By Paula Moore
Californians know that animals are not ours to wear. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Berkeley and West Hollywood all banned the sale of new fur items, then California went on to make history by recently banning fur sales statewide, becoming the first U.S. state to do so.
This year, it also banned fur trapping as well as the importation and sale of skins and other body parts from certain lizards, caimans and hippopotamuses.
And while the state technically banned alligator- and crocodile-skin sales back in 1970, the exotic-skins industry has been fighting it ever since. But the animals won yet again, and the long-awaited ban goes into effect in January.
It’s not just the Golden State that is applying the Golden Rule to animals raised and killed for their skins. Everywhere you look, fashion is becoming more ethical, and it’s happening quickly. More and more consumers realize that whenever animals are seen as nothing more than commodities to be turned into wool coats or leather boots, cruelty will always be part of the production process. And companies now understand that once cruel practices have been exposed in their industry, they have to change course or lose customers.
Here’s an example: No one was even talking about angora until a PETA Asia investigation showed rabbits on farms in China tied down and screaming as their fur was ripped out by the fistful. They were the screams heard ’round the world.
As PETA Asia’s video went viral, sending shockwaves through the clothing industry, stunned retailers rapidly dropped angora wool from their clothing lines. Calvin Klein, H&M, Tommy Hilfiger, Topshop, Inditex (which owns Zara) and hundreds of other major retailers have banned it.
A PETA Asia investigation into goat farms in South Africa, where most of the world’s mohair is produced, found that fast shearing leaves goats cut up and bleeding, and the worst wounds are crudely stitched up right on the filthy shearing floor without any pain relief whatsoever. Following PETA Asia’s exposé, more than 300 retailers worldwide dropped mohair.
PETA and its international affiliates have also exposed the global wool industry’s systemic cruelty to sheep at 100 different facilities on four continents. In shearing sheds, workers race against the clock and lose their temper over the smallest impediment—often taking out their frustrations on the terrified, struggling sheep. PETA’s exposés have shown that sheep are punched, kicked and slammed to the floor as well as sustaining gaping, bloody wounds from careless shearing.
I could keep going — from feathers to leather to crocodile skin, animal abuse is rampant in the fashion trade, and retailers and consumers alike are saying, “Enough!”
Animal-derived materials also pollute the planet, squander precious resources and endanger workers’ health with poisonous chemicals, which is another reason why they are a fashion faux pas for millennials and other eco-conscious consumers. The groundbreaking Pulse of the Fashion Industry report released in 2017 found that three of the four most environmentally damaging materials were derived from animals. Leather tops the list, followed closely by silk and wool.
Now for the good news: As the momentum against animal skins grows, so do consumers’ choices. Innovative and sustainable vegan options — like leather made from pineapple leaves, apples and cork; wool made from seaweed and hemp; cashmere made from a waste byproduct of the soy foods industry; down made from eucalyptus; and fur made from frayed denim and recycled plastic bottles — are on the rise, and more are in the works. Even polyurethane, while not as sustainable as the aforementioned materials, doesn’t do half the damage caused by the leather industry.
As Californians and kind consumers the world over would attest, the future of fashion is here — and it doesn’t hurt animals.