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Views and opinions: Sheep shearers need their own protective association

PETA has declared victory in their battle over fur, and now they want to go to war over wool. I guess no one has told PETA that you don't have to kill a sheep to get its wool, like you have to kill a mink to get its fur. PETA wants folks to wear only "vegan wool" – but isn't it already?

PETA is going after wool because they say there's a great deal of abuse and inhumane treatment in harvesting wool, and I'd agree with them 100 percent.

You see, I was a part-time sheep shearer in my younger days and I gotta tell you, shearing sheep was the hardest work I've ever done, and my body took the most abuse of any job I've ever had. To the sheep it was like getting a haircut, but to me it was like being in a big washing machine in the spin cycle for three hours.

PETA says that when sheep are sheared there is a lot of punching, kicking, and beating going on – and that's true. While in all the years of raising sheep I never beat, punched, or kicked a single sheep, shearing just a small farm flock of 30 ewes felt like going 15 rounds with George Foreman.

If PETA really wants to do some good for society they ought to form a sister organization called PETSS – People For the Ethical Treatment of Sheep Shearers.

My shearing business consisted of making house calls that typically went something like this: "Thanks for coming on a Sunday to shear our five ewes; it’s my only day off,” they’d say.

"That's okay. How did you find me?"

"I called the guy who sheared my sheep last year. He says he quit the business right after he sheared our sheep last year."

"Well, where are these sheep you want me to shear?"

"Oh, they're still out to pasture. I've got the flu and thought you wouldn't mind gathering them for me. Before we begin, how much do you charge?"

"Well, it's like the sign at your local mechanic's shop. If you serve in some sort of an advisory capacity, it's $5 per head and I get to keep the wool. If you don't help, it's only $2 per head plus the wool."

You'd have thought I slapped his mother: "Are you kidding? That's outrageous! If you keep the wool I won't be able to get the wool subsidy from the USDA."

"Well sir, I had to drive an hour to get here, I've already wasted an hour gathering your sheep, plus I think I sprained my ankle jumping over those rusted bedsprings in your pasture. I may also need a tetanus booster."

"You won't hurt the sheep, will you? I saw some nomads on the National Geographic Channel shear their sheep and they tied the sheep up and made them bleed. Then I went on YouTube and discovered that there's this all-new ‘natural way’ to shear sheep where you chant to soothe them while you shear."

"I promise it won't hurt your sheep any worse than it hurt you to get that big ugly tattoo on your arm. What is that thing, some sort of dragon?"

"No, it's a likeness of my girlfriend."

"Oops. Sorry about that. Let's get started, shall we? We're burning daylight and I've got two more house calls after this."

"You sure make it look easy. You say you're charging me $2 plus keeping the wool?"

"You can have the wool. It's so dirty and full of stickers it's useless anyway. And if you're so worried about the welfare of your sheep, why did you let their hooves curl up like a French horn?"

"For as much as you’re charging you should throw in a free hoof trimming, too. And could you drench them for me while you're at it?"

After I finished, I said, "That will be all of $10."

"You'll take a check, won't you? Oops, I see I don't have any checks left. Can you bill me? I'll need a receipt for the wool subsidy anyway.

“And while you're here, you wouldn't mind trimming the hooves on our horse, would you? We can't seem to be able to find a horseshoer after the last one went on Facebook to describe his experience."


The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers may log on to to order any of Lee Pitts’ books. Those with questions or comments for Lee may write to him in care of this publication.