Working with nature.

Some very famous brands have been talking to us recently about ethics.

Concerns have been raised about the wool fibre grown for their products. Animal activist groups, and lets be fair, who don’t really have a good reputation so far as unbiased and honest report go, claim that humans eat sheep. This is true; their claims are a worry in that they also claim that sheep are treated cruelly during their life on the farm.   At this point please be clear that they are not accusing New Zealand farmers!

 Here is the truth.

Sheep are grown all around the world. Local customs and local environments mean that standards and practices vary.

In New Zealand there are strict laws on animal welfare, good environmental management and social welfare. It’s a modern society with lots of checks in place to ensure that everything is done in a nice way.     The clean and green New Zealand brand is fiercely protected. The last thing Kiwi’s want is to be seen as out of sync with nature.

New Zealand farmers are animal lovers that enjoy working with nature. Sheep are grown for food with wool being a relatively small part of the farmer’s income. The sheep are kept in large free-range properties, are sheltered, well fed and well looked after. A happy healthy sheep is a more productive animal.

The wool is taken from sheep once or twice a year depending on the type of sheep and the type of product the wool is grown for. During the shearing process the sheep are held in pens while they wait for their haircut. The sheep are held by the shearer in a relaxed state, and do not resist this process. They then go back to the paddock.

The farmers look after the land so that it can be passed onto their children and they look after the animals so they will be productive and keep giving us wool.

Not all parts of the world are as plentiful as New Zealand enjoying as much rainfall and sunshine and a moderate climate for wool.  Third-world farming communities need our help and support so they too can reach maximum potential.

Rather the calling for a boycott on wool, which hurts the good growers, why not work with these communities and show them how it’s done. Shunning third world farmers out of your own ignorance does not make the world a better place.

Campaigns of anger create tension; destroy livelihoods and ultimately force people to do desperate things to feed their family.   These extremist need to put down their digital placards and become part of the solution.

The video below illustrates the shearing process. Which as well as not causing any discomfort to the sheep, provides a livelihood for many hundreds of thousands of people in the textile industry around the world.

Integrity and happy sheep

Happy SheepNew Zealand has a reputation for producing clean white soft lovely wool.  Recently via Facebook someone asked “Yeah that’s all OK but how do you treat the sheep?”

I think this was a fair question, although it did get some social media responses as it was read as a little insightful by some.

The short answer of course is “Really well” Our farmers want their animals to be healthy and happy.  They sign up to a wool growing integrity programme with important rules on the environment, social responsibility and Animal Welfare.

Our animal health and welfare manual has firm objectives to ensure that our wooly friends are provided with five basic freedoms.

1. Proper and sufficient food and water.

2. Adequate shelter.

3. The opportunity to display normal patterns of behavior.

4. Physical handling in a way, which minimizes pain or distress to the animal.

5. Protection from and rapid response to any significant injury or disease.

Our wool growers are very aware that if carpet buying people have uninformed views on animal treatment it can put them off purchasing animal fibres.

The growers’ practices are externally verified through an audit process, which they gladly do in order to qualify for our Integrity programme.

Farmers tend to be animal lovers, they don’t want to see any animal suffer and they know that healthy happy sheep grow better wool.

Happy Sheep in New Zealand

Happy Sheep

Lovely Ethical Woolly Things

How do we know wool is ethical?

This week I have been asked that question by New York Knitwear Designer, Jennifer Raish.

Jennifer is a pioneer in the new industrial revolution which is about niche produced quality items distributed internationally and sold digitally.  Jennifer wants to know that she is providing her customers with ethically produced goods and her customers want to trust her.   As the world moves rapidly towards digitally shared information and niche markets customers want to know more about who made their thing.  These customers want to feel special about their purchase.

Jennifer’s fantastic things are on Etsy..  you should take a look…

Lovely wool by Jennifer Raish - click to see at Etsy

Lovely wool by Jennifer Raish – click to see at Etsy

Quality, Niche, Personalised & Exclusive have replaced Average, Mass, Standard and Boring.

