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Patagonia says it has stopped buying wool from Ovis 21 after People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals accused members of the Argentinean farming network of abusing its lambs and sheep. “We’ve spent the past several days looking deep into our wool supply chain, shocked by the disturbing footage of animal cruelty that came to light last week,” Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario wrote in a blog post on Monday. “In light of this, we’ve made a frank and open-eyed assessment of the Ovis program. Our conclusion: it is impossible to ensure immediate changes to objectionable practices on Ovis 21 ranches, and we have therefore made the decision that we will no longer buy wool from them. This is a difficult decision, but it’s the right thing to do.”
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Until PETA released video of workers mutilating and skinning lambs alive, Ovis 21 was widely lauded for working with the Nature Conservancy. to establish a sustainable grazing protocol designed to regenerate the Patagonian grasslands.
While Patagonia says it was aware that many of Ovis 21’s ranches also produced meat for human consumption, it also condemns the “horrifying mistreatment” of animals whether during shearing or slaughter. “We took some important steps to protect animals in partnering with Ovis 21, but we failed to implement a comprehensive process to assure animal welfare,” Marcario admitted.
The outdoor-apparel firm says that it’s now in the process of rebuilding its wool program—with a partner that can ensure a “strong and consistent approach” to animal welfare while also promoting healthy grasslands.
Despite PETA’s call for the contrary, Patagonia will continue to make products from wool, Marcario said. The brand will also continue to sell products made from wool it’s already purchased.
Still, the company is making one major concession in light of the incident. “Patagonia will not buy wool again until we can assure our customers of a verifiable process that ensures the humane treatment of animals,” she added. “We apologize for the harm done in our name. We will continue to update you on our progress to do better.”
While PETA welcomed Patagonia’s news, the animal-rights group pointed out that even wool-bearing sheep eventually face the slaughterhouse after their usefulness runs out.
“PETA praises the new move, as ‘all steps are good steps,’ but cautions that as Patagonia delves deeper into the wool supply chain, it will find that cruelty will always be a part of wool production as we have found in Australia, the U.S., and now Argentina,” Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, said in a statement. “PETA remains hopeful that with the handwriting on the wall about the suffering of animals used for clothing, from crocodiles to rabbits to minks to sheep, that the only 100 percent humane solution is to switch to all-vegan wool.”
British designer Stella McCartney, another former Ovis 21 client, recently indicated a possible shift to animal-free wool.
Ovis 21 says it has withdrawn certification from the facility seen in PETA’s video.
“Ovis 21 does not justify cruelty,” the network said in a statement. “We deeply regret not having been informed at the time of filming to act immediately.”