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  5. What An Animal Sanctuary Can Do With A Resident’s Wool

What An Animal Sanctuary Can Do With A Resident’s Wool

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Close up of a sheep's woolen body.

If you’re taking care of species bred for their fiber in a sanctuary environment, inevitably there will come a time when they will need shearing in order to keep them comfortable. Typically, a resident bred for their fiber will have to be shorn about once to twice a year, normally towards the beginning of the hot season. Choosing not to shear them will only saddle them with discomfort, increased heat sensitivity, and some health challenges like Pizzle End Rot and skin conditions due to ammonia buildup. It wasn’t their fault that they’ve been bred to make so much wool, and it’s now a human responsibility to keep them safe and comfortable.

When performed with care and a great deal of patience, shearing a resident should not be any more painful for them than a human getting a haircut, although they may have to be uncomfortably restrained due to their aversion of the loud shearing buzzer, especially as it nears their face. It is possible to find shearers who are very mindful of the residents that they care for, even if they may have differing opinions on the value of a resident’s life than how a sanctuary might feel.

Shearing At A Sanctuary

Which brings us to the wool at the end of the shearing process. If you have fiber-producing resident at your sanctuary, you’re going to end up with a whole lot of it after a year! Recently, Luvin Arms Animal Sanctuary performed shearing on their two resident Merino sheep, Finn and Teddy. The results included two very pink and slender friends as well as two very large carts full of wool! The shearer they worked with remarked about how valuable their fine wool was to many humans. The sanctuary did not find it valuable in quite the same way.

Some visitors suggest that a sanctuary do different sorts of things with the resulting wool: turn it into yarn and sell it, donate it to another organization, or add it to the compost bin. Although Finn and Teddy are living a happy, exploitation-free life at their sanctuary, this sanctuary in particular believes it’s inherently against their core ethos to perpetuate the cycle of commodifying their bodies for human desires. To them, selling their wool or donating it for human purposes does not honor their story, one of abuse and neglect in their captivity as living beings only worth the wool they could grow. The sanctuary also does not create compost with animal byproducts as part of their Philosophy of Care, so that was out.

Ultimately, the sanctuary decided that the best option for all that wool was to let nature make use of it rather than humans. Many different kinds of wild animals are experts at using the organic, biodegradable material for building comfortable nesting for themselves and their families. By giving the wool back to nature, the sanctuary could provide a new perspective to visitors about not valuing residents for what they can do for people, but treating them as complex individuals who deserve to exist for their own sake. In their perspective, to take the wool and use it for human benefit would be no more compassionate than to eat the eggs that rescued hens have no choice but to produce.

If you’re thinking of adopting this policy at your sanctuary, you could go one step further and naturally dye the wool of each individual resident you shear before letting it go into the wild. You’ll be amazed to find how far their wool goes in many animals’ nests and homes and can show how much good it can do outside of a sweater!

Other Options

For organizations looking for other wool choices, some donate the wool to a local wildlife rehabber who may be able to use the wool as bedding or to another animal sanctuary that is interested in using the wool as bedding or enrichment. In the tragic instance of a recent oil spill, wool can also be donated to organizations working on clean-up as they use it to soak up oil.

Updated on August 6, 2020

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