This is how things are from now on, if you own a large factory you need to think long and hard about this and who will be your customers in 5 years from now.

Jennifer is not alone in her quest to create a wonderful special and woolly experience for her customers.  I have also been discussing all things wool and ethical with Katrin who runs another on-line experience  As the name suggests Katrin sells 100% natural wool and felt.

This is something I had been searching for a while as craft shops often only sell sheets of  polyester pretending to be felt (Felt must be made of wool but often other products are marketed as felt)  So I was delighted when Katrin made contact.

I asked Katrin to comment on why its important that her wool is ethically produced.

“My customers ask where the wool fibre we sell comes from, I ask the suppliers where the wool fibre they sell to us comes from… this is important because it makes us all more aware that it really matters in today’s world, we want to know and want to make informed choices.”

“One of the suppliers makes it easy, they sell only certified organic felt, guaranteed free from harmful substances and from organically kept sheep. She and her husband also dye the felt with natural dyes and create 15 different shades of colours. What never ceases to amaze me, is, that you can combine any of these colours you like and they never clash, they always harmonise…”

“Making your own felt is extremely satisfying. You can play about with the texture of wool and the colours and you get your hands really soapy and everything is a bit messy, just like being a child again but nobody can really tell you off when you are an adult in your own home.The results are often a surprise, the product evolves as you go along and you go along with it. I would call the process therapeutic.”

So why did Katrin decide to start an online shop ( selling pure wool felt?

“Because I believe in the product wool, the sustainability of it, it’s wonderful properties which you will not find in fibre created from petrol-chemicals, it’s ability to self cleanse ( woollen sweaters after a heavy days work indeed just need to be aired for some time and any smells that might have clung to them will evaporate). These days it is ever harder to find pure wool products because people are after easy to care for items. But in many ways woollen products are just that, they are water repellent, dirt resistant, fire resistant and harmonising when it comes to temperature. I for one do hope that wool will celebrate a huge come back, and I am not just saying that as a store owner. It will help the UK farmers as well, who until recently could not even pay the sheep shearer with the money they received for the fleeces that came off their sheep’s backs!”

Wool and felt from Wool and Felt

Wool and felt from Wool and Felt

Back to ethics

 Both Jennifer and Katrin are on a mission to provide an authentic experience with wool.  And both have concerns about where the wool comes from, is it truly ethical?  Do the sheep suffer?

If it is New Zealand wool then readers of this blog will know that the Kiwi farmers really care for and nurture their sheep.  Organisations like PETA have highlighted the practice of mulesing as cruelty to animals.  PETA are a little bit naughty with their tactics,  and like any extremist organisation they tend to only show the facts that work in their favour.  The truth is often inconvenient.  In saying that we need pressure groups to do exactly that, create pressure so that things do always improve.

The new pressure group is the customer,  if they don’t trust the product they simply won’t buy it.

Mulesing is illegal in New Zealand unless it is done to help an animal that is deformed in some way.  Even then it must be carried out by a vet and using anesthetic   It is extremely uncommon for a sheep in New Zealand to be mulesed,  it probably does not happen at all but it is technically legal under extreme circumstances for the good of the animal.

The practice is common in Australia as the climate is much hotter and the risk of fly strike much higher.   Australian sheep are mainly Merinos which have been bred to have folds in their skin,  This increases the surface area for growing wool, and is a real problem if you are a sheep.   But NZ sheep do not have this issue.   It is considered by Australian farmers to be kinder to mules a sheep than to let it have a painful slow death via fly strike.  Also the Aussie growers are spending millions on research and development to find alternative methods of protecting sheep from fly strike.

New Zealand farmers do not mules sheep as it not required due to the cooler climate and different sheep breeds.

