Animal Rights in Fashion
Human relationship with animals is always a relevant topic that affects almost all spheres of human activity. Animals have been used in fashion industry for many years. With an increasing demand for leather, silk, and fur over the last centuries, garments, which are made from animals, have transformed from being just functional to being stylish and fashionable. The large-scale production of leather, wool, and fur items has created an abrupt system of farming, skinning, and trapping. This has induced an uproar among activists for animal rights. The paper will discuss the use of animals’ products, animal cruelty, and development of animal rights in fashion industry.
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Animal Products in Fashion Industry
History of Animal Products in Fashion
People have been using animals for making clothes for centuries. Before obtaining high acknowledgement in the fashion market, leather and fur were considered as means of fighting the elements by the ancient civilizations. The civilizations that lived in cold climate conditions were dependent on animal fur to survive. In warmer conditions, animals were used to provide necessary material for tools and clothing. The excess of leather and fur products was explained by the lack of other devices. There were no cotton fibers and weaving techniques. “It wasn’t until the mid 1800’s that animal fashion products began to be mass produced”. At that time, fur reached the status of a luxury good. As a result, this gave rise to fur farming. The creation of fur farms served as a means to guarantee the sufficient stock. “Fur farms dominate the trade, and production has more than doubled since the 1990s”. Gee states that fur started to gain a negative overtone after the 1960s.
Today, there is a growing number of socially responsible consumers who request and choose fashion that is animal free. In fact, they are more likely to buy clothing and accessories, which are used in the production of non-animal origin materials and vegetable fibers or fiber techno. At the same time, there is an increasing number of enterprises that are engaged in the production of animal free garments all over the world. These companies undertake not to use the raw materials of animal origin for the manufacture of fashion collections and product lines. Today, it is becoming easier to find products of ethical and sustainable fashion. If consumers are attentive to the buying process, they can find clothing that is made with innovative materials that do not harm animals and the environment and contribute to caring for human health.
Harm of Using Animal Products in Fashion
The use of animals in the fashion industry causes a significant environmental harm for the humanity. A great number of animals is involved in fashion industry. Millions of animals are reared in captivity and caught in the wild to meet the demand of the fashion industry. Among them, there are minks, foxes, raccoon dogs, chinchillas, coyotes, raccoons, rabbits, and many other species.
Tanning has a negative impact on the environment. In the process of tanning leather, numerous chemical substances that are included in the classification of toxic and carcinogenic agents are used. Thus, there are formaldehyde, acids and heavy metals among them. Moreover, it is worth remembering about environmental pollution as the skin of animals is a material that undergoes degradation and requires special handling. Sewage, solid wastes, residues of animal carcass, and gaseous emissions, which are generated in the result of processing and skins tanning, are the main categories of contaminants.
Along with environment harm, involvement of animals in the fashion industry can cause health risks. Thus, some toxic and carcinogenic chemical agents that are used at different stages of treatment of skins (formaldehyde, pentachlorophenol, heavy metals, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) may be present in the form of residual on the finished product. Thus, even a small fur insert can be harmful to human health because a consumer will be exposed to chemicals in the process of wearing this thing daily.
Animal Cruelty in Fashion
“Many fashion designers are currently working with fur including Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and Vivienne Westwood”. The majority of foxes, minks, and other beasts that are used for fur production are raised on farms. “In 2014 a reported 3.4 million animals were killed on fur farms”. The conditions of such fur farms can be compared with those on farms where animals are raised for the production of meat. They are kept in little cages which prohibit movements. Bounding in small cages has not only psychical, but also psychological impacts on animals. In confinement, the majority of animals suffer from nervousness and stress.
Moreover, the way of killing animals is too cruel. They are usually killed through neck-breaking or anal electrocution. These methods prevent damages to the skin. To save money, animals do not receive anesthetics. Often, animals are skinned while being conscious.
Millions of animals are brought as the sacrifice to the fashion industry. This includes not only the skin of cattle (adults and juveniles), but also horses, sheep, goats, and pigs. The skin is often obtained from animals which do not enter the food chain and human habits. The skin of animals is used in various areas of the fashion industry as tailoring. In this case, contrary to the popular belief, it is not only the use of food industry waste. This is a real business that allows breeders to get the maximum income from a single animal.
