Can you recall the last time you went shopping for winter coats and asked for a fur? I am sure for most of you it has been some time, if at all. Considering it has been one of the most enduring animal cruelty topics within the fashion world, it is understandable that fur has not been hot on many people's must-have list for some years now. It’s not that people aren’t wearing fur or that manufacturers have stopped killing animals to obtain fur. It simply means that thanks to the growing awareness of how cruel the fur industry is, a vast amount of people choose to no longer support the industry and it most certainly is no longer looked at as a prized possession.
The vegan movement has gained some serious attention over the last few years. No longer reserved for corduroy wearing hippies, veganism has grown into a movement that is here to stay. Truth is, that over the years we have come a long way in the conversation about animal cruelty from the foods we choose to eat, the clothes we choose to wear to the places we choose to travel.
From the initial musings on how ‘brute animals’ should not suffer neglect or abuse at the hands of the human beings published by Rev. Primatt in 1776, laws involving the abuse and neglect of animals for the sake of fashion have evolved and become more sophisticated.
"Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight" ~Albert Schweitzer
Today, it is common to see campaigns calling out acts of injustice and cruelty carried out on our animal friends. Everyday people are rising strong and using their voice and the resources available to them to raise awareness on animal cruelty - from petitions, fundraisers, charity events and crowdfunding campaigns.
Watching and reading about these initiatives are super inspiring and it makes us feel better about the state of the world, giving us a little hope that maybe we are headed in the right direction after all.
The Fur trade has been at the heart of many campaigns and as a result the awareness of its brutality has been widely recognised, with the vast amount of consumers choosing to no longer support it.
However, despite all these steps in the right direction we still have a long road ahead of us in the fight against animal cruelty.
Today I want to highlight all the ways that one of the biggest and most dynamic industries today, fashion, is still actively engaging in animal cruelty to generate profit.
With the fashion industry being one of the biggest industries in the world there are some major contributors that support animal cruelty, however to protect their profits they operate quietly, and thus go unnoticed.
It’s not just dogs and cats who are victims of animal cruelty. Billions of animals are suffering horrific lives every single day, despite the fact that most people are against animal abuse.
People all over the world accept that animals should be treated with kindness and compassion. However, most people are unaware of the suffering that takes place to produce many of our mainstream products including the clothes we choose to wear. The fashion industry works hard to keep these animals’ stories a secret.
Here are some of the most common products used in mainstream fashion that requires animal cruelty/slaughter to be produced:
The method of obtaining and creating fur for clothing and accessories is cruel and inhumane. ‘Fur-farms’ are responsible for 85% of all the fur produced in the world, which rules out a vast majority of practices which might be seen as ‘less abusive’. Fur factory farms are designed to maximise profit while minimising costs, so it follows that animal rights have no place in such confinements. Animals suffer mental and physical torture for hours and sometimes days, while they are either held in cages till it is time for them to be ‘used’, or skinned alive. Laws protecting such animals do not exist and because the largest contributor to world’s fur demands is China, even if there were any legislation against such practices, they wouldn’t be applicable.
Fur farming also wreaks unnecessary havoc on the environment. By acting as condensed greenhouse chambers, fur farms produce tonnes of animal waste, which is then disposed of hastily and without proper sanitation methods. This waste, much like the waste created from beef farms, ends up in our water and ultimately pollutes the earth’s natural resources.
Instead, look for…
- Support companies such as Imposter4animals which take winter gear seriously and give you plenty of faux fur options that you can feel good about.
- Companies such as Spirithoods sell fresh modern fashion whilst also giving part of their profits to animal-welfare charities, which is better than any discount or cashback!
- Check the authenticity of the fur by making sure it is fake, and not just labelled fake.
- Avoid wearing fur altogether. With great alternatives such as organic ‘synthetic’ outerwear, the only reason to actually ‘want’ fur is the old-fashioned notion of what connotes luxury.
" No one in the world needs a mink coat but a mink" ~Murray Banks
Feather and feather down is a cruel practice that mostly goes un-noticed by many people, with people believing that the animals don't get slaughtered so it must not be that bad. Truth is, this notion is so far removed from the truth.
Popularised as one of the more ethically obtained animal products, wool has long been touted as ‘humanely acquired’ but nothing could be farther from the truth. Just like in the procedures for acquiring fur and exotic animal skins, the process of obtaining wool is intensely abusive and inhumane to the highest possible degree.
PETA campaigns have exposed the cruelty of such methods, of which some include:
Mulesing: In Australia [where majority of wool comes from] lambs are forced to endure a painful procedure called "mulesing" which helps prevent fly-strike. Mulesing involves cutting off huge chunks of skin around their backsides, a procedure that is performed without anaesthesia, and pain relief is almost never used. Thankfully the cruelty of this all to common practise has grown immensely as retailers and big fashion brands throughout Europe have boycotted Australian wool from mulesed sheep in response to consumer concerns about animal cruelty.
Shearing: Many people think shearing the wool off sheep is just like a hair-cut for our sweet little woolly friends, however fact remains that this couldn't be further from the truth. Shearers are paid by the sheep they shear rather than by the hour, this in turn makes shearers more ruthless as they try to shear sheep faster. All to often sheep get kicked, punched and even beaten to death. This hasty and careless shearing also leads to frequent injuries, where strips of skin—and even teats, tails, and ears—are often cut or ripped off during shearing.
Live Export: Unwanted Australian sheep are shipped to the Middle East on over-crowded multilevel ships. These voyages, which can last weeks, are hot, over-crowded and go to countries where animal welfare standards are non-existent. If the sheep makes the journey alive they are then dragged off the ship, loaded into either a car-boot or onto a slaughter-house truck, and dragged by their ears and legs to have their throats slit while they’re still conscious.