In the marketing of lovely ethical woolly things we tend not to talk about negative stuff, but we also must be completely transparent and open if our customers are to trust what we make for them.

Go and take a peek at Jennifer and Katrins wonderful stuff,  Click the pretty pictures above to see their on-line stores.

Oh and one last thing.  MERRY CHRISTMAS!   Go an buy an ethical  present for someone you love.

Not a Lamb Roast

I have just been speaking with the writer Denna Jones about the importance of Laneve wool . It’s always fun to talk about sheep and all things wool! Denna is writing an article on “The importance of Wool” and had lots of probing questions about the part of sustainability we don’t always talk about.

Laneve wool only is only collected from live sheep, once the sheep has its annual haircut it is returned to the paddock to play with all the other sheep. This raised an obvious question…
“Doesn’t all wool come from happy living sheep?!!” – Well no!

Annabel with her happy and living Laneve sheep

Sheep are not only cute and fluffy, they also taste really good. A lot of wool is taken from sheep that have been prepared for a lamb roast. It’s called slipe wool. It’s perfectly good wool and can be used to make perfectly good carpets and textiles.

We only allow Laneve to have shorn wool from live sheep as it allows us to trace the wool to the farm and ensure that all the boxes on sustainability and animal husbandry have been ticked. Slipe wool can use chemicals and processes that don’t fit with what Laneve is all about.

This is a point that Denna and a few other animal lovers have been saying we should talk more about, so here I am talking about it.

Laneve wool only uses wool from happy cute sheep in New Zealand that live long happy lives.
If it’s not Laneve we can’t actually tell where it came from and how it got into your carpet.

Denna Jones blog is here…

Not a Laneve sheep but still very tasty

Why Origin Matters

Increasingly people care about where the products in their homes come from and what materials they are made from. Even the iconic apple brand is not imune to public pressure to provide not only excellence in design and product quality, but also a fair wage for the people who produce the products and responsibility to the environment.

It is often assumed that because a product is made from a natural material that it has been ethically produced but that is not always the case. In some parts of the world where wool is grown there are poor farming standards, poor animal welfare practices and low wages for workers. The quality of the wool grown in these areas suffers as a result. When used in products the products require more energy and time to create and often will have inherent performance issues.

The poor consumer thinks they are making an ethical choice to purchase a natural product, but sometimes the products pretending to be wool only contain very small amounts and the wool that is used is not enough to create any benefits.

New Zealand is the ideal climate for growing wool. The New Zealand sheep have been purposely bred to grow the right type of fibre for interior textiles and there are currently almost 30 million of them. The sheep in New Zealand not only grow great wool for textiles, but because of the environment is ideal and the sheep are so well cared for they actually grow a lot more wool than sheep from other parts of the world. The large volumes of wool produced allows an economy of scale meaning that wool is moved and processed more economically and with less environmental impact than is possible anywhere else in the world.

Wools of New Zealand created the Laneve™ brand in order to identify products with real integrity. The wool specifications are set before the lambs are born so that fibre is produced that is ideally suited for the product that it forms. The wool is grown, collected and prepared for manufacturing in large quantities that ensures efficiency. The farmers that join the Laneve™ programme sign up to a strict code of conduct and adhere to the very best practice in animal welfare, social welfare and land management. Above all the wool which is selected has outstanding quality.

Manufacturers who offer Laneve enter a partnership with the New Zealand wool growers to provide an exceptional product that is truly ethical and sustainable. This partnership ensures that the textiles created set benchmarks for quality and sustainability.

Laneve™ wools flow through efficient value chains that are committed to continuous improvement, sustainability and excellence in product design and customer experience.

All of the products under the Laneve™ brand must b 100% wool with no synthetic fibres. This enables the products to be recycled after many years of providing warmth, safety and great looks.

In the United Kingdom carpets containing Laneve can be purchased from special retailers known as Premier Partners. You can find one by clicking on the logo below…

find a Premier Partner