Save the bunnies!

Well, it´s been all drama in cheap fashion land for the past week. I´m having some mixed feelings about this whole angora rabbit fur incident caused a couple of weeks ago by a PETA video.

The video was horrible to watch. I think we all agree on that (do not watch it if you are sensitive in any way). It was brutal. Personally I love rabbits and bunnies. I´ve always had bunnies as pets and felt nauseous after seeing the video. It has been great to see how sharing a single video has made the consumer to contact the clothing brands demanding change. Well done folks, you have found your voice. I was super delighted to see the clothing chains respond to it quickly. Gina Tricot have pulled angora product off their shops and announced they will not use it anymore. H&M, Espirit, C&A and New Look are among those who have halted production on angora products.

But.. Then my Facebook news feed was filled with people commenting "no angora will ever come to my wardrobe". Why not? The angora fibre itself is not the problem here, it it the brands and supplier´s production ethics (in this case one chinese bunny farm)! Angora is a wonderful natural material and there are ways to shear the animals in a better way. Any boycott will also harm the angora-wool industry that does it´s job well. Blindly boikoting or pulling product off shelfs rarely helps the cause or any business. At the moment around 4,700 tons are produced each year according to the International Wool Textile Organization, 90% of this in China, a country with nothing in the way of legislation to protect farmed animals. It is definitely not good, but still I would keep buying angora from second hand stores and when it is made in the EU, and not in China. If you want to effect companies and brands to change their suppliers to more ecological and ethical ones, write to them directly, demand change, spread the word on their brand ethics and ask tricky questions at the shops. Also make sure that the angora you buy is locally or ethically produced.

I don´t like it when the consumer is distracted to focus on boycotting one material, in this case a certain animal fibre. I hate it when they (PETA) use cute, fluffy bunnies to get a message through and ask the consumer not to buy the particular product ever again. That´s not sustainable business. I also don´t like the people who just repost links on Facebook about animal cruelty and skip entirely the human rights posts and petitions. I mean, what is the difference with a bunny, a cow and a human being when it comes to production? Same same. I did not see this much rage when 1000 textile factory workers died in a building collapse in Bangladesh... To me it´s sad when bunnies get more attention than people in this sense.

Secondly, I wish clothing chains would use their power more often like this, but with sensibility. Why haven´t the clothing chains done fast actions like this to ban child labour or other non-sustainable, environmentally harmful or unethical production methods? To me this kind of black&white actions are just green washing from the brands side. It is just a quick fix to make consumers think the brand is doing something about it. They acted quickly just because the marketing dept thought it would affect the brand negatively. It had very little to do with the suffering of bunnies (or people). What does help, is pressuring to the brand directly and asking them to keep a better track of their supply chain. If the production would be local or at least in Europe, I doubt the animals would have been treated this way. If the brand does not have a transparent supply chain, ask why not, and if they don´t comply, change the brand.

Third, this is not just about fluffy sweaters and knitted accessories. Its also about threads. Yes, you crafters and knitters also start asking these questions at your local craft store and knitting shop. The wool and angora threads you buy for your projects should be subjected to the same ethical code of conduct as the fashions you wear. Still wonder why I personally prefer using second hand materials in my works?  Good questions: Where has this material been produced (not the same as "made in")? Is it ethically produced? How do you make sure the factory does what they promise?

Fourth. Since the angora issue became such a big deal, I´m guessing goose and down is next? After all, it is the season of getting a new winter coat. Fur is still not very popular even though it is very practical. I´m just waiting for PETA and other animal rights activists tackle sportswear brands and anyone making down jackets. Down, as well as angora, can be produced and plucked humanely. There is even a certificate for it. So when browsing for a new down jacket, ask where the down comes from since it is an animal product and has it been produced ethically (how ethically, by who´s standards? The chinese?). There are also other options for getting a jacket with not down in it. I actually wear fur jackets in winter partly so I can get people to talk about it. The best conversation I get when someone criticizes me using fur while they are wearing a down jacket. I´m not being mean, but just pointing out a larger issue that people tend to forget when focusing on small stuff, like an angora-gate like this.

And since you start asking questions and getting into conversations, why not do it with all the clothes you buy. Not just angora sweaters and down jackets. But remember to be respectful towards people when addressing these issues. Don´t be rude.

Any thoughts? I signed the PETA petition to Chinese government to make these type of painful bunny plucking illegal.

Outi Les Pyy

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  1. Thank you for this thought provoking text. It is unfortunately very often black-and-white when it comes to animal rights. You are either against or for. I'm hoping we are witnessing the beginning of ecologically grown animal products for textile industry. It has taken quite some time in the food industry to fully understand that consumers would like to eat good food grown ethically and naturally.

    There's already plant based ecological clothes and fabrics/yarns. Would be great to purchase wool / angora blended wool that has a certificate showing ethical production of fibers.

    1. I´m absolutely against unnecessary pain. This is why the industrial animal growing (weather it is for textile industry, or food) does not get my vote. It is sick in most parts. But I see no harm in using animal product if the resourcing has been humane. This is why the Finnish reindeer gets a big thumbs up from me. The animals are grown free in Lappland, they eat directly from the nature and they are not transported a long way when put down. The animal is also used pretty much 100% (meat, hide, skin, bone..) after the animal has died. Sounds pretty humane and ecological to me.

  2. I, too, hate this type of mind control - agitating emotions and hoping that most of the people will never THINK further than that. Ironically, even humane organizations do not always show respect for thinking. And this is also easier than product origin control for even strong governments.

  3. I shop local! I buy my yarn and work with local producers for the most part. I know the farmers, see the farms and know how the animals are treated, plus I support people trying to make a living near me and the money stays in our economy. We have locally raised angora, but the price is through the roof, because of the labor involved in getting the yarn, which tells you that if the price is too good to be true, then there is something not right about their practices.

  4. I have been a follower of your blog for a long time. You have always been so inspirational. I love that you are addressing the same issues are in my mind lately. It drives me crazy that when I bring up the incident in Bangladesh people rarely know what I am talking about. I don't understand how they can learn about such random things online and yet miss that. Truely saddens me.

  5. I know I usually don't comment on here, but seriously thank you for adressing these issues while putting them into perspective at the same time!

  6. Buy locally is really the answer for many reasons and it's easier that we might think. We just have to make a step outside a big mall and buy handmade or buy brands that decided to keep the production in our countries. These products are beautiful, maybe one of a kind, they are just not promoted enough because artisans don't have the resources to promote themselves like big brands do. It's not luxury for riches, 90% of artisanal products have a fair price.
    I'm saying this because maybe many of us think that we cannot afford to buy handmade goods.
    In the past two decades the market has been filled with low cost products and gradually we discovered why these prices are so low. Now, due to the economic crisis we have less money to spend, but the number of well-informed costumers grew a lot.
    I think that also DIY raises awareness on the right price of products because you see how much work is involved in manufacturing a garment and you can evaluate better what you're paying for.

  7. I agree 100% with you, especially in the double standard between animal and human production conditions. And I signed the petition, of course!!