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Feb 17, 2019
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Boohoo bans wool after PETA campaign but quickly backtracks on decision

Published
Feb 17, 2019

On Friday afternoon, UK e-tail giant Boohoo became the first big-name retailer to ban wool in its products. By Friday evening, it had become the first big-name retailer to change its mind on the subject. 


Campaigning groups have said wool production is both cruel and bad for the environment


It had said that it would no longer use the fibre that was once the mainstay of the English economy but that has come under increasing attack by animal rights and environmental groups.

Yet after issuing a statement saying that from the AW19 season it would “no longer knowingly source any wool products,” it backtracked and said that it “continues to assess all options as part of its ongoing commitment to a more sustainable future.” It aded: “We are committed to ensuring the wool used in our supply chain comes from good husbandry and meets high levels of animal welfare.
We will continue to use wool as a sustainable material.”

The original decision to ban wool had come as a surprise but was also seen as one that wouldn’t inconvenience the company too much. It’s unclear just how much wool Boohoo uses in its products but a search for “wool” on its website offered up few results apart from some “wool-look” coats that were actually made from synthetics. 

So why had Boohoo announced the ban in the first place? The company, which owns its signature brand as well as PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Gal, has been in the spotlight due to issues with the materials in its products. It recently made headlines after having been found to be selling real fur items labelled as faux and has been under pressure from campaign group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which has been campaigning against the wool industry for the past five years. PETA says wool production is abusive to sheep, and specifically directed calls at Boohoo to ban the fibre. It’s also now focusing on US-based Forever 21 to do the same.

PETA has released a number of exposés videos in recent years claiming that conditions for sheep in some parts of the wool industry are cruel and showing workers at sheep-shearing facilities hurting conscious animals. It also claims that the “manure generated from livestock has significantly contributed to the increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases,” as well as the industry contributing to soil erosion and water pollution.

In 2017, another organisation, LiveKindly, released a report that claimed wool was fourth on a list of materials that have the worst impact on the environment. Cow leather was top of that list, followed by silk and cotton in second and third places.

PETA had hailed Boohoo’s original decision to ban wool on Friday and it would certainly have been a publicity coup for the group that could have influenced other retailers to follow suit.

However, the wool industry itself had criticised the decision saying that wool is one of the most sustainable options for the fashion sector and also highlighting the fact that it’s a natural fibre that will biodegrade in a way synthetics don’t.

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