Is Cashmere Vegan?

Cashmere is one of the most luxurious fibers known to man. It’s super soft and very warm. The fiber is so fine that it feels like silk against the skin and is often called a “pashmina.”

Is Cashmere Vegan?

Pashminas come in many colors — white, black, brown, gray, blue, red, yellow, pink, orange, purple and even striped.

Where Does It Come From? 

Cashmere is made from goat hair, and while it does come from goats, it doesn’t necessarily mean that animals are harmed during production.

But it is very dependent on which area the cashmere comes from. Much cashmere isn’t considered vegan, why is that? 

Cashmere is typically produced in China, where the goats live in factory farms.

This cashmere isn’t considered vegan. The goats are shorn once a year, and the goats are usually slaughtered shortly thereafter.

However, some cashmere is produced in Mongolia, where the goats roam free and are allowed to keep their coats longer. This type of cashmere is considered “vegan.”

Controversially, The American Humane Association says that Chinese cashmere is better for the environment because it uses less water and produces fewer greenhouse gasses compared to Mongolian cashmere.

Environmental Issues

As we’ve seen, cashmere is made from the fleecy undercoat of the Hyrcus goat, a small animal native to the Mongolian steppes.

The herders collect the wool from the animals and spin it into yarn, which is then woven into sweaters (You might be interested in checking out Fashionable Vintage Tweed To Wear For Picnic). This method produces a soft material that feels luxurious against the skin.

These goats live in the grasslands of Mongolia and are known for producing soft, warm sweaters.

The Mongolian government estimates there are some 100 million goats living there. Most of them are kept for meat, milk and fiber. Some are raised specifically for cashmere.

China is now the world’s largest producer of cashmere. About six tons of cashmere go into making each sweater.

The demand for cashmere has grown rapidly over the past decade, driven by fashion houses such as Gucci, Versace, Prada and Alexander McQueen.

In fact, the majority of cashmere sold around the world today comes from China.

Animal Cruelty

Most people know that cashmere is produced from the undercoat of goats, few realize how much harm it causes to the animal, human and environment.

The cashmere industry is responsible for widespread deforestation in Mongolia, where herdsmen are breeding more goats than their natural habitat can sustain.

They are also causing damage to rivers, lakes and streams across Asia, where water pollution is common.

In addition to the environmental impacts, cashmere production involves cruel treatment of the animals.

Goats are forced to live in small pens and endure long hours of laborious work. In fact, the average lifespan of a goat in the industry is just 7 months.

Vegan Cashmere

Vegan Cashmere

Thankfully, there are alternatives to cashmere. One example is Re.VerSo, a collection of premium quality products made from recycled materials.

Five Italian textile manufacturers have joined forces to produce this sustainable alternative.

Re.VerSo uses leftover material from the manufacturing process of cashmere, wool and silk.

This includes yarn waste, scraps from cutting and dyeing processes, and even old garments that cannot be reused anymore.

This is a completely transparent, certifiable and traceable system that aims to reduce the environmental impact of the clothing industry and help consumers make better choices.

Another recent wave of innovation has made it possible to produce cashmere without harming animals.

In fact, many companies now offer products that are both ethical and environmentally friendly. There are even some brands that make it easy to find vegan cashmere online.

David Lee, a former dancer with the Oakland Ballet Company, founded his own dancewear brand, KD New York, in 2012. He named it after his initials because he wanted something unique.

His ‘VegetableCashmere’™ is ‘a patented blend developed to address the increasing demand for cashmere and associated environmental costs.’

In addition to being environmentally friendly, VegetableCashmere is also ‘anti-microbial, anti-shrinkage and machine washable without losing shape or size.’

Lee claims that the plant-based material is softer than animal cashmere, while still providing the same warmth and comfort.

And unlike animal cashmere, it doesn’t require shearing or dying, making it less expensive and more sustainable.

The VegetableCashmere product launch video features dancers performing a choreographed routine in the style of ‘Nutcracker’, wearing the fabric on stage.

Become More Aware

The world’s demand for cashmere continues to grow. And while it’s easy to blame the Chinese, the real problem lies with our production methods.

In fact, the cashmere industry is responsible for some pretty serious ecological damage. But what about the rest of the world? Is there an ethical alternative out there?

There are many different types of wool, including merino sheep wool, llama wool, and even mohair goat hair.

Alpaca wool is another option, though it’s still relatively rare. This type of fiber originates from South America and produces a soft, warm yarn.

Yak wool is another interesting option. Yak farming is common in Mongolia and Tibet and is often done without much regard for the environment.

However, the animals are raised in small herds and are fed grasses rather than grains. As a result, the wool doesn’t contain as much lanolin, making it less greasy than cashmere.

Of course, none of these options are perfect. For example, alpacas produce far fewer fibers per animal than cashmere goats do, still, they are a  better option than cashmere.

Final Thoughts

Cashmere is one of the most luxurious fibers known to man. In fact, it’s considered the world’s finest fiber.

But does that mean we should support the traditional methods used to produce it?

Cashmere is often produced by shearing baby lambs and goats. This causes extreme pain and distress to both animals.

There are cruelty-free alternatives to cashmere, but they tend to be more expensive and difficult to find.

However, there are many companies that use alternative methods of production, such as spinning natural goat hair into yarn. These methods are often cheaper and easier to implement.

Ultimately, whether or not to purchase cashmere comes down to individual preference. However, if you are a vegan then you will want to stay well clear of cashmere products.

If you want to support animal welfare, you can always choose to buy ethically sourced products.

Willa Price