31 May

Material Guide: How Ethical is Angora?

As winter approaches it’s time to pull out your favourite socks, scarves and gloves to get nice and cozy. We all know the drill: great knitwear needs to be warm, snug, stylish and silky soft. In order to achieve this end, a lot of designers turn to angora for the super soft warmness we all know and love. At Good On You, we love a warm jumper as much as the next person. But is all angora created equally? Can Angora really be ethical?

What is angora?

Angora is a long, silky fibre obtained from one of the four breeds of angora rabbit. The fur is highly prized for its softness, warmth, and strength. It is often blended with other wools to add softness to jumpers, scarves and all things warm and wintry. The production of angora has come under fire since PETA released information about the appalling conditions in which it was being produced in several Chinese factories. As a result, many major fashion labels ceased using the controversial fibre. But can there be a way to share the fur without harming the bunnies? Even PETA have conceded that it can be done, but how?

How is angora produced?

Angora is simply the fur of a particular kind of rabbit, and can be made into fabric much like any other wool. That being said, although it is possible to harvest the wool from an angora rabbit through shearing it,  the small size of the rabbit makes this it a time-consuming task and also risks cutting the animal.

For this reason, large-scale commercial angora production often favours plucking, since longer angora hairs attract a higher price. This is the practice that has led to the intense criticism of the angora industry, as plucking the rabbits causes the animals pain and distress. In addition, commercially farmed rabbits are usually kept alone in cages, to avoid them fighting other animals and dirtying their valuable coat.

The largest angora industry is in China, which produces over 90% of the world’s supply of angora. The fur is harvested three to four times per year from more than 50 million Angora rabbits. As rabbits age, they yield less fur and so, after a few years of producing fur, they are killed. China has no standards to regulate the treatment of rabbits used in the angora industry and no penalties for animal abuse.

But before you get too distressed about the bunnies, there is a way to gather angora more humanely. Most angora rabbit breeds moult every four months, meaning producers can collect the hair as it falls naturally from the rabbit’s body. This means that if angora is “harvested” ethically, there is nothing harmful about the process. Even PETA agrees!

So, what can we do?

The complexity of global supply chains makes it tricky for consumers to verify whether the angora wool that our sweater is made from comes from ethical or unethical sources.

Luckily, corporations are starting to recognise this too, with a number of major brands (including ASOS) discontinuing sourcing products made from angora wool until the industry steps up its ethical standards.

You can ensure your winter warmers are ethical by checking the tags of your sweaters and choosing knitwear made from natural fibres with lower impacts on the planet, people, and animals; organic cotton is a good choice and the Good On You app helps you uncover brands who perform better on the issues you care about.

You might also like our guides to organic cotton, ethical wool and polyester.

Editor's note: Feature image via Unsplash.

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