The short answer is no, merino wool, and any other type of wool is not vegan.
Background: Merino is just a breed of sheep, known for their fine and soft wool.
In theory, sheep’s don’t need to get hurt during the sheering process. But like many things, reality differs a lot from theory.
Here are the main forms of animal cruelty during the shearing process:
- Mulesing – When sheep get infections, one particularly barbaric form of “treatment” is to carve a chunk of skin and flesh from the affected area (without painkillers). It’s still practiced in Australia, where a lot of merino wool comes from. It was supposed to be phased out by 2010, but that promise by the wool industry was delayed. It’s still practiced in 2018.
- Abuse – I can’t bear to watch another video of sheep being pushed, punched, kicked, and stepped on. Shearers get paid for their production, which encourages rough animal interaction. Sheep get bloody, and suffer wide arrays of injuries on a regular basis.
- What happens after the wool? – Like cow’s dairy production, a sheep’s wool production declines after a period of time, long before dying of natural causes. These sheep are sent to be slaughtered for meat.
While it’s heartbreaking to watch, I think everyone should see firsthand what goes into the wool they buy and wear.
Earthling Ed has a well made video on this topic that’s fairly short and to the point, with video examples:
Merino Wool Alternatives
So what do you do now for warm winter clothing now that merino wool isn’t an option?
The most common alternatives are clothes made from:
All of these materials are vegan and fairly commonly used in warm clothing.
I’m in the process of putting together vegan guides to specific types of clothing alternatives that usually use wool.