Wool is a popular animal-based fiber that includes many different varieties such as Merino, Cashmere, Alpaca, and Angora. Alpaca is a camelid species that originated from South America, similar to the llama.
Alpaca wool is made from the animal wool coat and involves animal exploitation. It isn't the most ethical or sustainable fabric and has a disastrous impact on the environment.
Alpacas naturally produce the right amount of wool they need. They shed their winter coat before spring in natural environments, like many other animals, including sheep.
However, profits often come first before animal welfare in many industries, including textile and fashion. And most Alpacas are sheared at the wrong time of the year to make Alpaca wool.
Alpaca wool is considered a luxury and one of the finest fibers in the fashion world. But the fashion industry is responsible for the exploitation, farming, and skinning of billions of animals every year.
Wool production is very exploitative and cruel. Billions of animals live in poor conditions to make the clothes we wear. They suffer inhumane treatment to produce wool, cashmere, and Alpaca.
Alpaca wool is still widely used in the textile and apparel industry today. Many clothing designers and brands use Alpaca wool to make jackets, coats, pullovers, jumpers, cardigans, loungewear, and accessories.
Thankfully, more people are asking for ethical and environmentally friendly clothing. They are concerned with the compassionate treatment of animals.
To answer the increasing demand for cruelty-free products, brands and retailers release eco-friendly collections and make more cruelty-free and vegan options available worldwide.
Animal products, including Alpaca wool, should be avoided because the industrial farming of animals is unethical, environmentally damaging, and unsustainable. Here is why.
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What is Alpaca wool?
Alpaca wool is a textile fiber made from Alpacas, a camelid species closely related to the llama. There are close to four million Alpacas worldwide that produce Alpaca wool. And most of them live in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile.
Alpaca wool is an animal-derived material widely used in the textile and apparel industry like wool from sheep. It's warm, soft, smooth, breathable, strong, durable, and highly resistant.
Alpaca wool is often used in the fashion industry to make comfortably warm clothing, such as socks, gloves, leggings, hats, scarves, pajamas, knitwear, and outerwear.
How is Alpaca wool made?
Alpaca wool comes from mammal animals, Alpacas. This type of camelid produces wool, its winter coat that grows to maximum length by mid-winter and sheds in early spring.
Peru has the highest population of Alpacas and is the largest and oldest producer of Alpaca wool. Small farmers keep Alpacas in herds that graze on the level heights of the Andes.
But many Peruvian firms have grown into massive corporations that use modern technology and vertically integrated supply chains, from breeding to producing, exporting, and retailing, to create luxury Alpaca wool products.
Alpacas don't need shearing similarly to sheep and contrary to popular belief. They don't like any shearing at all and feel very stressed. It's simple to understand because they shed their winter coat at the right time of the year in natural environments.
However, for the textile and fashion industry, profits often come first. In South America, Alpacas are livestock animals that have been specifically bred and raised for their fiber.
And the large majority of manufacturers very rarely consider the welfare of animals. Most Alpacas are sheared too soon and too often to create Alpaca wool products.
Is Alpaca wool ethical?
Alpaca wool is an animal product and isn't ethical since it comes from the Alpacas' winter coat and involves animal exploitation, cruelty, stress, injuries, and diseases more often than not.
Alpacas have a nervous system and can suffer and feel pain. They want to live harm-free and stress-free as they would do in nature. They shouldn't be exploited and subjected to inhumane treatment.
Alpacas live in crowded conditions and must walk very long distances. They will often die from dehydration, infection, starvation, or injury.
Animals suffer immense pain, being castrated, dying prematurely from exhaustion, exposure to the cold, disease, lack of shelter, or neglect. And animals who don't produce enough wool or poor quality wool are destined to be slaughtered.
No animal should suffer to make beautiful, stylish, and affordable clothing. Animal cruelty has no place in modern societies. Life in every form is more valuable than things.
Should you wear Alpaca wool?
It's best to avoid all harm and exploitation of animals, including Alpacas, because it's cruel and unnecessary. All animals have the right to live free of exploitation and suffering. Alpaca wool isn't an ethical fabric. It's a natural and luxurious fabric, but it's harmful and unsustainable.
Alpacas are perfectly capable of surviving in the wild. Alpaca wool farming has to stop to let wild Alpacas repopulate their natural habitats and live peacefully.
Unfortunately, Alpacas have sustained South American populations since history, including the Incas of Peru. And they still represent the primary income source for thousands of South Americans.
Many people exploit Alpacas to make money. Alpacas are bred, enslaved, and slaughtered to create luxury products. Most Alpaca wool production takes place in animal farms.
And the second finest wool category is baby Alpaca wool sheared from the neck and chest area of very young Alpacas up to 2 years old living on the highlands of the Andes.
Under pressure from consumers and animal rights organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), many fashion brands and retailers abandon the use of animal products, including Alpaca wool, for their new collections and choose better alternatives.
Is Alpaca wool eco-friendly?
Alpaca wool is a natural fiber, bio-based, biodegradable, and recyclable, but it has a high environmental impact. The farming and processing of Alpaca wool pollute the air, soil, and water, producing greenhouse gases and wastes.
Large-scale, intensive animal farming and fast fashion practices deplete resources and release gases into the atmosphere at a high rate. They use synthetic chemicals to make the land and animals more productive.
Farming practices like intensive grazing and high stocking density are widespread and fundamentally unsustainable. Farmers regularly use chemicals for worm and disease control.
Hazardous chemicals pollute air, soil, and water, endangering human health and ecosystems. Wastewater is highly polluting and contains residual pesticides and insecticides.
Alpaca digestion produces methane as a by-product. And of all the greenhouse gases, methane is one of the most potent because of its ability to absorb heat in Earth's atmosphere.
Over 20 years, one kilogram of methane warms the planet as much as 80 times more than one kilogram of carbon dioxide. One Alpaca can produce about 30 liters of methane each day.
Wool has the fifth most harmful environmental impact among all materials used for textiles. It's even worse than manufactured fibers, such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon.
Are there better alternatives to Alpaca wool?
The better alternatives to Alpaca wool are more sustainable and cruelty-free. They are eco-friendly, vegan, and ethically made from organic or recycled fibers. They are also comfortable, lightweight, breathable, durable, and luxurious.
Choose vegan textiles that don't involve animal exploitation and are better for your skin and the planet. There are many eco-friendly and cruelty-free vegan options for beautiful fashion.
Some ethical and vegan fabrics to wear instead of Alpaca wool include organic cotton, linen, hemp, and lyocell. Many sustainable clothing brands choose to avoid textile fibers obtained from animals. They use these eco-friendly alternatives to Alpaca wool.
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About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.