Fast fashion is everywhere and it's gained a lot of popularity over the last 20 years. It's very fun and convenient to shop for new trends at an affordable price. But the overconsumption of cheaply made clothing has a disastrous impact on the environment, ecosystems, and animals.
In recent years, it has become well-known that the choice of whether, or how often, to eat animal products can have a huge impact on our environmental footprint. But what about the choices we make when we are shopping? We may not realise but our fashion and beauty choices directly harm, affect, and endanger the animals around us. The problem is that billions of animals provide source material for fashion, including leather, silk and fur. Industry practices can also adversely affect biodiversity, leading to a loss of animal habitats and species. So, if you’re dreaming of a wardrobe that’s kind to both the planet and all of its inhabitants, it's time to read on.
The cons of wool
Is there anything more cosy to wear than a woollen sweater in the winter? Unfortunately, the impacts of wool production are not as comforting. Wool can be eco-friendly material, but it is not always produced in the most ethical way. More than 95% of all wool comes from mass production globally. Sheep are usually sheared once a year for the purpose of using their wool, and this process can be quite painful for them. In Australia, where most of the wool comes from, it is common practice to use a painful and inhumane technique called “mulesing”.
What is the solution? Educate yourself about the wool types each brand uses, and choose the brands that are using non-mulesed. No animal should have to go through the pain and stress that this kind of procedure causes. Research shows the pain of mulesing is similar to that of castration, but it lasts up to 48 hours.
Leather, fur and animal skin
Fast fashion kills many endangered animals each year. People hunt a vast number of reptiles, kangaroos, ostriches, beavers, wild cats, bears, antelopes, and seals for their pelt used in fashion. It threatens many of these wildlife species with extinction. Animals suffer immense pain, being trapped, caged, and often skinned alive to make textiles. In the name of fashion, these animals have to go through forced farming, food deprivation, mistreatment, painful killing methods, and sometimes even being skinned alive.
What is the solution? You can buy sustainable leather or vegan leather (mushroom leather, pineapple leather, coffee leather), opt for faux-fur instead of real fur, or buy recycled upcycled or secondhand products.
About 525,000 tonnes of microfibers enter the ocean from clothes each year as the pollution cycle doesn’t just end after the clothing items have been manufactured and shipped, but carries on each time the item is washed. All clothes shed microfibers during washing, regardless of the fabric they are made from. The difference is that natural fibres biodegrade when they enter the water stream and synthetics do not. This directly affects the fish and marine life who end up swallowing those microfibers and disrupting their food chain. The lower the quality of the materials, the more microfibers it shreds while being washed.
What is the solution? Do not buy cheap materials that release more microfibers and choose natural and organic materials instead. Also, try to wash your clothes less, wash inside out with lower temperatures, and air-dry your clothes.
Animal cruelty also exists in the cosmetics industry. Animal testing for cosmetics was instituted in the 1940s in response to serious injuries suffered by people who were exposed to unsafe beauty products. Animals are still used to assess the safety of cosmetics and personal care products - such as lipstick, mascara, shampoo, and cologne. It is estimated that 500,000 mice, guinea pigs, rats, and rabbits suffer and die in these tests every year throughout the world.
What is the solution? Choose to support the cosmetics brands that do not test their products on animals and sell cruelty-free makeup. Some examples of these brands: Australian Gold, bareMinerals, Boots, GOSH, and more you could find here.
Fashion is much more than only your appearance. More than often, there are other living beings involved and some don’t have a voice of their own to speak up. We should push for better measures to protect animal rights and discourage animal experimentation. Remember that at every instance we have the choice to stop the cruelty by choosing other fabrics instead of leather, wool or fur, and buying cosmetics that have not been tested on animals. It’s not too late to protect animals!