LONDON : ANIMAL rights group asks a village named Wool to give a thought to the sheep.

It began, the animal rights group says, as a playful attempt to draw attention to animal cruelty in the wool industry.

The group known as PETA sent a letter asking the English village of Wool to change its name to  Vegan Wool.

But the letter from the British branch of people for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, received last week by village officials, attracted scorn and ridicule from residents of  Wool after it was posted on Facebook  by the local parish council clerk, according to news reports.

''With a simple name change, your village can take a stand against this cruelty,'' Elisa Allen, director of PETA's  London office. wrote, pointing to evidence of mistreatment of sheep on farms around the world.

In exchange for the name change, Ms Allen said, ''we'd be happy to provide every Vegan Wool household that would like one with a cozy, cruelty-free blanket.''

PETA recently published graphic videos showing workers in British farms punching animals while they sheared the wool. The group wanted to draw attention to the  footage  by sending the letter, Ms Allen said in a phone interview.

''It's not a benign industry   -it's not a haircut, as people often assume it is,'' she said.

The parish council of  Wool, in the county of Dorset, 120 miles southwest of London, said in an email that PETA's  ''request had not been received very well.''

Headlines in traditionally conservative tabloids cried foul, saying that PETA believed the name Wool promoted animal cruelty when it was actually linked to water, and quoting residents who ridiculed the suggested name change.

''We would be the laughingstock  of Dorset if we agreed,'' Alan Brown, 81, who hails from a family that has made hurdles to pen sheep for generations, was quoted as saying in The Times of London.

For one thing, this ancient village of  5,000  people in the verdant countryside of England was not named after wool from sheep.

True, in the 19th century it was known for sheep of the Dorset Down breed, but most farms have turned to dairy production, the paper said.

The name  Wool, which is more than 1,000 years old, derives from Wylon or Well, which means spring, the council said.

Ms. Allen said  PETA  knew that and wanted only to draw attention to its campaign in a  ''fun way''.

''We are not afraid to look a little bit silly provided that we can bring these issues into the public domain,'' she said.

The World Student Society thanks author and researcher Palko Karasz.


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