Can Fashion Be Ethical If It’s Not Cruelty Free?

Can Fashion Be Ethical If It’s Not Cruelty Free?

The fashion industry does not use animal’s skins as by-products of the meat industry – they are co-products – if not industries of their very own, that have huge impacts on the planet and of course, the animals themselves.

Recently, there has been a much-needed rise of media coverage on why we must be reducing meat consumption and moving towards a plant-base diet. It mostly is angled from the detrimental environmental impact of animal agriculture, but the flow on of this awareness is the widening scope of consideration for people factoring animals into their consumer decisions – and what happens to them before they end up on the plate – or even as the clothes they wear.The fashion industry does not use animal’s skins as by-products of the meat industry – they are co-products – if not industries of their very own, that have huge impacts on the planet and of course, the animals themselves.

This year the second biggest clothing site in the UK, ASOS, announced the ban of feathers, mohair, cashmere, bone and silk. This is a huge stand for the movement of animal welfare. Animal protection groups across the globe, including Voiceless, came out supporting the decision that reflects the shift in public attitude of wanting more cruelty-free choices and more transparency in supply chains.

It represents the growing sentiment against fur as a material, a sentiment that has been gaining steam with designers and companies.

Wearing fur has been controversial for a long time, since it is near impossible not to realise it comes from appalling conditions, whether it’s from fur farms where animals are electrocuted often from their genitals, being trapped and experiencing a slow death or from China where millions of cats and dogs are hanged or skinned alive for their fur.

In 2017, French Vogue dedicated a cover with Gisele speaking out against it, and now high-end designers, Gucci, Michael Kors and Versace are all pledging to go fur-free. Animal lovers always knew it, but now the fashion industry has confirmed; wearing fur will be OUT for 2019 and beyond. Done. Uncool. Downright ugly.

Wearing a material that is supporting such cruelty could never be beautiful and supports suffering to living beings in a way that would be illegal if allowed to happen to our companion animals. The debate is being had in the UK parliament, with discussions to ban the sale of fur .

And hopefully now more people will become aware that this cruelty occurs across all the industries that rely on the animals for their skins.

It may be harder to visualise…

6,600 silkworms are killed, mostly boiled alive in their cocoons in order to make just one kilogram of silk. That cashmere comes from the cashmere goats of China highlands, is causing havoc with erosion to the land and also means the goats are stripped of their protection from the elements. Feathers, not only used for decorative purposes, but also fill down jackets, are collected by live plucking causing pain, distress and leaving gaping wounds.

Then there is leather. A material that is embedded in our fashion choices (if we are not vegan).

Cows are a huge problem for our environment, contributing phenomenal amounts of methane to our atmosphere which has a direct effect on global warming, and they are also responsible for clearing of rainforests for grazing and to grow the crops to feed them. Cows are not only reared for steaks and burgers, but also for their skin for shoes and bags. This means the push to eat less of them, because of the environmental impact, must include the discussion of wearing less of them… especially in times where fast affordable fashions allows the buying of these products at a “disposable” rate.

Not only does breeding and rearing high amounts of cows have effects on the planet, but also turning their skin into leather, where toxic chemicals have to be used. Especially when the leather products are being traded in developing countries, which half of the global trade is. In these places there is the exploitation of animals and humans with unregulated working conditions and extraordinary levels of pollution caused by the tanneries and processors.

Leather cannot be ignored as we move forward. For ethical and environmental reasons.

With fashion big-name influencers like Tom Ford now “vegan” and of course Stella McCartney and with more wonderful developments in cruelty-free materials that are now soft supple and durable unlike what was available decades ago, the fashion industry will move with the trend and consumer demands. This is seen with ASOS’s decision, with the pledges to go fur free and retailers including Topshop, H&M and Marks & Spencer vowing to no longer use mohair in an effort to become more conscious of animal welfare.

Stepping stones.

Gemma is a Qualified Naturopath and is the founder of cruelty-free living blog, The Compassionate Road. Gemma is incredibly passionate about helping others live healthy, cruelty-free lives and is on a mission to empower each of us to make compassionate choices that support ourselves and the greater whole. 

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