Did you know that it takes four goats an entire year to produce one cashmere sweater? So the answer to “can vegans wear cashmere?” is an emphatic: No. But there are so many other reasons why it’s cruel to wear cashmere, as I’ll explain.
Where Does Cashmere Come From?
Cashmere wool comes from different species of domesticated cashmere goats like the Kashmir Pashmina goat, Inner Mongolia cashmere goat, and the Tibetan Plateau goat, to name a few.
The wool used for cashmere products is actually the soft undercoat of the goat. Since goats have low body fat, they need that warm undercoat to stay warm in the harsh, cold and arid climate where they’re from.
75% of the world’s cashmere production comes from China and Mongolia. About 6,500 tons of pure, refined cashmere is produced every year. This is a very small amount compared to the estimated 2 million tons of sheep wool produced annually. Due to its rarity, cashmere wool is much more expensive than sheep wool, but even though fewer goats are farmed to produce cashmere, they suffer in similar ways that sheep do.
Goats Suffer on Cashmere Farms
Even though cashmere goats naturally shed their winter coat in the spring, many goats are shorn mid-winter on cashmere farms because that’s when their undercoat is the longest and also considered the finest quality.
Most cashmere goats used in cashmere production are raised on large, industrial-scale farms, which can result in crowded conditions, leading to stress and health problems for the goats.
Peta did an exposé on large-scale cashmere farms in China and Mongolia. Their undercover footage shows goats being forcibly held down with their legs bent in painful positions, screaming out in pain as their hair is being ripped out with sharp rakes. Imagine just going about your business and suddenly being dragged and forcibly held down while someone rips your hair out?
Because this shearing process is so aggressive, many goats end up with cuts and other wounds on their body, but they’re not given medical treatment or painkillers. They have to suffer through their pain and are at risk of infection and disease.
Domesticated cashmere goats can live 10-12 years, but if they’re sick or not producing enough wool, they’re killed before they reach that age. Once a cashmere goat is no longer useful, their throats are slit and many of them are sold for their meat.
Some of these goats are killed in painful and gruesome ways. Peta’s exposé reports:
“Cashmere goats deemed no longer profitable endure slow, agonizing deaths. At a slaughterhouse in China, eyewitnesses saw workers hit animals in the head with a hammer in an attempt to stun them. In Mongolia, workers were seen dragging goats by one leg onto the slaughterhouse floor before slitting their throats in full view of other goats. They were left to bleed out on the filthy kill floor, and some were seen still moving a full two minutes later.”
What About Ethical Cashmere?
Even goats on “ethical” cashmere farms still suffer in the way all farm animals do. On many cashmere farms, kids are snatched from their mothers as soon as they’re born and either sold off to other farms or raised separately to make sure they’re healthy and can produce quality wool. Separating children from their mothers and selling them like cans of soda is not ethical and is a common practice in both large-scale and smaller-scale farms. Few farms keep the baby with their mother.
There are small-scale farms where farmers are gentler during the shearing process and take better care of the goats than larger-scale cashmere farms. But these farms still treat goats like products instead of living beings with thoughts and feelings who deserve freedom and full autonomy. If you wear animal products, you’re saying that it’s ok to treat animals like objects. That’s why wearing animals isn’t vegan.
Bad For the Environment
Cashmere goats eat 10% of their body weight and eat the root of the grass. This can prevent the grass from regrowing and can lead to overgrazing, soil degradation, and desertification on and around cashmere farms.
Producing cashmere also wastes a lot of water since a lot of water is used to grow the plants that the goats eat. Also, during the processing stage, the wool is cleaned, dyed, and chemically treated. This can result in the release of harmful pollutants into the water supply and contributes to water pollution which negatively impacts local ecosystems. Additionally, in some regions where water is scarce, the demands of cashmere production can put a significant strain on already limited water resources.
Loss of Biodiversity
The overgrazing of cashmere goats and the degradation of soil and vegetation can lead to a loss of biodiversity in the area. This is because a reduction in vegetation cover and soil quality can affect the habitat and food sources of local wildlife, causing them to migrate to other areas or even face extinction.
The use of chemicals during the production of cashmere can also lead to the contamination of local ecosystems and have toxic effects on local plant and animal species. This can reduce the overall number of species in an area and create an imbalance in the local ecosystem.
Vegan Alternatives to Cashmere
Thankfully, you don’t need to exploit animals to stay warm and feel comfortable! There are plenty of vegan, eco-friendly alternatives to cashmere.
- Synthetic fibers: Artificial fibers such as polyester, acrylic, and rayon are often used to imitate the texture and look of cashmere.
- Bamboo: Bamboo fabric is soft, warm, and sustainable. It’s also hypoallergenic and antimicrobial, making it a great option for those with sensitive skin.
- Soy: Soy fibers are made from the protein in soybeans and are naturally soft and hypoallergenic.
- Tencel: Tencel is a cellulose fiber made from wood pulp. It’s known for its soft feel and sustainability, as well as its ability to regulate temperature.
- Recycled materials: Recycled fabrics such as recycled polyester, recycled cotton, and recycled wool are great alternatives to cashmere. These materials are environmentally friendly, as they reduce waste and conserve natural resources.
- Hemp: Hemp fabric is strong, durable, and naturally resistant to bacteria and odors. It’s also hypoallergenic, making it a good choice for those with sensitive skin.
What is your favorite vegan alternative to cashmere? Let us know in the comments below!