Animals Used for Clothing
Animals used for clothing: leather, fur, wool, feathers, silk
Billions of animals are slaughtered and processed each year, for the “Fashion Industry”. Whether we’re speaking of leather, fur, wool, feathers/down, or silk, animals are “ranched”/raised, trapped, mutilated and killed under some of the most horrific conditions imaginable, in order to produce the clothing and accessories that most of us wear. These animals lead miserable, short, tortured lives about which the average consumer has little awareness or knowledge, but thanks to the internet and the persistence of animal rights advocates, that’s beginning to change. If you’re still “hooked” on leather and other animal-produced clothing products, it’s time to think about the suffering that animals are forced to endure for that fur-trimmed jacket or silk tie; for that cashmere/wool sweater or that down jacket you’re thinking of buying. Many alternative, cruelty-free options exist that are beautiful, comfortable, durable, and far less expensive. In fact, the market is flooded with copies of high-end designer handbags, scarves, jackets, shoes and other products, most of which are attractive, synthetic look-alikes.
Probably the greatest use of animal skins for articles of clothing and accessories is the use of leather and fur. Leather, a by-product of Big Agri-Business, which cashes in on cows for dairy products and for their flesh, is created by the toxic tanning of animal rawhide and skin; today most leather is made of cattle skin, but many exceptions exist. Lamb and deerskin are used for soft leather in more expensive apparel. Deer and elkskin are widely used in work gloves and indoor shoes. Pigskin is used in apparel, wallets and on seats of saddles. Buffalo, horses, goats, alligators, crocodiles, dogs, snakes, ostriches, kangaroos, oxen, and yaks are also be used for leather.
Kangaroo skin is used to make items which need to be strong but flexible—it is the material most commonly used in bullwhips. Kangaroo leather is favored by some motorcyclists for use in motorcycle leathers specifically because of its light weight and abrasion resistance, and also for soccer footwear. At different times in history, leather made from more exotic skins has been considered desirable. For this reason, certain species of snakes and crocodiles have been hunted.
Although originally raised for their feathers in the 19th century, ostriches are now more popular for both meat and leather. There are different processes to produce different finishes for many applications, i.e., upholstery, footwear, automotive products, accessories, and clothing. Ostrich leather is currently used by many major fashion houses such as Hermès, Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. Ostrich leather has a characteristic “goose bump” look because of the large follicles from which the feathers grew.
In Thailand, sting ray leather is used in wallets and belts. Sting ray leather is tough and durable. The leather is often dyed black and covered with tiny round bumps in the natural pattern of the back ridge of an animal. These bumps are then usually dyed white to highlight the decoration. Sting ray leather is also used as grips on Chinese swords, Scottish basket hilted swords and Japanese katanas.
Fortunately, many cruelty-free, man-made options exist today thanks to advances in science and technology. Most faux-leather is fashionable, eco-friendly, durable and far less expensive than animal skins. Don’t contribute to animal suffering by supporting industries that profit from the suffering and death of all these beautiful, sentient beings. Go vegan all the way and make it “Fake for the Animals’ Sake”!
Fur farming: mink, fox, lambs, raccoons , rabbits, dogs…
Hunting and trapping of exotic and wild animals: fox, lynx, sable, chinchilla, mink, raccoons, beavers, seals:
Many European countries, recognizing the inherent cruelty of raising wild animals in captivity for their fur, have taken steps to restrict or ban out-right the inhumane practice of fur farming. Nevertheless, well over 50 million animals are raised and killed each year on filthy fur farms that continue to exist in Finland, Denmark, Austria, Ireland, Canada and in China which is today, probably the largest and cruelest exporter of cheap fur pelts (dogs, cats, rabbits) in the world. There is no federal law regulating the keeping or killing of cage-raised fur-bearing animals in the US. No states have banned fur farming and Wisconsin and Utah are currently the two top fur farming states.
Karakul lamb fur, also called “astrakhan,” “broadtail,” or “Persian wool,” comes from lambs who were killed as newborns or while still in their mothers’ wombs. Because their unique, highly prized curly fur begins to unwind and straighten within three days of birth, many karakul lambs are slaughtered when they are only 1 or 2 days old. In order to get a karakul fetus’ hide—which is called “broadtail” in the industry, and which is valued for its exceptional smoothness—the mother’s throat is cut and her abdomen slashed open to remove the developing lamb. A mother typically gives birth to three lambs before being slaughtered along with her fourth fetus, about 15 to 30 days before he or she is due to be born. As many as 4 million karakul lambs are slaughtered for their fur every year.
The short miserable lives of animals raised/ranched for their fur are finally ended when they are killed by gas, strangulation, neck breaking or anal electrocution.
