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What are Animal Free Clothes?

By: Siobhan ONeill - Updated: 21 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Animal Free Clothes Clothing Fur Leather

It’s a very long time since Western men wore animal skin loincloths but that doesn’t mean we don’t still use animals to create some of the clothes we wear. Fur, leather and wool are all in common usage, and all come from animals.

Fur used to be a status symbol of the very wealthy because clothing and accessories made from fur tended to be very expensive due to the sheer number of animals taken to make a single item. Even if the piece of clothing was quite small, differences in fur shades might mean dozens of animals had to die to make the article. Fox, mink, rabbit and other small mammals were all very popular for their fur.

Mink farms were started to breed mink specifically for their fur, but several escaped and would attack livestock like chickens and other small wild creatures not previously threatened by natural predators, and people began to look upon it unfavourably.As public awareness increased about the use of fur, anti fur adverts began to appear like the famously shocking one in which a catwalk model dragged a coat that left a trail of blood. Fur became very unpopular and many celebrities and fashion designers featured in anti fur campaigns.

More recently fur has made a comeback and has begun appearing in fashion shows again. If you like to be fashionable and love the look of fur, but hate the thought of animals dying to make it, you need to be careful when buying clothes made from fur or with fur trim. Even if something is cheap, or doesn’t mention fur on the label, it can still be made from real fur rather than fake or ‘faux fur’. Watch out for black or brightly coloured fur too – sometimes real fur is dyed.

The best way to tell if an item is real fur is to examine it closely. If you part the fibres and follow them down to the base you should be able to see either skin or leather at the bottom, or a weave if it’s artificial. Check the label too, but sometimes manufacturers leave fur off the label – especially if an item is just trimmed with fur. Some shops like TopShop and Marks and Spencer operate a fur free policy, so if it is a concern for you, you may be able to identify some shops that have a similar policy.

Leather is usually easier to identify. There is less public concern about the use of leather in clothes, and most leather items will be marked with a label or symbol confirming ‘real leather’. Leather also has a very distinctive smell. Consider that as well as calf, snake, alligator, crocodile, deer and ostrich are also killed for their skins, and that leather and suede products do support the meat industry.

It is fairly easy to find high quality and good looking synthetic alternatives to leather and suede in the shops. People often think of PVC, but there are many other new materials that look and feel much better and even have the breathable qualities of leather.

Animals are sheared for their wool. Apart from sheep, goats, llamas, rabbits and other animals are reared for wool production. Some animals cannot be sheared and do have to be killed for their wool. Whilst many people believe shearing is harmless, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) believe many shearing practices are quite brutal and animals are often badly injured by the practice.

Once again there are modern synthetic alternatives to wool, which can make for cosy jumpers, scarves, gloves and other clothing items we might traditionally use wool for. Many people own clothing made from fleece material, which is great for warm clothing. Cotton flannelette can also make a warm wool alternative for blankets. A new product called Tencel is breathable and biodegradable and is used as a wool alternative, and Polartec Wind Pro is another man made material – made from recycled plastic bottles. It has four times the wind resistance of wool and pulls moisture off the skin, so is great for icy conditions.

Cutting animal products from your clothing is probably the easiest of changes to make in your lifestyle if you want to go animal free. You can still look great and wear ethical clothing without harming animals in the process.

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