London - Sadly, the fashion industry is no stranger to undercover investigations which shed light on the darkest corners of its supply chains, especially when it comes to human right violations or animal cruelty and abuse. Not long after animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) published an exposé which revealed the horrific abuse alligators and crocodiles suffered on farms which supplied exotic skins to Hermès for its famed Birkin bags, comes a new case of extreme animal cruelty from within the industry's supply chains.
In PETA's latest investigation, the group reveals highly disturbing video evidence of animals cruelty occurring on farms which are part of the Ovis 21 network in Argentina, which supply merino wool to apparel company Patagonia as well as designer label Stella McCartney. The short video shows workers repeatedly causing physical harm to the sheep and lambs sheared for their wool, in some cases sawing through the animals' necks with knives, causing them to bleed and vomit. Other lambs are seen having their ears and tails docked without anesthetic, with one lamb's genitals being left tightly bound for a slow, painful castration and whilst another lamb was filmed being skinned alive.
'Disturbing as anything PETA puts out'
These documented cases of animal abuse are in stark contrast to Patagonia's code of conduct policy, which claims its suppliers must "respect animal welfare" and adopt "humane practices." The outdoor apparel label, which is known for its ongoing commitment to sustainability and responsible sourcing, has responded to the footage, calling it "as disturbing as anything PETA puts out." The brand has stepped forward and accepted responsibility for the animal cruelty conducted by its suppliers, adding that the investigation was "especially humbling" because the company aimed to improve animal welfare and local grasslands by working together with Ovis 21.
Patagonia has launched an internal probe into Ovis 21 farm network, as the company acknowledged that "beyond verifying that no mulesing occurs, we have not audited its animal-welfare practices and were unaware of the issues raised in the video." PETA is currently requesting that Patagonia halts buying and selling wool products, however Patagonia openly states in their statement that they do not share PETA's belief in the use of animals for any human purpose. Nevertheless, the company agrees the animal rights organization "plays an important role in raising awareness of harmful practices involving animals, and we listen when legitimate concerns are uncovered."
The outdoor apparel company also points out that they have been working with other labels and the Textile Exchange to develop a 'Responsible Wool Standard,' which when completed would hold a global standard for the ethical treatment of animals. "We are not immune to shocking images. There is no excuse for violent shearing methods and inhumane slaughter," reads the statement. "We are investigating the practices shown. We will work with Ovis 21 to make needed corrections and improvements, and report back to our customers and the public on the steps we will take. We apologize for the harm done in our name; we will keep you posted."
Other designers who source from Ovis 21 farm network include Stella McCartney, who is known for refusing to use fur, leather and exotic animal skins in her collections. Following the investigation published by PETA, McCartney commented: "After conducting our own investigation in Argentina and throughout our supply chain, following a very distressful viewing of PETA US footage, we immediately ceased buying wool from Ovis 21. We are deeply saddened and shocked by the cruelty seen on the footage, as animal welfare is at the heart of everything we do. This is a huge setback to help saving the grasslands in Patagonia." "
PETA continues its battle against wool
"We are now even more determined to continue our fight for animal rights in fashion together and monitor even more closely all the suppliers involved in this industry. We are also looking into vegan wool as well, in the same manner we were able to develop and incorporate high-end alternatives to leather and fur over the years." Following it's investigation PETA US has filed a complaint with Argentinean authorities, citing the country's federal animal protection-law.