Our Animal Welfare and Ethics

Our Mission as a Social Enterprise

  • To provide the alpacas and llamas in our care with the best possible lives and the utmost care.
  • To offer a welcoming new home  for unwanted alpacas and llamas from all over the UK, for life.
  • To provide people with hugely enjoyable and unique alpaca experiences that are accessible to all.
  • To immerse our guests in the beauty of the Lake District World Heritage Site and to introduce the delights of walking to a new generation of diverse visitors.
  • To share our knowledge about a fascinating species.
  • To be an innovative and environmentally conscious enterprise.
  • To design and make delightful, ethical and sustainable products that promote
  • alpacas and their yarn.

 

Animal Welfare

The welfare and wellbeing of our alpacas and llamas is the most important part of our organisation and our work. We spend every day (and many nights!) interacting with, caring for and working for our herd. They mean the world to us and once they are with us they have a guaranteed home for life.

All the alpacas and llamas that we re-home, rescue or breed, are given the highest level of day to day care and attention, under the constant observation (and obsession!) of our team. They receive the highest level of veterinary care from our local RCS accredited practice Millcroft Veterinary Group with whom we have an excellent relationship. We work in partnership to ensure we are consistently providing the best possible practice in animal welfare and management.

We have taken the social enterprise approach to caring for our re-homed alpacas and llamas – as an alternative to asking for donations for their care and to fund our work with third sector organisations, we facilitate highly enjoyable (and award-winning!)  interactions between alpacas and human beings. 

We are dedicated to maintaining and updating our facilities and knowledge to provide for the wellbeing of the herd.  This includes the construction of purpose built eco shelters, specifically designed to provide the best possible facilities for alpacas and llamas, and the development of a hydroponic fodder system so they can have fresh greens all year round.

We keep strict rules in place about the number of walks each member of the herd takes part in, and the number of people walking with them, to make sure that each walk is enjoyable for the alpacas as well as the humans – particularly the bit where they get to paddle in the lake which is always their favourite part of the day! By adhering to these rules we make sure that the majority of their day is spent simply mooching, eating, sunbathing, and generally being nosey and funny looking.

Because animal welfare always comes first (and because we are awesome), you will often see that we are fully booked , and it’s also why we are very strict about not allowing any extra bookings to be made, or additional walkers to accompany. Sorry guys!

All walks and activities are supervised closely by our dedicated and extensively trained guides who will always point out if any (human) members of the walk are behaving inappropriately or in a way that may irritate the alpacas or llamas.

We are members of the British Alpaca Society which is dedicated to the welfare of alpacas and the education of their owners in the UK.

 

Our Diversity Pledge

Actively promoting diversity and inclusivity is a vital part of our mission as a social enterprise. We are determined to make Alpacaly Ever After reflective of the diversity and inclusivity we want to see in the world. Inclusivity means striving to represent our diverse global community, including but not limited to race, gender, size, age, orientation, and ability diversity.

So how are we going about this?

  • We are actively promoting our activities to diverse groups, providing free or subsidised activities where appropriate. If you are part of any groups you think would be interested in what we do please get in touch.
  • We are actively seeking out diverse designers, makers, creators and producers that we can collaborate with. If you have a product and think it fits our business let us know by emailing us.
  •  We are committed to allyship and want to see this reflected in the events we choose to attend and the businesses we already work with. We will call out behaviour that doesn’t adhere to our own diversity pledge and seek to actively champion change through conversation.
  • We are dedicated to fostering an online community that is a safe space for all people. We will continue to monitor our online spaces to ensure that they remain the kind and supportive places that they are. Intolerance will never be tolerated in a space we have created.

We will always endeavour to be transparent in our business practices and we are learning and listening. We want to do the best we possibly can and to continue to learn and improve, so if you have any questions, want to offer help or point us in the right direction please get in touch. 

