkly skin so that there will be more skin surface, which means they grow more wool.
One of the most extreme forms of mutilation is “mulesing,” which is a process where the skin from around the sheep’s rear end is removed in strips, leaving only scar tissue, almost always without any painkillers. This is common practice in Australia and New Zealand, although there are efforts underway there to phase out the practice. This “procedure” is done to prevent flystrike. Flystrike, for those of you who don’t know, is when flies lay eggs in an animal’s skin in an area that they can’t clean. The breeding of sheep to produce so much wool and keeping them in areas that are warm and humid creates an environment that sheep have not evolved to deal with. Instead of stopping the continued breeding of these animals and perpetuating the problem, farmers tear strips of skin out of their backs.
Veterinarians are so often on the side of the exploiters of these animals that they rationalize and justify the continuation of these practices, instead of stepping in and stopping the breeding of the animals in the first place, which would stop so much more of the pain and suffering involved.
In the end, humans don’t need wool. It is easy to avoid wearing wool. Buying wool perpetuates a system of exploitation that we don’t need to support.
For more information about mulesing visit:
I found some interesting details about tail docking and castration here: