CW: Mention of animal cruelty and death.
Animals have had a long history of being present in the fashion world. Originating from the early cavemen and their necessity to protect themselves from harsh weathers, textiles made from animals have made their way into our closets today.
The reasons for their relevancy in the fashion world are varied but so are its effects. While there is the more innocent side of this - fashion simply borrowing inspiration from nature's colours and shapes - a darker side is ever-present. The process that animals go through to become part of a wardrobe catalogue is not only unethical but inhumane.
What some years ago came to represent a wealthy status, today is depicted as the cruel and savage murder it truly is.
Nowadays, there are endless campaigns and attempts to boycott this with some people becoming more informed about the origins of their clothes. However, there are still several strides to take towards ending the cruelty that many animals continue to suffer for the sake of a ‘fashionable outfit’.
The animals' perspective
Some of the materials referred to as ‘animal textiles’ are wool, silk, fur, leather, feathers, among others. And wherever they come from, they all leave a trail of short, tortured lives behind.
“The shearing shed must be one of the worst places in the world for cruelty to animals…” Animal Cruelty Exposure Fund
A clear example of this is wool. Sheep are sheared just before they would naturally shred their fur as this can implicate a loss of wool. In the haste of doing this, many sheep die either from premature shearing or from the speed that shearers have to shred them, as they are normally paid by the hour. This results in sheep being treated so poorly that many either die or are left with “Half their faces shorn off.” And it gets even worse, when sheep are older and their wool isn’t as before, they are sold for slaughter.
And this case is just the tip of the iceberg. It is a small peak on the behind the scenes of the wool trade. It doesn’t even begin to cover all of the other disturbing realities that go on with other animals that have their lives taken for fashion.
What would alternative options look like?
Roadkill Couture: a new path for fur-lovers?
A more controversial option for the replacement of some of these textiles is this innovative business idea by pioneer Pamela Paquin.
The motor behind her brand, Petit Mort Fur, is the concept of roadkill couture. Paquin takes dead animals that were casualties from car accidents, left on the side of the road, and uses their skin to produce different clothing items. She then disposes of them in the woods, so that it returns to be part of the food chain of other animals. Thus, the fur ‘doesn’t go to waste’ and it is way of providing real fur clothing items without the guilt of sacrificing an innocent animal.
Many could ask: will this eventually encourage more roadkills? I highly doubt that this would be the case, as even if the animal is not the primary concern for the person, their cars and financial implications would be, as horrific as that sounds. Still, people debate this concept, many finding it as horrifying as the usual slaughter.
Not convinced yet? More on animal fashion
As if the implications to the environment and its diversity weren't enough, this sector of the fashion industry is the root of many threats to workers’ physical and mental health.
Take a worker, for example, whose job is in a leather factory. The physical health risks associated with this include:
Exposition to toxic gases
Operating dangerous machinery in a fast-moving environment
Coming into contact with chemicals that can obstruct their organs or cause serious allergies
On top of this, are the psychological effects. An interview conducted with an ex-employee of a mink farm in Spain explained the cruelty of the workers towards animals. He detailed situations when animals were even skinned alive and how, many times, it could only be borne by using drugs during their working shift. The torture and horror that animals go through, being dissipated only by drug use, shows how badly this industry needs to reshape its values and restructure its priorities.
How intensely do we need to keep informing ourselves? Well, we need to make conscious buying decisions, knowing that they can and will lead to an endless cycle of slaughter, injustice, and inhumanity if we don’t change the demand.