Fast fashion is everywhere. It has gained a lot of popularity over the last 20 years. It's very fun and convenient to shop for new trends at an affordable price. But the overconsumption of cheaply made clothing has a disastrous impact on the environment, ecosystems, and animals.
Fast fashion kills wildlife and puts endangered species at risk. It's responsible for the trapping, farming, and skinning of billions of animals every year. Even with so many available alternatives, consumers keep buying fast fashion massively.
I used to buy a lot of clothing and accessories made from animal products and byproducts before. Wool sweaters, fur coats, leather jackets, shoes, and belts.
In 2015, I realized how much animal cruelty was happening in the fast fashion industry. The brutal slaughtering of animals occurs too often to make fur, wool, leather, silk, goose down, and down feathers.
Laboratory experiments use 115 million animals each year, such as rats, rabbits, mice, guinea pigs, birds, cats, and dogs. Fast fashion enslaves, exploits, and hurt so many more.
As consumers, we should care more about how our clothes are being made and the impact of our wardrobe on the planet, the people, and the animals living on it.
The textile and apparel industry is one of the largest industries in the world. Fast fashion is a major contributor to its growth. Apparel production has doubled to meet consumers' demand over the last 15 years globally.
Fast fashion brands and retailers must take massive action to reduce water and energy consumption, waste, pollution, and their catastrophic effects on ecosystems and animals.
Read up my article on should we boycott fast fashion to understand what's wrong with how this industry operates today.
Many people remain addicted to fast fashion because of its many advantages and how it makes them feel. But fast fashion isn't sustainable or environmentally friendly. It's also very cruel and unethical.
Here is how fast fashion affects animals.
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Endangered animals killed for fast fashion
Fast fashion kills many endangered animals each year. The cruel trapping and skinning of endangered animals happen too frequently in the fashion industry.
The fur and leather trade threatens many animal species that should be protected. People hunt a vast number of reptiles, kangaroos, ostriches, beavers, wild cats, bears, antelopes, and seals for their pelt used in fashion.
Fast fashion threatens many of these wildlife species with extinction. The International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species provides information about uses, trade, and threats to encourage action for biodiversity conservation.
Animals suffer immense pain, being trapped, caged, and often skinned alive to make textiles.
Even if many wild animals are already protected by law under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the poaching and illegal international trade of threatened animals continue to this day.
Read up my article on 10 endangered animals used for clothing for more examples of the destructive impact of fast fashion on wildlife.
Wool production is very cruel
Every year in the fast fashion industry, animals are enslaved, exploited, subjected to painful treatments, and exposed to dangerous substances with long-term disastrous effects on ecosystems and human health.
Contrary to popular belief, wool production is part of this issue. Wool is a very cruel animal fiber. It's used to make warm clothes such as shirts, coats, pullovers, jackets, sweaters, sock, gloves, leggings, and slippers.
Wool is obtained from animals such as goats, sheep, muskox, camelids, and rabbits. These animals don't like being caught and don't need shearing.
More than 95% of all wool comes from mass production globally. And mass production isn't ethical.
Most of the animals used for wool must suffer immense pain, walk very long distances, and live in crowded conditions.
They often die prematurely from dehydration, exhaustion, infection, starvation, injury, lack of shelter, exposure, or neglect, as reported by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Each year, billions of animals are mutilated and cut into slavery to make wool globally. The fast fashion industry raises animals for wool to make profits. The welfare of animals is rarely considered.
According to the International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO), wool production rose to 1.155 million kg in 2018, made from 1.177 billion sheep around the world.
The wool industry slaughters animals who don't produce enough wool. Typically, wool is also a byproduct of the meat industry.
If you want to learn more about these inhumane practices, check out my article on the cruelty of fashion made from wool.
Wearing fur clothes is unethical
Because it's cruel and unnecessary, we should stop buying and wearing fur clothes.
Fur is obtained from furry animal hide, animal pelts with hair left. Fur makes clothing such as capes, parkas, vests, boleros, coats, and jackets.
Many fashion designers, brands, and celebrities boycott fur clothes already. Fur is one of the oldest forms of clothing but it's used as a luxury in fashion.
It's unethical to remove animal skins for fashion. No welfare standard makes fur production ethical.
"I am against the contemporary practice of commercial farming of animal fur. Period. It is abusive and not eco-friendly. On the other hand, I am not against indigenous folks and people living in a similar subsistence situation securing and using furs for warmth to survive."
- Dr. Jane Hudak, Ph. D. in Art Education from The Ohio State University
According to the Fur Commission, about 245 mink farms in 22 states across the United States produce around 3.1 million pelts annually.
Millions of animals are poorly treated, beaten, electrocuted, or skinned alive to make fur clothes each year. It's unacceptable. We should love animals and not kill them as much as possible. Buying and wearing fur clothes is now irrelevant and outdated.
Read up my article on why we should stop buying and wearing fur clothes if you aren't convinced yet.
Fast fashion mass produces leather
The leather industry brutally slaughters billions of animals every year for fast fashion.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 2.29 billion cows, calves, buffaloes, goats, and pigs were killed for their hide and skin to make leather in 2018.
Many other animals such as seals, sheep, deer, alligators, snakes, zebras, sharks, cats, and dogs are killed to produce leather. They are often hunted, caged, farmed, and skinned alive.
159 million animals are slaughtered to make leather each year in the United States. That number is four times higher than in 1980.
Read up my article on how many animals are killed for leather each year for more information on leather production.
We have been conditioned to believe that animals are commodities. But the mass farming and killing of animals isn't sustainable and or ethical.
Leather tanning causes the suffering of billions of animals around the world. It's also very destructive to the environment, ecosystems, and human health.
Leather production and leather clothes are very lucrative industries. But it has a catastrophic impact because of fast fashion and the overproduction of cheap trendy clothing at lightning speed.
Leather is viewed as a disposable product by most consumers like many other fast fashion goods. Many people don't understand or choose to ignore the cruelty that animals have to face to make leather.
Each year for the fast fashion industry, billions of animals are brutally slaughtered to produce clothing made from wool, cashmere, mohair, fur, silk, leather, goose down, or down feathers.
Animal products and byproducts have a very negative environmental impact. They are also cruel and unethical.
As consumers, we have the power to drive change. We choose the clothes we buy and who we support with our money.
It's better to pick clothing that doesn't involve the mass farming and killing of animals. It's a great way to protect people, animals, and the planet.
Luckily, with a bit of research, you can find plenty of other alternatives and buy from companies that are committed to cruelty-free and environmentally friendly fashion.
What are your favorite places to shop for ethical fashion?
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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.