Patagonia to cease purchasing wool from supplier after PETA video exposes animal cruelty

Decision likely will affect future product lines to retailers and consumers as Patagonia searches for a new supply partner.
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Patagonia said Monday it would cease purchasing wool from its main supplier, Argentina-based Ovis 21, after PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) released disturbing video last week showing the mistreatment of sheep on the supplier's farms.

Patagonia confirmed that the three-minute-long PETA video showed inhumane treatment of lambs and sheep, castration, tail docking and the slaughter of lambs for their meat by its supplier.

Patagonia initially said it would work with Ovis to rectify the situation, but on Monday, decided to take more drastic measures.

“We’ve made a frank and open-eyed assessment of the Ovis program,” Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario said. “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.”

The decision will affect Patagonia’s wool product line to retailers and consumers, although perhaps not immediately, as Marcario said the brand will continue to use the wool it has already purchased. Once it has gone through that supply, however, “Patagonia will not buy wool again until we can assure our customers of a verifiable process that ensures the humane treatment of animals,” Marcario said. “Re-building our wool program — with a partner that can ensure a strong and consistent approach to animal welfare, while also fostering healthy grasslands — will be a significant challenge.”

Marcario said Patagonia would continue to make wool products, emphasizing that the production can be done in a humane and sustainable manner. PETA called for Patagonia to stop making all of its wool and down products.

“We reject the notion that cruelty is essential to wool production, despite what PETA claims,” Marcario said.

It will be the second time this past decade that Patagonia will have to completely overhaul its wool supply chain. In 2011, it began transferring its wool supply from New Zealand to Argentina to avoid the practice of mulesing (a controversial treatment to the sheep to ward off disease) and to help with grassland restoration in the area, in addition to other animal welfare improvements. That transition led to a season's delay for Patagonia's performance merino baselayers and it wasn't until 2014 that Ovis supplied all the wool for the line.

“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, and we are dismayed to witness such horrifying mistreatment,” Marcario said. She added that the brand will continue to partner with the Textile Exchange for an industry-wide Responsible Wool Standard, including animal welfare standards, much like it’s pursuing with its Responsible Down Standard.

--David Clucas

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