 

Our Shearing Process and Alpaca Yarn

We have always worked hard to make sure that our products and practices are as ethical and environmentally sound as possible. We don’t talk about it as much as we should, but we have always made it integral to what we do and what we make (and that’s why we were awarded a national Silver Green at Heart award in 2019!). We are constantly reassessing and re-evaluating the ethics of our products and materials – you can see more details in the table below.

As alpacas do not shed fleece and have been bred to have much thicker fleeces than their non-domesticated forebears it is necessary for their wellbeing to shear them – it stops them overheating in summer, becoming weighed down with fleece and developing skin conditions and other related illnesses. We do our shearing ourselves once a year in May or June. It is much less stressful for the alpacas to be handled by familiar humans that they trust and who understand how best to work with each individual.

Shearing doesn’t hurt or harm them in any way, but some of them don’t particularly enjoy it. This  depends on their personality and whether they mind being handled – a lot like dogs getting nails trimmed or children getting haircuts! For their safety the alpacas are laid down  on a mat as it’s much quicker and it restricts any unnecessary movement and possible injury. When we shear we always have one team member who they are familiar with holding their head and chatting to them to keep everything nice and calm. If we know a particular alpaca finds shearing very stressful then we will hand shear them standing up and just remove excess fleece. We also take the opportunity to trim toenails, check weight and do any necessary vaccinations at the same time so it’s a really important part of their care.

Alpacas aren’t sheared until they are at least a year old. The term ‘Baby’ alpaca yarn isn’t referring to actual babies, it just means the very best quality and softest fleece sheared from the main body of the alpaca (it’s known as ‘firsts’).

We are not alpaca breeders who breed for yarn, our purpose is primarily the wellbeing and rehabilitation of the animals in our care, and promoting the hugely beneficial interactions they have with human beings through our walks, treks and experiences. We re-home any alpacas in need regardless of their condition or fleece (we like to think of them as The Goonies of the alpaca world!), so while yarn production is not our priority, it is the reason why alpacas became the first ever domesticated animal and therefore a huge part of their heritage. Alpaca yarn is a beautiful natural fibre: it is soft, durable, luxurious and silky, it is warmer than sheep’s wool and has no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic. Alpaca fibre is naturally water-repellent and fire resistant. It’s pretty amazing! For this reason we feel it’s important to include alpaca fibre products in our Alpacaly gift range. 

We save the fleece that we shear from our own herd for three years until we have a substantial amount to process. There are very few British mills set up for alpaca yarn production as it is very different to sheep wool (no lanolin and very silky to process) so it is quite an expensive undertaking (particularly because The Goonies don’t have the best fleece so we lose a lot in sorting!). Last time we processed our fleece we turned it into a limited edition yarn batch of natural cream and brown in 50g balls and 100g skeins. This time we are looking into making it into finished products such as rugs, or offering the washed raw fleeces to hand spinners and crafters for their own use – if you have any specific requests or ideas let us know!

As demand far outweighs what we can supply from our own herd, we did a great deal of research (which is still ongoing!) and decided we wanted to support the birthplace of alpacas and the traditional heritage of alpaca breeders. We do this by purchasing from a Peruvian based company which has several ethical accreditations including USDA Organic and fairtrade, that verify good animal management practices. The company also supports local communities and education. We are aware that there are some shearing practices out there that will not be in line with our beliefs about how alpacas should be treated. This is made extremely difficult to monitor as there is currently no international alpaca shearing standard that guarantees animal welfare, so we are constantly re-evaluating our suppliers and investigating ways we can advocate for internationally recognised welfare accreditations.

This year, as we work towards our gold Green At Heart Award, we are investigating switching over to British alpaca yarn as this would reduce the carbon footprint of purchasing from overseas. Due to the limits of alpaca yarn in the UK it will mean there would be a reduction in the number of colours and weights of yarn, but we think it may be worth it to help us meet our long term environmental goals.   

