BBC 🔵 Sheep wool torched in protest over ‘measly’ prices – Shango Media
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BBC 🔵 Sheep wool torched in protest over ‘measly’ prices

Sheep wool being burnedRichard Bett

Farmers have vowed to continue burning sheep fleeces in protest over « measly » wool prices.

Most farmers sell their fleeces through British Wool but some have said the price paid meant it was simply not a viable option.

Over the years, the use of mass-produced synthetic fibres has caused a decline in the use of wool in clothing, with Covid-19 worsening the situation.

However, Graham Clark, from British Wool, said the price was improving.

Wool is often marketed as luxurious, durable and sustainable, and commands a much higher price than items made of synthetic fibres.

However, Jade Bett and her husband Richard, who farm in Yarburgh, Lincolnshire, said they planned to burn their wool « out of protest as well as practicality ».

The pedigree breeder said the « measly » payment they would receive from British Wool for the fleeces from their 260 sheep meant « it’s not viable for us to send it ».

« It’s a sad situation », said Mrs Bett. « I might get a cheque for 30 quid. »

« I’ve got to take my time and transport it. It’s not worth it, » she added.

Jade Bett

Joe Wier/BBC

According to Nicola Noble, from the National Sheep Association, the « wool cheque » – money paid to farmers for their produce – would often cover the cost of a farm’s rent for a year.

« But that’s not the case anymore, » she said.

However, Ms Noble said protest burnings posed « a real risk to the whole industry ».

« If everyone has that attitude of ‘it’s costing me too much money to send it, I’m going to burn it and bury it’, then British Wool is no more, » she added.

Fleece values have steadily declined from a high of £14 per kilogram in the 1950s, to less than 75p in 2022. Of that, farmers were returned just over 26p per kilogram.

However, British Wool said it still collects 75% of all the wool that is produced.

Mr Clark urged « those farmers [thinking of burning their wool] to talk to us. »

« I’m not going to sit here and say they [prices] are where they need to be. There is still a lot of work to be done, » he said.

« But they are tracking in the right trajectory at the moment, » he added.

Karen Hames

Linsey Smith/BBC

Others have taken a different approach, including Karen Hames, who became so frustrated with the prices she started having tweed spun from her flock at her North Lincolnshire farm.

The award-winning breeder made 18 blankets out of the wool from her flock of 70 sheep, with her Axholme Valley Tweed project breaking even in its first year.

« Fashion designers need to come and look to see what fleeces farmers have to offer, » Ms Hames said.

« That would be the icing on the cake for me. »

Karen Hames' flock of Hampshire Downs sheep

Linsey Smith/BBC

Wool is also used in compost and as insulation, but these industries are relatively small-scale.

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Related Topics

  • Sheep farming
  • Yarburgh
  • Animals
  • Brigg

Related Internet Links

  • British Wool

  • National Sheep Association

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