When it comes to winter shawls, sweaters, and coats, nothing beats the soft and luxurious touch of cashmere, right?
However, as human beings, not just vegans, we should ensure we’re not harming the creatures sharing the Earth with us just for our own good.
Lately, there has been controversy surrounding the cashmere industry and a huge move has been taken by large clothes retailers against selling this fabric.
We’re going to break it down here, so continue reading to find out about how cashmere is made and if wearing it applies to the principles of veganism.
What is Cashmere?
Being classier and six to seven times warmer than merino wool, cashmere is considered the crème de la crème in the industry.
Nevertheless, while wool comes from sheep, cashmere comes from goats, mostly those roaming the green lands of China and Mongolia.
These goats don’t have much fat, so they produce fine hairs throughout their bodies, forming thick fleeces to keep them warm in the freezing temperature of high altitudes and cold arid plains.
An average goat produces around 140 grams of cashmere fiber annually, meaning that it takes four years for a goat to produce enough hair for a sweater. It also takes two to three goats to make just one cashmere scarf.
You must be thinking by now that since it’s crazy expensive, it’s rarely produced. However, it’s mass-produced as if it’s cheap polyester due to the huge demand. This should give you an idea about how many goats are tortured in the process every year.
Why is it Unethical to Wear Cashmere?
Vegans don’t just exclude meat and animal-derived ingredients from their food, but they also refuse to consume any product derived from an animal, especially if this animal has been exploited and mistreated.
Imagine how frightening the experience of shearing might be for a defenseless animal. Goats aren’t handled with mercy when producers or farmers tear out their fine hair because they’re more concerned about their profits than these animals’ welfare.
Although the main purpose of this fur is to protect the goats from the biting cold, every year they’re shorn in mid-winter because this is when the demand on the fabric is at its peak.
That leaves the animals with no barrier between their bodies and the cold; thus, many of them freeze to death. How are these goats supposed to survive without their natural insulation in a temperature that drops to 30-40 degrees below zero celsius? That’s, of course, assuming they’ve survived the brutality of shearers in the first place.
Not only do the goats suffer in the process, but the damage from the industry also extends to reach other species and lands.
Research has found that while shepherds have been expanding their goat herds for their profitable gain, they’ve been causing other wild animals to suffer and become endangered. These include snow leopards, gazelles, Bactrian camels, and Saiga antelopes.
Moreover, the increase in the goat population in Mongolia is threatening the grasslands. More goats just mean more hungry mouths to feed, which quickly turns green lands into deserts. That has a negative impact on the ecological balance.
Their Terrible Fate
Typically, goats are raised in filthy and crowded farms where they’re subjected to castration, ear notching, and dehorning, all without anesthesia.
After these animals are used for their warm coats, they are sent to slaughterhouses then sold as cheap meat before their natural life span ends.
What’s more, young goats with defected fleeces or skins are sold immediately to be killed, as they have no value in the fabric industry.
Reports and Popular Fashion Houses
To throw some light on the animal cruelty that shames the cashmere industry, let’s see what the animal rights organizations disclosed.
The PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) released multiple video footage showing the extreme violence practiced against goats used in the industrial farms. Here’s a sample of the crimes that occur yearly for the producers to stock their pockets with cash, regardless of what happens to the animals.
Reports revealed that farmers and workers abuse and hurt goats. They step on their throats while tearing their hair out with sharp metal combs or their hands. Some are even filmed banging goats on their heads with hammers or slitting their throats in front of each other.
Are cashmere jumpers and hats worth all this agony? That’s why famous fashion houses and large brands like H&M, Asos, and Le Château took a positive step and dropped animal-based cashmere from their product lines. They also removed pieces made from cashmere from their online stores.
In the light of all these reports and after many fashion brands abstained from selling cashmere, some cruelty-free fashion designers made vegan cashmere. Basically, this is a fabric that’s comparable to animal cashmere in softness, longevity, and breathability.
Although producers claim it’s warmer and has higher tensile strength, it’s still not popular or affordable enough to take over the market and reduce the demand for animal cashmere. Yet, it’s a good step towards a brighter future.
What You Can Do
We know it can be tempting to buy this flashy cashmere raincoat, especially for women who care about fashion. But, who said you couldn’t be a vegan fashionista?
Many famous actors and actresses like Pamela Anderson and Joaquin Phoenix adopt lifestyles that don’t endanger animals in any way, so it’s not impossible.
Before buying a piece of clothes, do these animals a favor and check the tags. If it says animal cashmere, leave it on the shelf.
If it’s still important to you to add cashmere to your winter closet, look for second-hand pieces. However, the best choice is to always ditch this fabric and search for an alternative like cotton, polyester, or any material that’s labeled as a cruelty-free product.