The other day I was at this lovely place, HAP, in Den Bosch. It’s run by two young idealistic people and they have an array of fresh foods and chocolate.
I went to check it out and ooh-ed and aah-ed at their display of organic breads and animal friendly foods. The seating area has a wonderful atmosphere, yes I see myself sitting here enjoying a tea and a cupcake:
I had a lovely chat with the owner and tried to connect by showing my Sprig sweater that I happened to wear. Handspun, handknit! Fleece straight from the petting zoo, where we showed children spinning.
The young man was very friendly but said he preferred second hand wool. I didn’t understand because all wool is second hand, if you ask a sheep.
He explained that vegans see the use of wool as disrespectful to the sheep, as a violation of their rights actually. Therefor he uses wool that has been used by another human first. To be precise: he gets his woolen blankets and jumpers from the thrift store. And he needs wool because he lives in accommodations without heating.
pic by Michael & Christa Richert
We touted the qualities of wool and agreed there is no alternative for it when you need warmth. I thought of the fur that’s traditionally used up at the Pole circle. But where we all live, we can survive easily without fur.
I thought of silk which is warm and strong and cool. But for that all pupae have to die. That’s worse than bothering a sheep for its fleece yearly.
The thing is, sheep need their wool removed. If you do not shear a sheep, it will not be able to survive long. So shearing a sheep is not a bad thing in itself. What the trouble is is that we bred a species that needs shearing. Original sheep just shed their fleece, the same as horses, dogs and cats do. There’re still a few breed around that shed or that need to be “plucked” because the fibre has a yearly breaking point in it, just like tree rings.
This treat of shedding has even been reintroduced and is marketed now as EasyCare Sheep or self shearing sheep. “Back to nature! Full circle!” you might think but this breed is developed for meat and the wool is viewed as an accompanying nuisance. We couldn’t get further from the vegan view where animals are not soulless products.
But I didn’t talk about Easy Care Sheep. We kind of both sighed at the state of the world as is. Then I bought some chocolate.
Two bars from fair trade company Chocolatemakers.nl who sail their cacaobeans straight from the farmers in the Caribbean to Amsterdam. With a real sail ship!
Volunteers help bring the cargo ashore and to the factory, all with CO2 neutral transport. By rowing boat, bike, horse and carriage. Anything! Everyone helping gets a bar of chocolate and a glass of rum. Look at pictures from last year here.
Vegan people and fair trade people are such NICE people and they have such good and fun initiatives 🙂
A next time I visit HAP I hope to talk again about shearing sheep and then I hope share the experience of being mammals during shearing.
Sheep friendly shearing starts with you nudging your own body against that of the sheep. Making contact, animal body to animal body. Using body language, the way cattle do. Nudging, resting a hand or a head against the other, manipulating a body mass using your own.
And harmonious in speed. No hurries. No panic. Everybody breathes easy.
It’s a wonder to experience how you’re allowed to manipulate another animal if you approach it like that. A sheep allows you to sit it on its behind, to lean over it, to guide its head around, move its legs.
pic by Joe Zlomek
To lie it on the ground, to pin it down (in a friendly, non threatening way). The mutual trust and the way the two bodies communicate is one of the true treasures in life. Respect.
(With it comes responsibility, of course. You cannot pin a sheep too long to the ground, it will faint or its intestines might knot up. You have to know what you’re doing.)