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Update: April 14, 2021
Allbirds has just announced that by the end of 2025, it will switch to using only wool from “regenerative” sources—a move that does nothing to help the sheep who are tormented and eventually killed in the wool industry. Instead of meeting the skyrocketing demand for sustainable vegan fashion, which is kind to animals, Allbirds continues to hide behind empty welfare policies that do little to stop animal suffering.
If you feel that you were misled into purchasing wool products because of Allbirds’ animal welfare claims and/or sustainability claims regarding wool products, please e-mail us your story at [email protected].
Footwear company Allbirds knows that no one wants to buy products that cause animal suffering or destroy the planet, and it’s making misleading claims about the wool products that it sells.
This company knows that wool comes from sheep who live horribly and are eventually killed in the wool industry—but instead of making a real difference for animals by not selling their fleece, it continues to engage in humane washing and greenwashing by claiming that the sheep in its supply chain are treated humanely and that wool production is sustainable.
PETA and our affiliates have exposed cruelty to sheep the world over, and at the more than 100 large operations that investigators have visited—even so-called "sustainable" and "responsible" farms—workers beat, stomped on, cut open the skin of, and slit the throats of conscious, struggling sheep.
This is the reality of the global wool industry that Allbirds is trying to hide from consumers.
Here's why Allbirds' claims regarding sustainability and humane treatment are misleading and wrong:
- Allbirds and its supplier, ZQ Merino, claim transparency but have been unwilling to share information about the treatment of sheep to support its claim that "sheep live the good life"—a highly unlikely claim when individual care in such large production numbers has to be almost or absolutely nonexistent.
- Allbirds' life cycle assessment (LCA) tool currently only measures the carbon footprint of each product, meaning that it doesn't assess any other environmental impact of wool production, including on water, eutrophication, or land occupation. The Higg Materials Sustainability Index calculates that the carbon footprint of wool accounts for only just over half of wool's total environmental impact—that's all. In other words, Allbirds' LCA is excluding almost half of wool's environmental impact.
- Allbirds' LCA tool uses data from several sources, and there are discrepancies in industry-sourced data. Allbirds has chosen to use the most conservative assumption for each calculation, skewing the calculations in its own favor.
- Allbirds has acknowledged that wool is "not always low carbon from the start"—so why wouldn't it just use vegan materials that are low carbon from the start if it's truly interested in being an environmentally friendly company?
- Allbirds' claim of meeting rigorous standards of transparency is also patently false, as it stonewalls any enquiries into its wool sourcing. When its representatives were asked to provide details about the way sheep live "the good life," they responded, "I don't have the full, in depth knowledge to answer those precisely, I would definitely recommend reaching out to ZQ Merino, as they'll have more information." When we contacted ZQ Merino, it said, "The ZQ standard is not online because it's an on-farm manual for our growers, not a consumer facing document."
- Regardless of ZQ Merino's refusal to name specific farm requirements, the general information that it does provide online points to major problems with animal welfare. For example, ZQ farms are only "audited"—whatever that consists of in a massive sheep operation—about once every three years. And ZQ's website says, "the ZQ programme does not extend to certification beyond the farm gate, though we work with many long-term partners within the supply chain, who align with ZQ values and adhere to our Rules of Engagement agreement." This means, however, that slaughter and transportation—during which much abuse occurs—are not necessarily covered under the ZQ certification. Also, under certification, sheep can be deprived of food and water for up to 48 hours.
- ZQ Merino previously claimed that it only sources from countries with strong animal welfare legislation, but the standard now covers farms in Argentina, Australia, and South Africa—all countries where PETA and our affiliates have exposed egregious cruelty to animals, some many times over. Workers in Australia violently punched sheep in the face and beat and jabbed them in the head with sharp metal clippers and even a hammer. These attacks often left the petrified sheep bleeding from the eyes, nose, and mouth. In Argentina, workers picked up gentle lambs and—while they were fully conscious—tied their legs together, plunged knives into their throats, and sawed through their flesh. Then they snapped the animals' heads back to break their necks. In South Africa, workers dragged, roughly handled, threw around, mutilated, and even cut the throats of fully conscious goats.
- Allbirds also touts its use of discarded crab shells as "better for the planet," but the company buys shells from the Canadian snow crab industry, which is an inherently harmful industry. Endangered whales are being caught in snow crab fishing gear, and climate change is threatening the population of snow crabs themselves. Supporting this industry does not protect these animals.
What You Can Do
Wool can never be sustainable or humane. Whether it's a shoe, a sweater, or a blanket, if you buy a product made of wool, you're supporting the cruel wool industry. PETA has contacted Allbirds and shared information about the abuse and killing of sheep on wool operations. And luxurious animal-free options are plentiful! Please help animals suffering right now by urging Allbirds to drop wool immediately.