We Need to Talk About the Impact of Wool Production, Says New Report

“Shear Destruction” identifies wool production as a key contributor to biodiversity loss and climate change — shining a light on an industry that has been hiding behind marketing lingo for too long.

Shear Destruction - a report on wool, fashion and the biodiversity crisis - Collective Fashion Justice, Center for Biological Diversity, Circumfauna – Designed by Very Good Looking Berlin, Illustrations by Ari Liloan
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January 23, 2022

Words – Eric Mirbach
Images – Very Good Looking
Illustrations – Ari Liloan

In a report aptly named “Shear Destruction”, the Center for Biological Diversity and Collective Fashion Justice’s “Circumfauna”-initiative have been identifying wool production as a key contributor to biodiversity loss and climate change.

What’s more: It’s beautiful.

Hard Facts, Nicely Packaged

The well designed publication has been given into the trusted hands of mission-aligned branding, content & venture agency Very Good Looking, who in turn got decorated creative Ari Liloan on board to breathe life into the facts & figures in beautifully crafted, double-edged illustration work.

Shear Destruction - a report on wool, fashion and the biodiversity crisis - Collective Fashion Justice, Center for Biological Diversity, Circumfauna – Designed by Very Good Looking Berlin, Illustrations by Ari Liloan
Shear Destruction - a report on wool, fashion and the biodiversity crisis - Collective Fashion Justice, Center for Biological Diversity, Circumfauna – Designed by Very Good Looking Berlin, Illustrations by Ari Liloan

Solid Research and Drastic Finds

But if the design pulls you in, it’s the solid research work and drastic findings that make you stay.

“Nothing about wool is sustainable”, says Population and Sustainability Director at the Center for Biological Diversity, Stephanie Feldstein, co-author of the report.

Feldstein finds clear words: “The industry has been pulling the wool over our eyes for decades, claiming that wool is a sustainable fiber.”

Five Times the Climate Cost of Cotton

According to the report, nothing could be further from the truth.

The average climate cost of sheep’s wool according to the findings in “Shear Destruction” is 3 times greater than acrylic materials and a whopping 5 times greater than conventionally grown cotton.

Additionally, It uses 367 (!) times more land per bale than cotton, and the chemically intensive process of cleaning shorn wool kill aquatic life and pollutes waterways, says “Shear Destruction”.

“There’s nothing natural about this industry.”

“Sheep grazing pastureland may seem innocent and natural,” says Collective Fashion Justice founding Director Emma Hakansson, co-author of the report.

“There’s nothing natural about this inefficient, unsustainable and exploitative industry.”

Find Emma’s latest piece on Speciesism in Ethical Fashion for Antagonist here.

Shear Destruction - a report on wool, fashion and the biodiversity crisis - Collective Fashion Justice, Center for Biological Diversity, Circumfauna – Designed by Very Good Looking Berlin, Illustrations by Ari Liloan
Shear Destruction - a report on wool, fashion and the biodiversity crisis - Collective Fashion Justice, Center for Biological Diversity, Circumfauna – Designed by Very Good Looking Berlin, Illustrations by Ari Liloan
Shear Destruction - a report on wool, fashion and the biodiversity crisis - Collective Fashion Justice, Center for Biological Diversity, Circumfauna – Designed by Very Good Looking Berlin, Illustrations by Ari Liloan

In Pursue of A Better Fashion Future

The report based its findings on available data from the Higg Material Sustainability Index (MSI), the Food Agriculture Organization (FAO), Australian and U.S. government agency reports, industry sources and scientific papers.

“Cutting through the wool industry’s well-funded mythology is no easy task,” says Joshua Katcher, founder of the Circumfauna initiative and co-author of the report. 

“We need to have an honest discussion about wool’s outsized impact and transition to plant-derived and high-tech materials that don’t take such a big toll on native species and the climate.”

Katcher has written about this potential better future for fashion for Antagonist at length.

Shear Destruction - a report on wool, fashion and the biodiversity crisis - Collective Fashion Justice, Center for Biological Diversity, Circumfauna – Designed by Very Good Looking Berlin, Illustrations by Ari Liloan

The authors and orgs behind the paper are calling on fashion industry associations, brands and designers “to commit to phasing out our reducing wool by at least 50% by 2025, to support material innovation and embrace alternatives that do not depend on fossil fuel-derived fibers.”

“A great read — and a wake-up call!”

All in all, “Shear Destruction” is a well-researched and knowledgeable read, but it’s also a wake-up call:

According to the authors, both industry and consumers need to acknowledge the harms to biodiversity, the climate, and — last but not least — the animals caused by wool and the sustainability language used to hide the uncomfortable truths, as laid open in the report.

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