Sheep are sentient beings, and much more intelligent than we give them credit for. They can make for amazing companions and can be trained with love and compassion. Endeavours in sheep rescue have been coming to light via thedodo.com and other such SPCA work but sadly, overall the demand for woollen clothing still remains at an all-time high.
Instead, look for…
- Buckwheat or bamboo fill in your next comforter/quilt. They are becoming more easily available and do the job just as well as a cruelly-derived woollen one.
- Read the labels for cotton or other organic/natural materials instead of synthetic ones such as rayon or other polymers. While the latter options are cruelty-free, they are bad for the environment and ultimately end up in landfills and ocean floors and pollute natural habitats for animals and humans alike.
- Switch to vegan fabrics and alternative-wool clothing. Materials such as linen, tensel, hemp, bamboo, organic cotton, soybean fibre, seaweed and Woocoa (coconut fibre) are all great for keeping you cool or warm and do virtually no harm to the environment. Read more about them here.
"Cruelty is one fashion statement we can all do without" ~Rue McClanahan
Purses, shoes, belts, watch straps, wallets, bracelets, diaries, coats…the list of products made from leather is long and difficult to ignore. For years, leather was thought to be a by-product from meat farming. However, just like in any other skewed demand and supply process, leather has been its own industry giant for a long time now. Feedlots which keep cows in crowded, disturbingly unhygienic conditions also make profit off of the skin of the animals that they sell for meat.
Slaughterhouses employ unthinkable ways to get as much as they can from the animals in their meat farms. Animal welfare organisations have been fighting against the leather industry for decades. Alternatives to leather have also made a difference in the demand but there is still a long way to go. Leather is not an essential in our lives, but the leather lobby has made sure that it seems to be so.
Instead, look for…
- MYLOTM. One company, boltthreads.com has been experimenting with MYLOTM which promises to replace leather with sustainable, eco-friendly and cruelty-free alternatives.
- Piñatex, a natural and sustainable non-woven textile made from waste pineapple leaves fibers. Obviously, pineapple leaves are a natural byproduct of pineapples, which means they require no extra land, water, or other resources in the initial production phase. This innovative and unique material which resembles leather is durable but also breathable, and comfortable too.
- Nothing. Like it says above, leather is not an essential. Everything made from leather can be found in other, sustainable and cruelty-free alternatives. Pleather is polyurethane and harmful to the environment. Fake leather is synthetic as well, and creates more carbon footprint than actual leather, because of how it is made. Vegan leather, the 21st century answer to the leather woes, is unfortunately, also not an ethical option because it involves much of the same chemical trail as other leather alternatives.
Some uncertainty about silkworm cruelty remains since silkworms are not considered ‘sentient’ and hence don’t yet fall under typical animal protection laws. This is changing slowly, but is mostly an afterthought. A big reason for this is the vast spread of the silk industry and the fact that most of it comes from India and China, where animal welfare laws are if not completely non-existent, next to none.
Silk is obtained by boiling the silkworm while it is still alive, to maintain the tenacity of the silk thread. Some designers are starting to see this practice as inhumane while others have already begun global campaigns to puncture the silk hangover. Happily, there are some wonderful alternatives to silk that don’t harm to the beautiful silkworm in any way.
Instead, look for…
- Peace silk. Indian silk farmers now also produce ‘raw silk’ which allows the silkworm to complete its cycle in the cocoon and exit naturally, after which the silk thread is yielded. This method produced six times less filament and hence can be a bit expensive, but it is fully humane and becoming more popular each year.
- Bamboo silk or art silk, is a slightly expensive but cruelty-free alternative. Because of its high production cost and carbon footprint, this usually appears lower on this list, but it is still vegan-friendly and hence deserves a shout out.
- Spider silk! Our little eight-legged friend spins webs that can be quite sturdy, but they can be difficult to manufacture on a large scale. However, boltthreads.com has introduced MicrosilkTM mimicking the technique of spider silk woven with eco-conscious methods and materials.
- Ramie. Another favourite in the South East Asian designer markets, ramie is a silk-like product from a kind of a nettle plant and has been in the industry for thousands of years.
Remember, this planet belongs to animals too. Co-existence is crucial to earth’s survival and animal cruelty has had too long a day in the sun. Small changes, conscious choices and a will to change things can and will make an impact and you can choose to be the force behind the fashion driving this change.
No amount of fluff can hide the fact that anyone who chooses to buy and wear animal products supports a cruel and bloody industry. Today the fashion industry is bringing forth plenty vegan alternatives that are durable, stylish, and warm without exploiting our gentle animal friends.
Please join the millions of people all over the world who know that compassion is the fashion. Be a voice for our animal friends—don’t buy animal products.
Become a mindful consumer and shop for the well-being of the animals, the planet and humanity. Delve deeper in the negative effects fashion has on the world around us by reading Claire's post on Fast-Fashion.
Article Written by Guest Writer Karishma Gaur who likes cats, books and soda pop, but one of these things is not like the other two. She teaches English and writes to earn and then spends it all lavishly sponsoring rescue kittens, shelters and her own coterie of feline munchkins. Her current favourite thing to do is to live green, clean and very lean. (Well, not as lean as she’d like but she picks her battles). You can find her arbitrary collection of thoughts and cat selfies over at gnarlienerd (Instagram) | gnarlynerd.wordpress.com (blog) | @karrietweets (twitter) Read more of Karishma's articles at The OM Collective here >>>