Textiles without animal suffering: shopping guide for the Christmas season

The so-called “mulesing” is a particular problem with wool clothing available in Germany. Sheep farmers cut off large strips of skin around the buttocks of their lambs – usually without sufficient anesthesia. This bloody procedure is carried out exclusively in Australia, the world’s largest wool producer. 75% of wool exports and 90% of fine merino wool for the global textile market come from there. The reason for mulesing is the fly maggot disease (myiasis), which is supposed to be prevented by cutting off skin folds. is vehemently opposed to mulesing. The global animal welfare foundation is committed to ensuring that textile companies only offer wool products that are certified mulesing-free. More than 180 international clothing brands have now spoken out against mulesing. Consumers should also be careful when buying wool yarns for their home-knit sweaters. Because knitting yarns can also come from Australian mulesing sheep.

advises for wool: Consumers can find out more about brands and retailers directly in the store or on the Internet before making a purchase. The following labels distinguish wool that is free from mulesing: Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), ZQ Merino, Nativa and New Merino. All other brands may include mulesing products. In the case of Australian wool, this even applies to organic seals, because these do not exclude mulesing in Australia.

Cashmere, mohair and alpaca wool
Cashmere goats, Angora goats and alpacas suffer primarily from the lack of animal welfare guidelines in the largest producing countries. The animals are mostly kept extensively. That means they will be left to their own devices for the most part out in the pasture or steppe. The consequences are often inadequate food, no protection from wind and weather, missing or late medical care and a lack of human-animal relationships. The latter triggers stress and panic when it comes to clipping or necessary treatments (e.g. deworming), as the animals are very shy and not used to contact.

alpaca wool is right on trend. Around 20,000 alpacas are kept in Germany. However, 3.5 million of the world’s approximately 4.4 million animals live in Peru. 90% of the alpaca wool produced for the world market comes from the Andean country. Problematic: There are still no animal welfare standards for alpaca husbandry. So that the animals do not run away, they are often tied with ropes in a kind of shearing device for shearing. Alpacas are afraid of death and start choking up chyme out of sheer stress and fear.

cashmere is the ultra-soft undercoat of cashmere goats, which is primarily used for sweaters and accessories in the premium segment. 90% of cashmere production comes from China, Mongolia and Tibet and smaller amounts are also produced in Afghanistan, Iran and even Australia and New Zealand. Every year more than 100,000 cashmere goats suffer mainly from the so-called «combing». In order to get to the particularly fine undercoat, one does not wait until the animals lose it naturally: instead of carefully combing out the undercoat, it is painfully torn out of the animals in unison with metal combs. There is a cashmere standard that unfortunately does not prevent exactly this problem. That is why advises against buying cashmere products.

mohair translated from Arabic means «cloth made of hair». The wool comes from Angora goats and is one of the lightest textile fibers available. The older an animal is, the thicker its hair is. The long, white, curly fur is particularly silky and soft and is therefore in great demand in the textile industry. The wool is used to make sweaters, hats, scarves, but also blankets, carpets, wigs and children’s toys. Half of the mohair sold worldwide comes from South Africa. The rest come from the USA, Australia and Turkey. Millions of Angora goats suffer for their coveted hair. An animal welfare standard is currently being developed but has not yet been tested.

advice for cashmere, mohair and alpaca: Since animal welfare standards have either not yet been adequately tested or problems are only addressed inadequately, advises against using or buying these yarns. is in constant contact with certifiers and retailers to achieve improvements for the animals. Positive self-initiatives by brands and retailers are an important lever here to ensure long-term improvements.

angora wool
Angora wool is particularly fluffy, comes from the Angora rabbit and is traded as a luxury textile – just like cashmere and mohair. 90% of Angora wool comes from China. The country keeps around 50 million animals. There are no animal welfare laws in China and animal cruelty is not punished. Angora rabbits are cruelly plucked or clipped every three months. After two to five years, the slaughterhouse awaits the rabbits. The rabbits are systematically overbred, which can lead to visual impairments and eye diseases, and due to the unnaturally thick growth of fur, the animals can no longer regulate heat themselves. In addition, Angora rabbits are very social animals and need company and plenty of space to hop around. It is therefore not species-appropriate to lock rabbits in tiny cages for their entire lives. With this attitude, they can hardly exercise their natural behaviors. The lack of space leads to deformations of the spine, injuries to the paws and legs as well as behavioral disorders and aggression due to under-challenging.

advice for angora wool: There is no animal-friendly production of Angora wool and therefore any Angora animal welfare standard is unacceptable. That is why vehemently rejects the use and purchase of angora wool.

Down in jackets, pillows, blankets and similar products usually comes from intensively farmed geese and ducks. And that’s not all – in the worst case, the animals suffer from cruel live plucking or forced fattening.

advice for down: If consumers want to rule out animal suffering, recommends using down alternatives (see list below). In terms of warmth and quality, these can easily compete with down. If you can’t do without down, you can find out more about brands and retailers directly in the shop or on the Internet before you go shopping. The following labels exclude live plucking and force fattening: Responsible Down Standard (RDS), Global Traceable Down Standard (Global TDS) or Downpass 2017.

fur and faux fur
Hats with fur pompoms, fur trimmings on hoods, collars, gloves or shoes: Enormous animal suffering can hide behind even the smallest fur application. Because despite massive clarification, there are still many errors: real fur is not always marked, but often declared as artificial fur. The assumption that there is real fur produced in an animal-friendly manner is also a misconception. Certifications such as «ethically correct fur» or «animal-friendly» European fur are designations that fashion manufacturers have come up with to promote the sale of these fur products. is committed to a fur-free Europe and, as the representative of the «Fur Free Retailer Program» in Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, South Africa and Australia, is significantly involved in moving large fashion houses to a fur-free future.

advice for fur and faux fur: Fur always stands for suffering animals and faux fur can also be real fur. That is why advises against buying any fur products.

Leather is often perceived as a so-called by-product of meat production. But the production of leather is also associated with pain for the animals. There is hardly any information about where companies get leather for shoes, belts or jackets from – and therefore there is no animal welfare standard. In addition, there are hardly any country of origin designations on leather products. is currently not aware of any company that transparently discloses the entire leather supply chain with regard to animal welfare aspects.

recommends leather: calls on animal-friendly consumers to avoid leather products. There are already many attractive leather alternatives.

Alternatives to animal products
There is a wide range of alternative products for which no animal had to suffer:

  • Wool Alternatives: Organic Cotton, Lyocell/Tencel, Hemp, Linen, Modal, Recycled Acrylic
  • Down Alternatives: Maize/PLA, PrimaLoft, Bamboo, Organic Cotton, Kapok, Pine Shavings, Recycled Polyester
  • Leather alternatives: pineapple leather (Piñatex), mushroom leather (MuSkin), leather made from banana plant fibers (Bananatex) or artificial leather (polyurethane).
  • Martina Stephany: “It is up to the consumers themselves to put more animal welfare on the agenda: they can ask brands and retailers where the textiles come from, how the animals are kept and, above all, how animal welfare is reliably ensured can be. In doing so, they exert pressure and help to improve the housing conditions for animals. works in exchange with the industry to develop solutions for the animals. But it will not work without the help of consumers. And don’t forget: Even if you consciously buy sustainable materials that do not come from animals, this is a statement for animal welfare.

Find out more about fashion and animal welfare here.