 

Environmental Measures and Action Plan 2020

ISSUES TO OFFSET CURRENTLY ONGOING AIMING TOWARDS
Six sites to travel between and check everyday
  • Car sharing by staff to and from sites.
  • Electric work vehicles for staff use
  • Purchase farm site to consolidate hay/feed storage, work unit and grazing land
Use of diesel work vehicles for trailer pulling/animal moving/feed delivering
  • New animal transport vehicle has eco stop start technology
  • Electric haybale trailer and mule to reduce hay transportation to once weekly from daily
  • Electric work vehicles
  • Purchase farm site to consolidate hay/feed storage, work unit and grazing land
Visitors travelling to our sites from all over the UK and within the National Park
  • Links from our website to public transport information
  • Visitors advised in confirmation emails of options available
  • Electric car charging points at two of our sites (Lingholm Estate and Lakes Distillery)
  • Make links with existing transport companies
  • Purchase electric cars for customer rental
  • Electric charging points at all sites
  • Explore opportunities for collaboration with other businesses and sites we work with
Use of footpaths by camelids and humans
  • Alpacas and llamas have soft feet which have very little impact on ground
  • All walking routes strictly follow footpaths/bridal ways
  • Only designated camping sites to be used
  • Agreement has been made to donate to Fix The Fells using percentage of income from our overnight camping treks starting spring 2021
  • Donate buttons in the process of being installed on website for Fix The Fells and Woodland Trust.
  • Leave No Trace logo and policies developed and promoted.
  • Staff training with The Wilderness Foundation UK an official partner of the Leave No Trace Centre for Outdoor Ethics organisation.
  • Further connections to be made with Fix The Fells and Woodland Trust to support/collaborate on relevant projects
Waste produced by alpacas and llamas
  • Alpaca and llama manure has excellent properties as a fertiliser. Currently donated for use at the Lingholm Estate walled garden, and local sites on request.
  • Collected from grazing fields and composted onsite
  • Collected along walk routes and composted onsite
  • Alpacas and Lamas naturally low producers of methane with very efficient food processing
  • Expand the use of manure as fertiliser to all sites for landscaping and gardening
  • Collaborate with Lakeland Gold Fertiliser manufacturer to create our own product for resale
  • Purchase farm site to consolidate waste collection and composting, use manure onsite to develop vegetable growing and tree planting.
Fleece processing
  • Currently store fleece to be processed in large ergonomic batches
  • Collaboration with Forestry England who use our fleece to protect tree bark from deers
  • Develop techniques and further products e.g. using seconds fleece as bird nesting, insulation, sapling protection
  • Contact Fix The Fells and Cumbria Wildlife Trust for any collaborative uses
Use of antibiotics/medications

