Like other insects, silkworms are animals. To harvest silk, many of them have to die. In their pupal stage, caterpillars of the silk moth are fed mulberry leaves to make cocoons. It takes up to 2,000 cocoons to create a silk dress.
Hundreds of thousand silkworms have to die to make silk textiles each year. Silk production is as exploitative and cruel today as it was centuries ago.
Ahimsa silk or peace silk allows moths to emerge from their cocoons and breed. It exists for people who live a non-violent and cruelty-free lifestyle and still want to wear natural, luxurious silk.
Unfortunately, Ahimsa peace silk still involves the exploitation of animals and isn't vegan. It's also impossible to produce in large quantities for commercial use.
To help you make more mindful purchasing decisions as a well-informed consumer, here is all you need to know about Ahimsa silk or peace silk fabric.
In this article:
- What is Ahimsa peace silk?
- How is peace silk made?
- What are the uses of peace silk fabric?
- Is Ahimsa peace silk ethical?
- Can silk be made without killing silkworms?
- Ethical alternatives to Ahimsa peace silk
Panaprium is proud to be 100% independent, free of any influence, and not sponsored. We carefully handpick products from brands we trust. Thank you so much for buying something through our link, as we may earn a commission that supports us.
What is Ahimsa peace silk?
Ahimsa silk or peace silk is often considered a more ethical silk alternative. A Hyderabad-based handloom technologist, Kusuma Rajaiah, invented peace silk in 1991.
Ahimsa silk or peace silk allows moths to emerge from their cocoons and breed. Silkworms are sensitive beings who experience fear. They are different from mammals. But they are still living beings, and they want to continue living.
The most well-known silk comes from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori. It's a commercial species of silkworms and a caterpillar of the domestic silkmoth.
Worms go through the same stages of metamorphosis as other moths in nature: egg, larval, pupal, and adult. But most of the insects in the silk industry don't live past the pupal stage.
Many different insects can make cocoons and are used to produce silk. They are reared in captivity and called silkworms. Silk involves the suffering of other animals such as ants, wasps, bees, beetles, leafhoppers, flies, and spiders.
Before becoming moths, silkworms spun silk fibers to form cocoons in their pupal stage. Manufacturers use these animals and their natural protein fibers to wove silk fabric.
How is peace silk made?
Ahimsa peace silk is made by spinning and weaving the cocoon fibers, the long threads that make up the inner structure constructed by larvae to protect themselves during the pupal stage.
Today, silk is mass-produced from reared silkworms. In their pupal stage, caterpillars of the silk moth are fed mulberry leaves to make cocoons. More than 5,000 silkworms are necessary to produce just one kilogram of silk.
Silkworms chew their way out of their cocoon when they become adults in nature. However, farmers kill most silkworms in the pupal stage by placing cocoons in boiling water to preserve material quality, thread length, and value,
Dropping silkworms and their cocoons into boiling water makes them potentially suffer and kills them. Ahimsa silk or peace silk allows moths to emerge from their cocoons and breed.
Silk fabric production is relatively slow. It requires long manufacturing processes such as breeding, farming, feeding, and harvesting thousands of cocoons.
Only 168,300 tons of raw silk are produced each year globally. The limited availability compared to other fabric types causes the prices to rise.
Silk farmers feed caterpillars mulberry leaves to make cocoons over several weeks. Cocooning takes as little as 28 days, beginning when the silkworm eggs are hatched, which generally takes between one or two weeks.
What are the uses of peace silk fabric?
Ahimsa peace silk fabric has the same uses as conventional silk. Many apparel designers and brands use silk to make lingerie, loungewear, sleepwear, shirts, dresses, blouses, and suits.
Silk is widely used in the fashion industry today. It has been considered a luxury and one of the finest fibers in the fashion world for thousands of years.
Silk is a luxury fabric and one of the most expensive worldwide. The most precious silk and arguably the most well-known for luxury high-end fashion items is mulberry silk.
