Saturday, 28 October 2017

Vegan Vs Wool Felt - My Perspective

Recently I read a discussion regarding wool felt and ethical issues. Whilst I believe these arguments are made sincerely and have valid points, I feel that the other side of the argument is often left out entirely. Are there any ethical issues relating to vegan felt?

Please be warned there may be graphic content in my words. You can google the graphic pictures if you so desire.

Moondyne / CC-BY-SA-3.0
The Big Merino in Goulburn
Australia is famous for it's "Big" attractions

Wool Felt:

The argument was made that vegan felt was more ethical due to the fact that it was made from recycled plastic bottles, and did not cause harm to animals. Whereas wool felt comes from sheep, and there are cruel animal husbandry practices such as mulesing associated with farming practices. Concerns were also raised about living conditions.

As the daughter of a sheep farmer in Australia, I must say that most farmers want to look after their sheep. Sheep in Australia are generally not housed in a shed or factory. They are free to roam in a paddock and eat grass. I guess the exception would be fat lambs - where lambs are kept in an enclosure in order to restrict grass intake and are fed grain in order to fatten them up quickly for market. This is done for the meat market and those lambs do not live long enough to provide wool. So wool felt has nothing to do with that. Sheep do not have to die to give us wool, and in fact, they need the wool taken off them for summer. It is in the best interests of farmers to look after their sheep, and the majority do.

Mulesing is a widespread practice that involves cutting strips of wrinkly wool-bearing skin away from around the backside of sheep to prevent faeces and urine getting stuck to the wool, which attacts flies who lay their eggs there. When the maggots hatch, they eat the flesh of the sheep. I have seen fly strike first hand. I know that whilst mulesing does cause pain it is short-lived and is very effective at preventing fly strike - where a sheep may rot to death from maggot infection. It does not smell nice.

Wool Felt Sheets by Andiec / CC-BY-SA-3.0

Vegan Felt:

Whilst the title sounds great, vegan felt can also have serious ethical issues.

Acrylic/Polyester Felt is vegan. It does not come from an animal source. It is however, made from petroleum. Wars are started over securing a stable petroleum source, so there are definitely ethical issues involved. Also, there are the issues of it being highly flammable unless treated with flame retardants - which probably carry health issues too. Plastics tend to off-gas hormonal substances which can interfere with the endocrine system and possibly cause infertility issues in factory workers. Not to mention the conditions endured by factory workers and the possibility of child slave labour.

Eco Felt is vegan. It is made from recycled plastic bottles. But does the fact that this is a second use negate the effects of production in the first place? The re-melting process is likely to cause further off-gassing anyway. 

Bamboo Felt is vegan. It comes from vegetation. But it is probably harvested in a way that causes deforestation and loss of habitat for Panda Bears. If it is grown, how likely is it that it is grown in areas that were previously deforested?

Viscose/Rayon Felt is vegan. It is made from cellulose sourced from wood pulp, so is also likely to contribute to deforestation and loss of habitat issues.

Colored Felt Cloth by Bastet78 / CC-BY-SA-3.0

My conclusion:

Ethical issues are important, but no decision is perfect. Until Jesus returns to set everything straight, we are going to have to live with imperfect circumstances.
I use whatever I am able to get my hands on. 

If I use: 
  • acrylic felt - I am providing factory workers with a job (and using affordable felt)
  • wool felt - I am providing farmers with a job (and using great quality felt)
  • re-cycled materials / eco felt - I am preventing waste (and reducing pressure on landfill)
  • second-hand materials - I am upcycling (and giving to charity when I buy from a charity shop)
  • new materials - I am developing industry (which is important for the financial health of a region)
  • etc etc etc

I hope that what I am making out of the felt is important too. I am using what resources I can to make the world a better place, and bring a smile to the faces of both children and their carers. My aim is to spread the message of God's love for each individual.

"So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." I Corinthians 10:31

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