Parasites control particularly noting wet North-West Cumbria ground conditions

  • Never routinely dose with antibiotics but use only on specific cases when required
  • We test manure samples for worms and parasites to avoid immunity to treatment
  • Constant close monitoring and regular health checks to catch instances early
  • Ongoing research to provide most effective low impact solutions
  • Construct a test lab in our unit for parasite testing in-house
  • Investigate and Implement herb borders and natural parasite deterrents on grazing land for animals self medication
Use of land for grazing
  • Alpacas and llamas naturally process food efficiently and are conservation grazers
  • Have installed a hydroponic fodder system at our storage unit to produce fresh greens year round and reduce grazing needs
  • We provide hay year round to reduce grazing
  • Site surveys on all sites by our in-house conservation officer
  • Habitat piles made on field sites using cleared branches
  • Expand hydroponic system to  supplement grazing further
  • Combine grazing land use with tree planting, wildflower and wildlife conservation. Renovate, maintain and plant hedgerows to sustain wildlife corridors etc
  • Use data gathered from site surveys to implement appropriate conservation measures and to encourage wildlife e.g. bat boxes, bug houses, hibernation holes.
  • Collaborate with Woodland Trust and Sustainable Carlisle to facilitate tree planting onsite or funded offsite.
Fresh water needed for animals at all sites
  • Rainwater barrels used to feed in to water troughs
Electricity used at office and stage unit and in shelters on field sites
  • Electricity at office supplied using biomass
  • Solar paneling for field shelters currently awaiting construction
  • Purpose eco build for office and storage unit on farm site using renewable energy
  • Any electricity purchased should be from 100% renewable energy suppliers such as Ecotricity, Good Energy and Green Energy
Need to eliminate nettles and poisonous plants from grazing sites
  • Weed-wiping used as oppose to spraying when required
  • Research ongoing into lowest impact removal of unwanted plants
Gift products manufactured
  • All efforts are made to ensure that our products are environmentally and ethically sourced and produce
  • No plastic is used, all packaging is recycled and biodegradable
  • Materials sourced from the UK with the exception of the baby alpaca yarn which is sourced from a Peruvian supplier supporting sustainable trade for alpaca farmers, and the enamel pins which are supplied by a Chinese manufacturers with ethical accreditation
  • Stationery and card blanks are FCS accredited or recycled.
  • All printing and packing done onsite
  • Hand knits made locally
  • All cotton products are organic and fair-trade
  • Our toy filling is made from recycled plastic bottles
  • Further investigate British alpaca yarn suppliers as the market expands and ethical accreditations become available, to reduce carbon footprint.
  • Make further connections with like-minded companies to explore collaborations.
Outdoor gear needed for staff trekking and working in all weathers
  • Staff uniforms are sourced from ethical companies using sustainable fabrics e.g. bamboo, organic cotton, alpaca yarn
  • Waterproofing layers manufactured with PFC-free impregnation, made from recycled polyester
  • Make further connections with like-minded companies to explore collaborations and promotion
Lack of knowledge among some visitors about local environmental issues, wildlife and conservation.
  • Provide information on the website, social media and newsletter.
  • Information given by guides during activities, in particular our in-house conservation officer.
  • Conduct a full environmental audit of the business and share the results and progress with customers via website and social media
  • Produce and disseminate more information about wildlife and conservation via the website etc.
  • Develop role of conservation (and education) officer and environmental knowledge of guides.

 

We are constantly checking the decisions we make as we grow and evolve while we try to balance our financial sustainability as a social enterprise. This means providing the best possible care to our alpacas and llamas,  doing our best by the awesome people that work for us, and providing free and subsidised activities to the charitable groups we work with, while at the same time maintaining the most ethical practices. We are always open to questions and input in this ongoing quest so if you have any queries or suggestions we would love to hear from you.

Our approach to these tricky times...

The Woolly Army would like to send you their warmest wishes x

We wanted to contribute to the welfare of us all, and our health care service, by not encouraging unnecessary travel and by adhering strictly to the government’s policies on social distancing. With this in mind we postponed all our activities for the duration of Lockdown.

As the relevant restrictions are now scheduled to be lifted we are delighted to say that we have opened bookings from July 4th onward  (these will be subject to any changes in government policy restrictions at the time).

As a social enterprise whose revenue goes into looking after and rehoming unwanted alpacas and llamas from across the country with 120 animals in our care, our priority has been maintaining the welfare of the alpacas and llamas during this time and as always you have been SO supportive and we couldn’t be more grateful – thank you so much, we wouldn’t be able to do it without you guys x

We want to do our very best by all of you awesome people who have booked activities with us and so have extended our policies so that all bookings (including vouchers) will have a minimum of 18 months from now to reschedule their activity – no rush just get in touch at a later date when everyone’s back on their feet. If you would prefer we can also exchange your booking for a gift voucher that you can gift to someone else or spend in our online shop.

We will continue to keep everyone informed, up-to-date and spamming you all with alpacas and llamas via our social media channels and if there is anything in particular we can help with just email us and we’ll be in touch.

Being outdoors in the fresh air and surrounded by nature is a hugely important part of physical and mental wellbeing and as always the Woolly Army looks forward to sharing this with you again in our beautiful part of the world.

Our sincere thank you for all of your support and our love to everyone in these tricky times X