Have yourself a very humane Christmas - Gifts

While cashmere, leather and other luxury fashion goods are popular Christmas gifts, they aren't usually the most humane choices. Here's what you need to know.

Cashmere facts:

  • Cashmere is made from the fine undercoat of cashmere goats.

  • The vast majority of cashmere is produced in China; Mongolia follows in a distance second.

  • It takes as many as six goats to make a single medium sized jumper.

  • Goats can either be sheared or hand combed. Whilst it is possible to shear an animal in a humane way that causes low amounts of stress, combing is the more humane method, but is more expensive and time consuming.

  • Most cashmere goats in China and Mongolia are intensively farmed; kept in herds of many thousands. They are de-horned and castrated without anesthesia.

  • Most cashmere goats in China and Mongolia are slaughtered when they reach two or three years old.

Can you buy ethical cashmere?

Yes, but you need to do your research and it will be more expensive. A £40 cashmere sweater is £40 for a reason.

"There is no certification label that guarantees a cashmere product is ethical," says Dani Baker, of the Ethical Fashion Forum. "Customers should ask retailers where they source from, if the farming method is sustainable and what conditions the animals are kept in."

Brora works with small family owned farms in Inner Mongolia. Unlike many farms in Mongolia, Brora's suppliers do not mass produce and only harvest cashmere from March to June. Their products are milled in Scotland.

Izzy Lane not only ensures the highest welfare standards for animals, they actually rescue sheep destined for abattoirs. Their sheep live out their lives in the Yorkshire Dales producing beautiful wool. Their cashmere comes from goats in Scotland.

Crumpet sources their cashmere from small free range farms in Mongolia and hand-knits in the UK.


Leather Facts:

  • Cowhide makes up 65% of all leather products; most of the hide is a by-product of the meat industry

  • The animals that produce more exotic leathers such as crocodile and snake are farmed and slaughtered almost solely for their skin

  • There is very little traceability in the cow leather industry

Can you buy ethical leather?

Maybe. But not reliably.

Some cows are raised in high welfare conditions in small farms and are slaughtered as humanely as possible. The leather that comes from these cows could be considered "ethical", but it is difficult (read: impossible) for suppliers to know which slaughterhouse a hide originates from and if the animal was killed in a humane way.

Leather alternatives:

Cork - from the bark of cork oak trees, it has a similar texture to leather and is strong and durable.

Ultrasuede - synthetic microfiber fabric, used as an alternative to suede.

Muskin - mushroom "skin" that can be tanned like leather. Really! Check it out.


Other things to keep in mind:

  • Be weary of faux fur - it could be real.

  • The caterpillar of the silk moth (used to make silk) is boiled, baked or steamed alive, so that the long, delicate threads of its cocoon can be processed.

  • NEVER give a pet as a Christmas gift. Pets are 10-15 year commitments - their new guardians need to be the ones to decide when the time is right to add a pet to their family.

Be sure to read our post on humane Christmas turkeys, too!

Sources: Ethical Fashion Forum, The Guardian, Collective Evolution, Vegetarian Society

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