Brian Wilson: The claim that wool is as cruel as fur is ludicrous

There is nothing more sustainable than wool. In an age of fast fashion and environmental concerns about oil-based synthetics, it is the natural fabric for the socially responsible consumer, writes Brian Wilson.
Wool has many environmental benefits unlike synthetic alternatives (Picture: Ian Georgeson)Wool has many environmental benefits unlike synthetic alternatives (Picture: Ian Georgeson)
Wool has many environmental benefits unlike synthetic alternatives (Picture: Ian Georgeson)

If that seems a non-controversial statement, you have reckoned without People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, aka Peta, who are busily engaged in urging a boycott of wool products and the shearing of sheep.

I declare an interest through my involvement in Harris Tweed but the problem is that, however irrational this campaign may be, it has to be taken seriously before it threatens thousands of livelihoods in Scotland, never mind the wider world.

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This week, the huge online fashion chain, Boohoo, told Peta that it would “not knowingly source woolen products” in future. Boohoo, which is best known for selling cheap synthetic clothes, later rescinded this decision – perhaps having achieved the objective of publicity.

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Brian Wilson: In war of wool vs synthetic, Harris Tweed is a winner

However, Peta is unlikely to be discouraged. Big brands do not like bad publicity or demonstrators outside their doors. Activists demonstrated at London Fashion Week under the slogan “Wool is as Cruel as Fur” which is simply ludicrous.

They cite allegations of cruelty on Australian ranches where merino wool is produced in industrial quantities. The answer to that lies in regulation to ensure proper standards – not the wholesale vilification of a product that offers so many environmental benefits.

We live in a world where truth is regularly stood on its head but, by any standards, this campaign does seem remarkably perverse, particularly when the alternatives are considered.

The best answer is for every part of the production chain to maintain standards beyond reproach in the eyes of any reasonable person – which may not include the vociferous supporters of Peta.