Each year, more than 4 million animals are hunted, trapped and killed for their fur in the United States alone. Millions more are trapped and killed in the name of “livestock” and “game” protection and for “nuisance” animal control. Whatever the purpose, the consequences for the trapped animals are the same — pain, suffering, and death. Proponents argue that traps are humane and selective and that trapping is tightly regulated, an important source of income for many people, and necessary for managing wildlife. These claims, however, are far from the truth.
Despite what trappers would have you believe, animals frequently sustain severe injuries from being trapped. When not killed outright by the trap, animals can be maimed and suffer physiological trauma, dehydration, exposure to severe weather, and predation by other animals until the trapper returns. When the trapper returns he usually clubs, suffocates or strangles the animal to death. Fur trappers rarely shoot trapped animals because bullet holes and blood reduce a pelt’s value.
Traps set in or near water are designed to drown aquatic mammals, which can take up to 20 minutes for some species.The American Veterinary Medical Association deems drowning to be inhumane and a 1999 study concluded, “drowning cannot be considered euthanasia.”
Most traps are notoriously indiscriminate, capturing almost any animal that triggers them. Sometimes called “trash” animals by trappers, non-target species that have been found in traps include threatened and endangered species, raptors, domestic dogs and cats, and even humans. These animals can sustain the same injuries as target species. Even if released, they may perish later from internal injuries or reduced ability to hunt or forage for food.
“Compassion is the Fashion”. Fur is no longer needed for warmth or beauty; it looks far better on the original “wearer” and many man-made attractive faux-fur substitutes exist. So if you choose to wear any item that is made from or trimmed with the skins of fur-bearing animals, whether a coat, hat, gloves, boots, sweater, you should know that those animals have suffered horribly and lived a hideous life in Hell for vanity’s sake. Although the greedy purveyors of suffering and death, have been trying their best to entice shoppers by disguising real fur (often cheap rabbit, dog, cat fur labeled as “synthetic”) which has been dyed every color of the rainbow, sheered and shorn into fancy designs and patterns to deceive even the most aware consumers, the fact is, that fur on your back is a flashing sign signaling to the world that you are either ignorant or totally indifferent to the suffering these innocent animals endure. FUR IS DEAD, in every sense of the word! If you don’t want to look stupid or be called a “Fur hag”, don’t wear fur!
For more information, see: The Real Price of Fur.
Think wool is a great alternative to fur? Think again. It may come from a sheep, goat, llama, alpaca or Tibetan antelope. It may be called wool, mohair, pashmina, shahtoosh, or cashmere. But no matter what it’s called, any kind of wool causes harm to the animals from whom it is taken.
Wool-Producing Countries Abuse Sheep
With more than 100 million sheep, Australia produces 30 percent of all wool used worldwide. Flocks usually consist of thousands of sheep, making individual attention to their needs impossible. Within weeks of birth, lambs’ ears are hole-punched, their tails are chopped off, and the males are castrated without anesthetics. Male lambs are castrated between 2 and 8 weeks old, with a rubber ring used to cut off blood supply—one of the most painful methods of castration possible.Every year, hundreds of lambs die before the age of 8 weeks from exposure or starvation, and mature sheep die every year from disease, lack of shelter, and neglect. Faced with so much death and disease, the rational solution would be to reduce the number of sheep so as to maintain them decently. Instead, sheep are bred to bear more lambs to offset the deaths.
Shearing Is Painful
Sheep are sheared each spring, after lambing, just before they would naturally shed their winter coats. Timing is considered critical. Shearing too late means loss of wool. In the rush, many sheep die from exposure after premature shearing. Shearers are usually paid by volume, not by the hour, which encourages fast work without regard for the welfare of the sheep. Says one eyewitness: “The shearing shed must be one of the worst places in the world for cruelty to animals … I have seen shearers punch sheep with their shears or their fists until the sheep’s nose bled. I have seen sheep with half their faces shorn off …”
Contrary to what many consumers think, “shearling” is not sheared wool; the term refers to the sheep. A shearling is a yearling sheep who has been shorn once. A shearling garment is made from a sheep or lamb shorn shortly before slaughter; the skin is tanned with the wool still on it.
Live Exports: When sheep age and their wool production declines, they are sold for slaughter. This results in the cruel live export of 6.5 million sheep every year from Australia to the Middle East and North Africa and nearly 800,000 sheep are exported from the U.K. for slaughter abroad.
Cashmere is made from cashmere goats. Cashmere is hair that is shorn from cashmere goats’ underbellies. These goats are often kept on farms where they are dehorned and castrated and have their ears notched without anesthesia. Goats with “defects” in their coats are typically killed before the age of 2. Industry experts expect farmers to kill 50 to 80 percent of young goats whose coats do not meet standards. Shearing robs goats of their natural insulation, leaving them vulnerable to cold temperatures and illnesses. Many goats are sold to be slaughtered for their flesh after shearing.