Mulberry silk is a luxury because of its costly production for consistent quality. The silk fiber is a soft, delicate, lightweight, comfortable, breathable, versatile, and smooth animal-derived product.
People buy silk because they look for a pleasant and luxurious experience. So quality matters the most in silk products. Most high-end fashion designers use top-grade mulberry silk for their creations.
Silk is a popular fabric, and the demand is high. It makes high-quality jumpsuits, skirts, coats, dancewear, undergarments, lingerie, and evening wear.
Is Ahimsa peace silk ethical?
Ahimsa silk or peace silk isn't ethical. While it allows moths to emerge from their cocoons and breed, it still involves animal exploitation and isn't vegan.
We don't need to exploit insects to survive. There is simply no excuse to use animals as a resource for fashion in our society. Silkworms are bred, enslaved, and slaughtered for an unnecessary luxury fabric.
In nature, just like many other moths, silkworms go through the same steps of metamorphosis: egg, larval, pupal, and adult. And they chew their way out of their cocoon.
However, they don't go past the pupal stage in the silk industry. Silkworms want to have a natural and peaceful existence. Life in every form is more valuable than things.
Each female Bombyx mori lays up to 500 eggs. Silkworm eggs typically hatch within 7-14 days in a warm environment. Unfortunately, many hatchlings die prematurely from dehydration or starvation.
Silkworms are domesticated, bred, and fed to maximize silk production. The industry wants to make the most profits with little regard for the welfare of animals.
We should avoid all harm and exploitation of animals, even insects because it's cruel and unnecessary. All animals have the right to live free of suffering.
Silkworms want to live as they were in nature, just like any other animal. They shouldn't be exploited and subjected to inhumane treatment. No animal should endure exploitation to make beautiful things.
Domesticated moths are blind, can't fly or eat. They aren't capable of surviving in the wild. Silk farming has to stop to let wild silkworms repopulate their natural habitats and live peacefully.
Can silk be made without killing silkworms?
Silk can be made without killing silkworms. Ethical silk production would involve collecting cocoons left from wild insects after the adult stage when they are needed anymore.
However, this process is inefficient, costly, and not viable for commercial use. A more ethical way of wearing silk is using second-hand silk. Or any other silk alternatives.
Wild silk differs from domesticated silk as the wild silk moths are allowed to breed and lay eggs. However, the cocoons still go through the same process as the domesticated cocoons.
More sustainable and ethical silk production would include more transparency, organic farming, low-impact dyes, wastewater treatments, recycling, and relevant certifications.
Unfortunately, most silk production facilities in China and India aren't certified. They consistently produce silk textiles with low social and environmental standards.
Ethical alternatives to Ahimsa peace silk
Ethical, cruelty-free, and environmentally friendly alternatives to Ahimsa peace silk include organic materials, recycled fibers, and semi-synthetic regenerated fabrics.
Choose one of the many animal-free options available instead of buying silk. Cruelty-free fashion brands don't use silk in their new collections but the many vegan alternatives to silk.
A better material to use for fabrics instead of silk is lyocell. Tencel, a well-known brand of lyocell, is an environmentally friendly cellulosic fiber produced sustainably.
Tencel lyocell is made of cellulose from wood pulp like rayon. It's a semi-synthetic fiber made from renewable materials. Lyocell isn't natural but its impact on the environment is low compared to other fabrics.
Sustainable lyocell production facilities can almost fully recover and reuse water and chemicals with closed-loop processes. When more than 99% of the solvent is recycled, lyocell production is considered eco-friendly.
Tencel lyocell is a versatile, soft, comfortable, and breathable fiber like silk. It's lightweight, highly absorbent, and pleasant to the touch. It has good resistance to wrinkling and pilling, with multiple sheens and color options.
Check out our selection of the best clothing brands that use Tencel lyocell for their new collections.
Was this article helpful to you? Please tell us what you liked or didn't like in the comments below.
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.