Merino wool: What to consider
Due to ist many positive features, merino wool is very popular among outdoor sportsmen and nature enthusiasts. Nevertheless, it is important to consider a few things when buying merino wool items – our blog explains why.
Merino wool has become an indispensable part of the wardrobe for outdoor athletes and nature lovers. It warms when it gets cold and cools when it gets too warm. It does not start to smell badly and is pleasant to wear without scratching. So why do we still have to question it?
Merino wool is not a synthetic, but a natural, renewable raw material. The merino sheep that supply the wool originally come from North Africa, from where they were brought to Spain by the emigration of the Berber tribes. In Spain they gained great popularity due to their fine wool and were already widely known in the 16th century. In the course of globalisation, the merino sheep also made it to Australia, where local farmers bred sheep with an even better and finer wool quality through targeted breeding.
Most breeding farms still exist today in Australia and New Zealand. Here the sheep are usually kept in free range. For some years now, however, the term "mulesing" has been used again and again in media reports. Mulesing is used on sheep to prevent parasite infestation. Mulesing means that the skin around the genital and tail area is cut off from the lambs, so that no more fur can grow. This prevents flies from laying eggs in the fur, which is soiled by excrement and urine.
The maggots would otherwise begin to eat themselves into the sheep's skin, causing inflammation that could lead to the death of the animal. Unfortunately, in many cases anaesthesia is not used in the application of this method, which is why the subject is repeatedly taken up critically by animal protection associations and the press. Research is currently finding alternatives, whereby mulesing can be replaced by insecticides that prevent parasite infestation. In addition, some farmers try to breed the animals in such a way that they produce less wool in the area threatened by parasite infestation.
There are now several initiatives and companies that advertise merino wool products from species-appropriate animal husbandry.
Since 2011, Patagonia has been working on a programme that promotes sustainable pasture farming in Patagonia and preserves sheep breeding. Through this approach, damaged grassland can be rebuilt and the existence of jobs and traditions can be secured through the preservation of local sheep farming. To ensure the welfare of the animals and workers on the farms, Patagonia has established the "Patagonia Wool Standard". This standard includes strict criteria and guidelines in the area of animal welfare and sustainable pasture management.
In order to not need to avoid buying comfortable merino wool products, it is important to inform yourself about the manufacturers and the origin of the products in advance when buying them. Since the merino wool products of Patagonia are subject to the "Patagonia Wool Standard", there is the possibility to buy clothing made of merino wool with a clear conscience.