It is impossible to estimate the exact number of exotic animals (e.g. pythons, snakes, lizards, and alligators) that are used for the production of products in the fashion industry. Accessories, bags, and shoes made of crocodile and snakeskin are incredibly expensive, but one should remember about the suffering that is experienced by exotic animals. Most of them are caught in the wild. After severe suffering that is caused by their long maintenance in captivity, they are callously deprived of life. Karakul lambskin is considered to be the cruelest method of receiving fur. To receive it, baby lambs, which are inside the womb or just some days old, are killed. As a rule, they are taken from the womb after killing the pregnant mother and then skinned.
Silkworms are sacrificed to produce silk. In the process of the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly, silkworm spins a cocoon of silk thread. When a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, it comes out of the cocoon, making a hole in it. Thus, the continued use of the cocoon becomes impossible. To avoid damage to the cocoon and for the preservation of the high quality silk, silkworm breeders kill pupae, dropping cocoons in boiling water. Silk fibers can also be obtained from the cocoon after the butterfly is released, but in this case silk is of poor quality. The conditions of silk production are similar to the conditions of fur production. Thus, people use silkworms for their own purposes, turning them into a regular thing which is deprived of life after performing its task. There is only the importance of indicators and the fact that silkworms and butterflies are living creatures is not taken into consideration. Silk is the fiber, for the production of which drastic methods are used. Like many other materials that are used in the fashion industry, it can be completely replaced with more efficient and durable synthetic or vegetable fibers such as nylon.
In addition to fur, leather, feathers, and animal fibers, other materials of animal origin are used in the fashion industry. These materials include the waste that is produced in the process of slaughtering (bone and horn), as well as ivory and mother of pearl, from which buttons, buckles, and other accessories are made. It should be understood that for the production of these products animal fiber can be completely replaced with herbal or synthetic analogs.
Development of Animal Rights in Fashion
Organization and Animal Rights
PETA. PETA is the biggest organization of animal rights protection in the world.
he organization unites members of the legislative, scientific, and corporate communities through consumer protests, media coverage, and investigative work. The main goal of the organization consists in achieving long-term and large-scale changes, which can improve the quality of animals’ life and help them avoid cruelty and death. It is a non-profit organization, which makes accent on four areas. They are clothing, factory farms, animal researches, and entertainment industry. Members of PETA provide means for individuals to get them involved, care for wounded animals, practice vegetarianism, and try to solve other related problems. PETA has propagated awareness of the usage of wool in the clothing industry by organizing meetings with different companies. As a result of these meetings, PETA has forced many brands and retailers not to use animal furs.
HSUS. HSUS presents a team of animal rescue. It deals with the law enforcement in order to investigate illegal cruelty towards animals. Certainly, inspectors of the animal protection organization do not have police powers and the right to conduct searches, arrest citizens, or even take away their animals kept in inappropriate conditions. However, in case of need they are supported by the police. In addition, HSUS works with retailers and designers, as well as design students to show alternatives to using animals in the fashion industry. The organization educates a new generation of fashion designers about cruelty that is associated with the usage of fur.
Companies and Animal Rights
A number of companies refuse to use animals in producing clothes. Among the most prominent brands, there are Stella McCartney and Patagonia. In particular, Stella McCartney has actively supported the organization for the protection of animals. She is a vegetarian and does not use fur and skin of animals in her collections. In the collections, Stella promotes love for animals. For Adidas, Stella McCartney House has sewed jackets with inscriptions on the sleeve ‘for sporty vegetarians’. Series of T-shirts first came out with a big Himalayan bear and heart. Then, gray wolf's eyes looked pleading for help from T-shirts. When creating a collection of Stella McCartney, wool and silk are used. Recycled materials are used in the manufacture of bags. This reduces production costs and makes it accessible for people with average incomes.
Patagonia is also known for its support of animal protection. The number of patents that are related to Patagonia Company that produces clothes for sports and recreation is measured by double-digits. Refusing the use of conventional (normal) cotton, Patagonia has been involved in the development of new high-tech fabrics mainly based on polyester from recycled plastic bottles and served things.
In the modern world that provides unlimited opportunities, animal exploitation and cruelty are unacceptable. People can cloth themselves without torturing and killing animals. Animal usage in the fashion industry is a needless cruelty, which can be easily fixed. It is shown by the examples of fashion brands that have become animal free. To protect animals, these achievements should be encouraged. Satisfaction of people’s fashion desires should not be based on the cruelty of keeping and killing animals.
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