Vegans aren't just about eating only plants; they also don't use animal products because they don't see animals as commodities. They don't eat meat, eggs, or dairy products; they don't wear fur or leather. But what about wool and cashmere?
Cashmere isn't vegan because it's made from goat's wool coats and involves animal exploitation. Instead, vegans wear the many animal-free alternatives available today, like organic cotton and lyocell.
Goats 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 goats are sheared at the wrong time of the year to make cashmere.
Cashmere 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.
Cashmere production is very exploitative and cruel. Billions of sheep and goats live in poor conditions to make the clothes we wear. They suffer inhumane treatment to produce wool, cashmere, and alpaca.
Cashmere is still widely used in the textile and apparel industry today. Many clothing designers and brands use cashmere 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 open up vegan stores everywhere and make more vegan options available worldwide.
Animal products, including cashmere, should be avoided because the industrial farming of animals is unethical, environmentally damaging, and unsustainable. Here is why.
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What is cashmere?
Cashmere is a textile fiber that comes from cashmere goats. There are many breeds of goats that produce cashmere. And it has been used to make yarn, textile, and clothes for hundreds of years.
The term cashmere comes from the anglicization of the Kashmir shawl, the predecessor of the contemporary cashmere shawl. It arrived in Britain in the late 18th century, then France, and became a luxury and status symbol.
Similarly to wool, cashmere is an animal-derived material widely used in the textile and apparel industry. Cashmere is warm, soft, smooth, breathable, strong, durable, and highly resistant.
Cashmere 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 cashmere made?
Cashmere comes from animals, such as cashmere goats. This type of goat produces cashmere wool, the goat's winter undercoat that grows to maximum length by mid-winter and sheds in early spring.
China has the highest population of cashmere goats and is the largest producer of cashmere wool. Mongolia is the second largest, and the two countries contribute to about 85% of the world's supply. The goats' name originates from the Himalayan region of Kashmir.
Similarly to sheep, goats don't need shearing, contrary to popular belief. They don't like any shearing at all. It's simple to understand because they naturally shed their winter coat at the right time of the year.
However, for the textile and fashion industry, profits often come first. Manufacturers very rarely consider the welfare of animals. So most cashmere goats are sheared too soon and too often.
Is cashmere vegan?
Cashmere is an animal product and isn't vegan since it comes from the cashmere goat's winter coat. Its production involves animal exploitation and cruelty more often than not.
Goats have a nervous system and can suffer and feel pain. They want to live harm-free as they would do in nature. They shouldn't be exploited and subjected to inhumane treatment.
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.
Can vegan wear cashmere?
Vegans avoid all harm and exploitation of animals, even wool and cashmere, because it's cruel and unnecessary. All animals have the right to live free of exploitation and suffering. Cashmere isn't a vegan-friendly fabric. It's a natural and luxurious fabric, but it's harmful and unsustainable.
Goats are perfectly capable of surviving in the wild. Cashmere wool farming has to stop to let wild goats repopulate their natural habitats and live peacefully.
We don't need to exploit goats to survive. There is simply no excuse to use animals as a resource for fashion in our modern society. Goats are bred, enslaved, and slaughtered for an unnecessary luxury fabric.
Most cashmere production takes place in cashmere farms where goats live indoors for a large part of the year. The industry is well-known for many cases of unhealthy livestock and child labor.
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 wool and cashmere, for their new collections and choose better alternatives.
Is cashmere eco-friendly?
Cashmere wool is a natural fiber, bio-based, biodegradable, and recyclable, but it has a high environmental impact. The farming and processing of cashmere pollute the air, soil, and water, producing greenhouse gases and wastes.
Goat 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 goat can produce about 30 liters of methane each day.
Wool has the fifth more harmful environmental impact among all materials used for textiles. It's even worse than manufactured fibers, such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon.
Goat farming requires more land than other natural fibers. It leads to soil salinity and the destruction of biodiversity and is responsible for high human and eco-toxicity.
Manufacturers often use toxic chemicals for cashmere wool processing, including washing, bleaching, dyeing, and treatment. And many farms use pesticides and insecticides on goats to keep them free of parasites.
Hazardous chemicals pollute air, soil, and water, endangering human health and ecosystems. Wastewater is highly polluting and contains residual pesticides and insecticides.
Are there better alternatives to cashmere?
The better alternatives to cashmere 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 cashmere 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 cashmere 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.