Angora rabbits are strapped to a board for shearing, kicking powerfully in protest. The clippers inevitably bite into their flesh, with bloody results. Angoras have very delicate foot pads, making life on a wire cage floor excruciating and ulcerated feet a common condition. Because male angoras have only 75 to 80 percent of the wool yield of females, on many farms they are killed at birth.
The market for alpaca exploded in the 1980s when South American alpacas and llamas were marketed worldwide to entrepreneurs who bought into the vision of ground-floor investment in a luxury fiber market. The craze subsided but breeding continues, and unwanted animals are now routinely put up for auction. Llama sanctuaries and rescue operations have sprung up in the wake of the breeding craze to handle the growing number of abused, neglected animals.
Sheep’s wool has been in steady decline since 1990, both in price and demand, with Australia’s former near-total dominance of the world market falling by about 35 percent in a decade. The U.S. government continues to try to shore up the American wool industry with millions of dollars in federal subsidies and loans.
Many people who are allergic to wool already use alternatives to wool clothes and blankets, including cotton, cotton flannel, polyester fleece, synthetic shearling, and other cruelty-free fibers. Tencel—breathable, durable, and biodegradable—is one of the newest cruelty-free wool substitutes. Polartec Wind Pro—made primarily from recycled plastic soda bottles—is a high-density fleece with four times the wind resistance of wool that also wicks away moisture.
Remember, wool is the product of animal abuse and cruelty. We need to be the change we want to see. If we insist on non-wool items, people will make non-wool winter clothes. We will find increasingly more materials and more technology that can replace wool if there’s demand for it. Fashion Week may be the puppeteer of the clothing industry, but we don’t have to be puppets. Cut the strings. Check labels and remember to choose cruelty-free substitutes to save animals the suffering they endure in order to provide wool for coats, sweaters, scarves, hats, gloves, and other wearing apparel.
They’re featured in glossy fashion magazines by designers like Giorgio Armani, Tommy Hilfiger, Gap, Patagonia, The North Face, Ralph Lauren. They’re flying off racks and shelves in stores like Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Burlington Coats and Benetton. The down jacket is currently experiencing great popularity, but before you rush out and buy one, ask yourself this: how cruel is this coat? Millions of birds, particularly geese, suffer horrifically to provide the grisly filling for this fashion statement. Down, the soft layer of feathers closest to a bird’s skin, the fluffy, insulating undercoating of quill-less feathers located underneath the tougher outer layer of feathers belonging to ducks, geese and other waterfowl, are used to produce down for clothing and comforters; they are plucked from these live creatures, ripped from their bodies, leaving them bleeding and in pain. Others are a by-product of the foie gras industry, so cruel it’s been banned in many cities/countries around the world. Buying down, therefore, also supports the cruelty of the foie gras and poultry industries because many farmers who raise birds for food make an extra profit by selling their feathers, as well. At the slaughterhouse, many of these birds are improperly stunned, which means that they are still conscious when their throats are cut and they are dumped into the scalding-hot water of the defeathering tank.The most prized down, and therefore the one that pays the pluckers the most, however, is hand-stripped from live birds. That’s because the process of mechanically taking it from carcasses before washing and drying it can affect the quality. Today, China, produces 80 percent of the world’s down and feathers but the coldhearted and cruel live-plucking down industry is rife in Hungary, where most European down is sourced; Hungarian plucking brigades, men and women, go from farm to farm stripping live birds of their plumage. The men and women from the brigades work without feeling, grabbing terrified geese by their wings or legs, sometimes breaking them, always hurting them, as they tear out the birds’ feathers. When it’s over and the birds are bleeding, the wounds are roughly sewn up with a needle and thread without any anesthetic and when their feathers grow back after about five weeks, it happens all over again, just so you can have a nice winter coat or comforter.
Only geese are live-plucked. Down from ducks and chickens is also used but only after the birds have been slaughtered. The entire down production industry includes one to two billion ducks around the world, which are not live-plucked. They are considered, the “lucky ones”:
So if you’re looking for a warm, fashionable, cruelty-free coat or jacket, give a bird a break! You can spare an innocent creature the painful torture of having its feathers cruelly ripped from its body by reading the labels and refusing to buy down. There are many synthetic, hypoallergenic down alternatives on the market like PrimaLoft and Polarguard which are inherently cruelty-free.
For more information: http://www.peta.org/features/down-investigation.aspx
When you think about animals used for clothing your mind probably goes to leather, wool, down or fur. You wouldn’t be the first to overlook silk. There are a few reasons for this. Many people don’t know how silk is produced, or that it’s made through very cruel means. Silk worms are also overlooked because… “they’re just worms”. (Note: silk worms are in fact much more like a caterpillar than a worm).
