Using animals for clothing is one of the biggest forms of animal exploitation by humans. We breed them, abuse them, and kill them all so that we can carry a leather purse, wear a cashmere sweater, or buy a new pair of heels. Animal-derived materials are, most of the time, products of cruelty; but unfortunately they’re used in many of the everyday items that we buy. While there are many alternatives, some commonly used and cruel animal-derived clothing materials to be on the lookout for and avoid include:
Alpaca Fibre — The fibre/coat of alpacas.
Angora — Comes from angora rabbits — who are typically kept in small, filthy cages. They are handled violently and commonly have their hair/fur ripped out of their skin.
Calfskin — Leather made from the skin of baby cows.
Camel Hair — The hair/fur of camels.
Cashmere — Comes from cashmere goats.
Down — It’s the layer of fine feather from birds. Down from ducks, geese, and other waterfowl is very common.
Feather — Commonly comes from ducks, geese, and other waterfowl as well. Feathers are often times ripped out by the fistful, which leaves birds bleeding and in excruciating pain.
Fur — Animals killed for fur are commonly bred and raised on fur farms where there is extensive neglect and abuse (but they’re caught in the wild as well). Most face violent deaths — including suffocation, electrocution, gassing, poisoning, and more. Many are often even skinned alive.
Horn — Horns of animals are often used in buttons and other accessories.
Leather / Exotic Leather — Made from the skins of animals — such as cows, crocodiles, snakes, dogs, kangaroos, sheep, lambs, goats, pigs, etc. Animals are killed and skinned — sometimes skinned alive.
Mohair — Comes from angora goats.
Nubuck / Suede — Textured leather made from animal skins.
Pashmina — Similar to cashmere — it’s made from the hair, typically the undercoat, of a breed of cashmere goat.
Shearling — Made from the skin of sheep or lambs. It’s leather with the wool left on.
Sheep Wool / Merino Wool / Felt — The fibre from sheep coats.
Silk — Made from silkworm cocoons.
Velvet — Traditionally made from animal-derived material — like silk, mohair, wool, etc.
& More — Unfortunately, there are more than what I’ve listed.
Some of these materials are obvious as to how they’re not cruelty-free or vegan — like fur, leather, and shearling. Quite a few of these materials, however, may seem like they wouldn’t be cruel; but sadly that’s not the case. Most of these materials, which are found in many everyday clothing items — like jackets, hats, mittens, shoes, accessories, etc., come from factory farms or mass-scale farms where it’s profit over animal welfare. It’s easy to think that producing wool, cashmere, mohair, angora, camel hair, etc. wouldn’t harm animals, but it does. Many of the animals in these industries face neglect, abuse, starvation, bodily cuts and maiming, dehorning, overheating, premature shearing, being violently handled, and death. Even if something is advertised as cruelty-free, high-quality, or being from a happy farm, that’s usually not the case at all.
With these materials being so common, it can seem impossible to buy animal-free options; but luckily there are many alternatives. It’s really easy to choose options that are a little more animal-friendly. Some animal-free clothing materials to look for include:
Beech Tree Fibre
Fleece (not to be confused with wool fleece)
Lyocell (a form of rayon)
rPET (recycled PET)
With a little bit of research and knowledge, we can learn to be more conscientious of what we buy, ensuring that we’re not funding and wearing animal cruelty.