Thursday, September 27, 2007



Here is what is upsetting me. Go to the Interweave blog here and read Amy Singer’s article

She links to the Donna Drachunas article “Have You Any Organic Wool?” which other than perpetuating the myth that sheep are dipped in vats of organophosphates is a pretty thoughtful article.
Then further down the page is the link to O-Wool.
Now O-Wool may be a fine product, but if the maker of the product libels others who grow and process wool and pay to advertise in Interweave Press Publications like Spin-Off - AND PERPETUATES THE SHEEP DIP MYTH, they aren’t very nice people.
These are the same people, Vermont Organic Wools (O-Wool) touted in Interweave Knits current issue in an article about organic wool by Judith MacKenzie McCuin. When I went to their website, I found this:
“ Use of synthetic hormones, vaccinations, and genetic engineering is prohibited
Use of synthetic pesticides (internal, external, and on pastures) is prohibited.
Producers must encourage livestock health through good cultural and management practices.
Organic livestock production enables the farmer to control parasites, lice, and flies without chemicals.
Allowed techniques include clean pasture management, good nutrition, vaccination, and the isolation of sick animals. The nutritional and behavioral effects of controlled organic grazing minimize stress on animals and keep immune systems functioning at a higher level…..”

And further:“ There are two key distinctions in organic livestock management. First is the elimination of "dipping," a method of controlling external parasites in which sheep are submerged in pools containing organophosphate-based paraciticides. Studies have indicated that prolonged exposure to sheep dip pesticides cause changes in the nervous system of humans. (Think what these chemicals do to the sheep!) Moreover, disposal and "runoff" of dips can contaminate ground water supplies."
I have raised a rare breed of sheep, Finnsheep, for over 20 years. I am not aware of the use of hormone treatments of sheep that produce wool in the USA. The only hormones I can think of used in wool sheep production are for artificial insemination. This is a very expensive procedure and done very rarely.

Some vaccinations against diseases are allowed by USDA in their organic certification for sheep. There is no genetic engineering (cloning?) of wooled sheep that I know of unless by universities (Dolly). Isolation of sick sheep - - without treatment - - is not allowed under USDA organic standards.

There is NO approved vaccination to prevent parasite infestation in the USA.
It doesn’t matter whether the flock is organic certified or not, there is no such thing.

Sheep dipping is next to non-existent. Dipping sheep in organophosphates was required by law in the UK, but not in the USA. In the UK it has been banned for over a decade. It is like Sasquatch. People talk about it, but…….. If someone can find me a flock that dips sheep I would be interested in learning about it.

Possibly the use of the sheep-jargon word "drench" to describe an oral dose of medicine or vitamins is helping this myth along.
Promoting a business that strongly suggests everyone else in that business is doing disgusting things such as dipping is just plain wrong.

I submitted comments to the Interweave blog at the end of the Amy Singer article, but many of us don’t believe our comments will be published. That is why the blogosphere is involved. You can read another response here,

You can also write to Amy Singer here. She is the editor of Knitty, a Canadian publication.

It was in promoting her book, NO SHEEP FOR YOU, that Interweave crossed the line suggesting briefly that it was a book for people who had “ethical issues” with wool. As soon as I wrote Interweave about my profound disgust with those words, they deleted them. Once I get wound up, however,….You can read my response, “Ethical Issues with Wool,” in the current issue of FiberFemmes

This is not the first time Judith MacKenzie McCuin and Interweave Press has ruffled the crimped locks of wool growers. In the fall 06 issue of Spin-Off, she suggested that for wool to be organic, producers should not vaccinate, not treat lambs to prevent parasites and become friendly with predators and again touted Vermont Organic Fibers.

USDA allows organically certified sheep to be vaccinated against some of the most common diseases such as tetanus and overeating disease. As a shepherd, the last thing I want to do is watch a lamb die in agony from either one. As you will learn in the Donna Drachunas article, if you don’t treat lambs and sheep for worms, be prepared to accept death losses. Those words sound sterile. What it means is get ready to see dead and dying sheep. Sheep don’t just painlessly drop dead from worms. It takes time, during which the sheep becomes anemic and starved and presumably suffers.
You can read my article “Organic or Humane,” in the May/June Fiber Femmes
This is my experience with predators that was not at all friendly. Caution, unpleasant detail


Blogger Madame Purl said...

Just wanted to say love your article on Fiber Femmes. I love wool and it is my preferred spinning/knitting fiber. Ok, well with a little alpaca and mohair thrown in for good measure.

I personally think that I would trust more what the farmer/shepherd or shepherdess has to say in the end. Not a government agency about the best interest of animals. Those who walk the walk on a day to day basis is where I get my advice and have been collecting advice for my future flock. :) I'm sure a dream flock, but a girl's gotta dream.

I like to believe most people who have animals want the best for them and if that includes a vaccination for a little lamb to grow up to be happy sheep, so be it. Happy sheep produce beautiful fleece.

9:51 AM  
Blogger cyndy said...

Thank you Grace, for your views on organic livestock management, and some of the myths associated with it. I appreciate your knowledge and experience as a shepherdess--as well as your efforts to educate and set the record straight.

I never would have guessed that a word like "drench" refers to an oral dose of medicine! I can certainly see how that word could be misinterpreted.

I remember when the USDA set the standards for growing organic vegetables that would be certified.
I was shocked to see that some of the methods that were allowed were far from what I knew and considered to be consistent with organic methods that we had practiced for years. Seems that word "organic" requires us to do lots of reading! Consumer Beware!

6:28 AM  
Blogger Leigh said...

What an excellent post. I found your blog by following a link from Riverrim blog. I have had some issues with Interweave in other areas, so this just confirms my opinion. I'm glad I found your blog.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Cary at Serenity Farms said...

Grace, I wanted to take the time to thank you (from one shepherd to another) for your writings here, at the mentioned links and also your editorial letter printed earlier this year in the Shepherd magazine!

Now, I need to get off my lazy backside and do some writing of my own as you have done! Possibly the more voices the better...

Again, thank you.

Cary Smith, Serenity Farms in Michigan

6:58 PM  
Blogger Barbara, creative compulsive said...

Thank you for bringing up these issues. I have had concerns over this and many others related to ethical and humane treatment of our dear fiber creatures. What I wonder is if these articles are referring to corporate farming in Australia but they don't want to specify. I've heard many horrible things about these huge corporate farms.

It is good to call everyone to task who does not specify because the vast majority of individuals who raise fiber animals care for them deeply and would never permit inhumane, cruel or insensitive treatment of them.

My 2 cents,


3:09 PM  

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