Knitted socks

A Guide to Kind Knitting

Ethical wool yarn and alternatives for animal-friendly knitting


Did you know that there are also animal welfare problems with the production of wool?

One of the biggest problems is the so-called mulesing in merino sheep. In mulesing, lambs are usually cut off large strips of skin on their buttocks without anaesthetic. This cruel procedure is only practiced in Australia.

Mulesing is done to prevent from possible fly attacks by removing excessive skin folds where flies like to lay eggs into.

What can I do?

There are two questions you should ask yourself.

Could this yarn be made from alternative materials?  
If so, you will find a list of common alternative materials in the guide.

Does it have to be merino wool? 
If yes, you should consider the following to ensure that your purchase does not support animal suffering:

Find out about knitting wool brands and retailers. If your favorite brands or retailers publicly oppose mulesing and the wool has one of the following labels, then you can be sure that your wool is mulesed-free:


  • Responsible Wool Standard (RDS)
  • ZQ Merino
  • New Merino
  • GOTS (only if the wool is not from Australia)
  • SustainaWool Gold

Be cautious when noticing other labels – even if it says organic, mulesing cannot be ruled out for certain. A general rule to apply is, if the wool originates from Australia, it is possible that mulesing could have taken place.


These materials are not of animal origin and are therefore automatically free of animal suffering. Attention: synthetic fibres are often mixed with natural fibres (of animal or vegetable origin).


can be pro-cessed into viscose fibres or environmentally friendly Monocel. The material is:

  • like a mixture of silk and cashmere
  • light
  • durable
  • insulating
  • resistant to odours


is the best-known alternative to wool and accounts for about a third of the world’s fibre production. Organic cotton produces 70% less CO2than conventional cotton. The material is:

  • soft
  • sensitive to skin
  • wrinkle-free
  • absorbent


grows fast and comes without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilisers. The material is:

  • fully compostable
  • durable
  • sensitive to skin
  • antimicrobial


is obtained from the stems of the flax plant. Cultivation and processing are particularly environmentally friendly. The material is:

  • tear resistant
  • cooling
  • quick drying
  • anti-allergenic

Lyocell or Tencel

is a cellulose fibre made from sustainable forestry. The material is:

  • made from eucalyptus wood
  • easily recyclable
  • soft
  • insulating


is a viscose fibre that is primarily obtained from the wood pulp of sustainably grown beech. The material is:

  • soft and smooth
  • easily recyclable
  • 50% more absorbent than cotton
  • quick drying

The animal suffering behind mohair, alpaca, cashmere or angora wool

Mohair, alpaca, cashmere or angora wool are often used in knitting. Unfortunately, there are major animal welfare concerns also associated with these materials. Cashmere goats, angora goats (mohair) and alpacas suffer during the collection of these materials, often due to the lack of animal welfare guidelines in the producing countries.

The main issues regarding animal welfare are: 

  • Stress, panic and injuries during shearing, with alpaca especially suffering with stress when restrained
  • In some cases, wool is forcibly removed from the animals such as cashmere goats where the fine under hair is painfully torn out with metal combs
  • Outdoor husbandry is often insufficient with a lack of protection from strong winds and other weather conditions, and an inadequate provision of food and care
  • There is often a lack of medical treatment following the shearing process and in the case of Angora rabbits, they often suffer from harmful infections, particularly of the eyes as result of unchecked breeding and poor cage keeping

There is no animal-friendly production of angora wool. Therefore, FOUR PAWS strongly reject its use and purchase. 

Avoid buying cashmere, mohair and alpaca. Since standards have either not yet been sufficiently checked or animal welfare problems have not been adequately addressed, FOUR PAWS advises against the use or purchase of these wool materials.

You can download our complete knitting wool guide here:

'Knitting Kind' - a FOUR PAWS guide

'Knitting Kind' - a FOUR PAWS guide

An animal-friendly knitting experience. Find out more about the yarn brand/supplier here!