Cruelty-Free Shopping

What Not to Wear

As if all the brand-names and logos weren’t confusing enough, one also has to consider that animals may have died to produce an item of clothing. It is pretty clear that animals die to make fur garments and leather, both of which require animal skin. Many people think that other fibres, such as wool, don’t hurt the animals that provide them. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You can help end unnecessary cruelty to animals by remembering not to buy animal fibres and materials. Read on to find out more about fashion’s innocent victims.

Fur, Leather, Wool, Silk, and Down.

Fur

It’s unlikely that anyone will be impressed by your fur coat, trim, or accessories. What could be more uncool than wearing skin that was ripped from live animals that had not asked to die? Wearing fur just tells people that you support horrible cruelty to animals. The 40 million animals murdered each year for their fur are trapped inhumanely or raised in tiny, filthy cages.

There is really no excuse for wearing fur either. Many synthetic fibres are warmer, lighter, longer lasting, and cheaper than fur. Most importantly, though, synthetic fibres don’t require the death of animals. If you like the fluffy, fuzzy look of fur, choose a faux-fur and let your friends, family, and acquaintances know that you’ve chosen to save animals’ lives. Shop at stores that have committed to ban the sale of fur and let stores that do sell fur know why you aren’t doing business with them.

Click here for facts on the cruelty of the fur industry.

Leather

Any leather garment you buy probably came from one of millions of cows, pigs, sheep, and goats that are slaughtered for their skins every year. These animals are castrated, branded, and dehorned, and have their tails docked without anesthetics. They are trucked to slaughter, bled to death, and skinned. It’s a life and death you wouldn’t wish for any creature and yet, if you purchase leather, that’s exactly what you’re doing.
Leather isn’t just a byproduct of the meat industry; it’s a booming industry in and of itself. In fact, the meat industry relies on skin sales to stay in business. Many people argue that by buying leather they help to use the whole animal so that the animal hasn’t “died in vain” or been “wasted.” However, buying leather means also supporting the meat industry and cruelty to animals overall.

Animal skin is turned into finished leather through the use of dangerous mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, cyanide-based oils and dyes, chrome, and other toxins. People who have worked in and lived near tanneries are dying of cancer caused by exposure to these toxic chemicals used to process and dye leather. A New York State Department of Health study found that more than half of all testicular cancer victims work in tanneries.

Instead of leather, opt for shoes, belts, and other products made of synthetic materials. Look on labels for words like “manmade leather,” “all-manmade materials,” “pleather,” or “synthetic.” If you aren’t sure what something’s made of, ask a sales person for help. If you still aren’t sure, the price can be a good indicator. Faux leathers sell at far cheaper prices than the real thing does.

Wool

Sheep that are raised for wool don’t have it easy. Farmers raise thousands of sheep or goats at once, which makes it impossible to give each animal the attention and care it may need. Many sheep die each year of disease, lack of shelter and neglect. It’s widely believed that shearing sheep helps the animals, who might otherwise be burdened with too much wool. But without human interference, sheep grow just enough wool to protect themselves from temperature extremes. Their fleece provides effective insulation against both cold and heat. It certainly wasn’t designed to be removed by humans.

Merino Wool – Australian Merino sheep have it especially tough. They are bred to have wrinkly skin so that each will yield more wool. This can mean discomfort and overheating for the sheep. When it’s hot, the sheep’s skin gets soaked with urine and sweat, and flies attracted to the moisture will lay their eggs on their skin. The hatched maggots then eat away at the live sheep. To combat this, ranchers engage in an appalling practice called mulesing, which involves cutting large chunks of flesh right off the animal’s rump without anaesthetic.

When sheep age and stop producing enough wool, they are sold for slaughter. Sheep from Australia and New Zealand are shipped to the Middle East. They must endure weeks or months-long trips on overcrowded, disease-ridden ships with little access to food or water. Many die along the way and those that make it are thrown into the backs of trucks and cars to later have their throats slit while fully conscious.

Buying wool and other animal fibres only supports this kind of torture. There are many synthetic and plant-based yarns that are actually warmer and stronger than wool so there is no need to continue the cruelty. You can help stop the cruelty by refusing to buy wool, clothes made of wool, and clothes from stores that sell wool.

To learn more about mulesing and live export of sheep, visit PETA's Save The Sheep web site.

Cashmere - Cashmere is made from the coats of cashmere goats. When you buy a “beautiful” cashmere garment, know that you have supported the killing of several goats that weren’t quite beautiful enough. Cashmere goats are harshly judged and those with "defects" in their coats are typically killed before reaching two years of age. Industry experts estimate that farmers kill 50 to 80 per cent of the young goats whose coats do not meet standards.

Angora – Angora wool comes from angora rabbits, who object strongly to being strapped down and clipped. Because they struggle, most end up getting cut by the clippers. Angoras also live in excruciating pain, often with ulcerated feet, because their delicate foot pads don’t agree with the wire floors of their cages. Many farmers kill male angoras at birth because they yield less wool than the females.

Alternatives - Apart from being obtained in a cruel manner, wool has many other drawbacks. In fact, its warmth seems to be the only good thing about it. Many people are allergic to wool or experience itching and skin irritation when they wear it. Wool stains easily, retains foul odours, and can’t be washed easily. It’s not always machine washable, shrinks every time you wash it, and doesn’t dry well. Wool is not durable either and can be easily damaged, susceptible to both mildew and hungry moths. It’s no wonder so many people opt for other fibres anyway. The bottom line is that wool clothing isn’t best for humans or sheep!

Buy warm clothes made of cotton, cotton flannel, polyester fleece, synthetic shearling, soft acrylic and faux fur. Some amazing warm synthetic fibers have been created in recent years. For example, Tencel is a breathable, durable, and biodegradable fiber and Polartec Wind Pro, with four times the wind resistance of wool, is made primarily of recycled plastic soda bottles! Garments made of these fancy alternatives can be expensive but wool is pretty expensive, too, not to mention harder to care for.

Silk

Silk is a shiny, smooth material made of the fibre that silkworms make to form their cocoons. First used in Ancient China, it has long been considered a valuable and luxurious fabric. Unfortunately, silkworms don’t give up their thread willingly. In fact, 500 silkworms must die to produce a single kilogram of raw silk.

Silkworms aren’t really worms at all –they are caterpillars, the larvae of any one of several species of moth. These caterpillars excrete silk fibre to build a cocoon around themselves. In order to harvest the silk fibre, the caterpillars are boiled in their cocoons before they complete transformation into moths. Instead of silk, you can choose from several fine cruelty-free cloths like nylon, milkweed seed-pod fibers, rayon, and silk-cotton tree and ceiba tree filaments.

Down

Used to fill comforters, pillows, parkas, and other cosy products, down is the soft bottom layer of a goose’s feathering. The soft feathers are plucked from geese either after slaughter or while they are being raised for meat or foie gras. Foie gras is fatty liver, produced by force-feeding geese through a funnel until their livers balloon to as much as 12 times their normal size. It’s clear that being forcibly fattened is extremely uncomfortable in itself, but plucking the birds causes them even more pain and distress. One study found that geese’s blood glucose level, an indicator of stress, nearly doubled as they were being plucked.

Cruelty aside, down is expensive and it loses its insulating ability when wet. On the other hand, cruelty-free, synthetic fillers maintain their insulating ability in all weather conditions. Another problem with down is that many people are allergic to it, making it a doubly poor choice for your guest room.

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