Global silk production accounts for less than 0.2 per cent of the world’s textile output. Silk is produced in over 60 countries although Asian nations create most of the world’s silk. China is the biggest manufacturer of silk, generating over three times as much as the world’s second largest, India.
History of Silk
According to Chinese legend, the Empress Si Ling Chi discovered silk 5,000 years ago when sitting drinking tea under a Mulberry tree. A cocoon fell into her tea and a long thread began to unravel. The story tells that the Empress and the Emperor soon discovered that the thread could be woven to make a soft fabric, and they began to use silk in the production of clothes.
For 2,000 years, the Chinese kept the processes of silk production a secret and as such, they controlled the world market. Eventually, however, the secret was stolen and spread across the globe to Japan, India, and mainland Europe. In 1685, Louis XIV revoked the religious liberties of Protestants living in France and as a result, French silk workers sought refuge in the UK. This was the catalyst for the UK silk industry. French silk workers settled in London and began to weave; they also taught the local community how to weave. The UK silk industry grew rapidly and was able to monopolize the domestic silk market for a number of years. Currently, the UK produces over £170 million worth of silk goods each year (The Silk Association of Great Britain).
What is Silk?
Silk is the name given to a soft fabric made from the fine thread produced by certain insects. The most commonly used insect is the Bombyx mori, a moth native to China. The pupa produces the silk thread to build a cocoon in which to enter the final stage of metamorphosis and become an adult moth.
Tasmin Blanchard, author of the ethical fashion book Green is the New Black says: “Commercial silk production is innately cruel. Silk might be biodegradable, renewable, organic and even fair trade. But the traditional production process still requires that moths never leave the cocoon alive. In order to prevent damage to the thread, the larvae are boiled or roasted alive – silkworm cocoons are baked at about 100 degrees centigrade for over two hours, which kills the worms and also makes the cocoons easy to unravel without breaking the thread. And there we were, thinking silk was a lovely natural ethical fibre.” (Blanchard, 2008).
Silk is extracted by boiling cocooned worms, on their way to becoming moths. The cocoon itself is raw silk, built by the silk worm, which will be destroyed by the moth as it chews its way out of the cocoon. For this reason, the moths are boiled alive, killing the moth and making it easier to unravel the silk. One cocoon is made of a single thread about 900 meters long, and about 3,000 cocoons are needed to make one pound of silk (Wong, 2000). Tens of millions of silk moths are boiled alive every year. This means that hundreds of silkworms are killed for just one silk scarf or tie.
Believe it or not, silk moths are sentient as well. They have a neurological system and being boiled is a painful death.
Silk is used for shirts, dresses, ties, bedding, skirts, underwear, linings and other luxury products. However, it can easily be avoided. Artificial silk has been widely available since it was first created in the 1890s. There are various textiles on the market which look and feel like silk including rayon, nylon, polyester, bamboo and cotton. Rayon fabric looks and feels most like silk and can be found in most shops.
Most silk production takes place in developing countries such as China and India where workers endure low wages and poor working conditions.
There must be at least 350,000 bonded children working in India’s silk industry. Hundreds of thousands of children work 12-hour days and suffer injuries, burns, and beatings. The children are bonded laborers, which means that they are bound to their employers in return for a loan to their family. This kind of bond is common in poor countries and the children exchanged in the deal may expect years of abuse and suffering to follow.
Children making silk thread routinely dip their hands in boiling water, which burns and blisters them: “Their hands become raw and often infected. They breathe smoke and fumes from machinery, handle dead worms that cause infections, and guide twisting threads that cut their fingers.” (Human Rights Watch quoted in The Independent).
Silk is marketed with connotations of luxury and sexiness. The process of boiling moths alive is neither sexy nor luxurious. In fact, silk is the hardened mucus created by a caterpillar during their final stage of metamorphism.
Vegans and many vegetarians refuse to buy or wear silk because of the animal suffering involved. The silk industry exploits silkworms, trade workers, and the environment: when you consider all of this it is hard to justify choosing silk.
There is now cruelty-free silk, or Peace Silk, on the market and it’s being used by more and more famous (and compassionate!) designers. The moths are allowed to emerge from the cocoon before the cocoon is used. Having said that, there are plenty of beautiful materials out there that are completely animal-free as well, which we can buy and wear.
How you can help:
*Let people know that silk production is cruel and that there are alternatives. Hopefully, if people know they are wearing the cocoons of tens of thousands of worms who were boiled alive, they will rethink their choice of clothing.
*Buy cruelty-free clothing that doesn’t come from animals, like cotton, nylon and hemp materials to name a few.