Animal rights group PETA is urging consumers not to buy real wool after the organisation’s operations in Asia claims to have documented the first video exposé of cruelty within the English wool industry.

The PETA Asia investigation shows shearers violently punching sheep in the face, stamping and standing on their heads and necks, and beating and jabbing the animals in the face with electric clippers.

An eyewitness to the abuse also documented that shearers from two contractors touring 25 farms made large, bloody wounds on the sheep’s bodies from fast, rough shearing and that the workers stitched gaping wounds up with a needle and thread and without administering any pain relief.

One farmer was filmed dragging two injured sheep who were unable to walk into a shed, where he left them to suffer without care. They eventually died. Several more sheep died during shearing from possible shock from the rough handling, or what one farmer called a “heart attack”.

PETA Asia says it has filed a 15-page complaint with the RSPCA and asked it to launch an investigation and, if appropriate, file criminal charges against the workers for apparent violations of laws prohibiting cruelty to animals.

“Sheep are gentle prey animals who are petrified of even being held down, yet these animals were punched in the face, kicked, and stamped on, and their heads were slammed into the floor by impatient shearers, causing them great distress and injury,” says PETA Asia vice president Jason Baker. “PETA Asia is calling on shoppers around the world to reject cruelty to animals – and that means never buying real wool.”

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In a statement issued in response to the PETA footage, British Wool said it is “shocked and saddened” by the behaviour of the two contractors.

“As a farmer-owned organisation British Wool collects and sells the wool on behalf of British farmers. We are passionate and committed to continuously seeking to improve shearing skills and good practice in the UK. Every year we train more than a thousand people in all parts of the UK on two day training courses that are tailored to their existing level of experience and skill.”

It added that while it is not within the organisation’s remit to police the shearing industry, it will provide the RSPCA with any support required during its investigation.

“We would like to point out that the vast majority of the thousands of shearers in the UK operate to the highest standards of animal welfare, which is an integral part of all our shearing courses,” it said.

PETA has for several years been urging retailers and consumers to boycott wool products over allegations of worldwide abuse of sheep in the wool industry.

Three years ago, Patagonia cut ties with one of its wool suppliers in Argentina after an investigation exposed “extreme cruelty” towards lambs and sheep at the Ovis 21 farm network. The outdoor wear specialist has only just reintroduced wool into its product lines, with stricter sourcing rules now in place ensuring all wool in its products will be certified to the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS).

And nearly 300 major retailers worldwide have banned mohair in response to a separate cruelty campaign by PETA, including Gap, H&M, Topshop, Marks & Spencer, Inditex, Primark, Anthropologie, Esprit and Asos – with charges filed against four angora goat farmers in South Africa last week.