Vegan is associated with vegan food. That's not surprising, because vegan menus are becoming more and more famous. However, a vegan lifestyle, veganism, is more than that. It is a way of life without using and exploiting animals. In other words, no wool sweater and no leather shoes. There is an alternative for everything nowadays. Every year, billions of animals worldwide are killed for their fur, hair, wool or skin. That can be done differently.
Even if you are not vegan you can wear vegan clothing. Vegan fashion is animal-friendly fashion and let's be honest, would you still buy that angora sweater if you knew how much pain the animal has been in? Most of us already pay attention to animal-free cosmetics and a meal without animal ingredients. And you probably won't buy a fur coat anytime soon either. But what (unnecessary) animal suffering is hidden behind clothing? What are the alternatives? I thought I already knew a lot, but when I started to investigate further, quite a few surprising and also shocking facts surfaced. Are you curious about my discoveries? Then read this blog.
Animal suffering for the fashion industry
As long as you are not aware of animal suffering, you will not lose sleep over it. Because of course you understand that no one wants to show HOW they got that beautiful fox fur. And you actually don't want to know, right? This way you never see the actual animal suffering, and you can easily justify it to yourself. Because that 'cow was already dead anyway', and 'that sheep just needs to be sheared'. But it's a little different than that.
To clarify: a billion has 9 zeroes (1,000,000,000) and is really a huge amount. Kangaroos are slaughtered to make sports shoes. Geese and ducks are plucked alive for their down, and silkworms are boiled to death. Unnecessary, because in recent decades countless new types of fabrics have been developed to work with. Like vegan leather and vegan silk.
New Angels is a completely vegan clothing brand, we are constantly looking for the latest innovations in the field of vegetable and natural fabrics. No animal products are used in our items. New Angels is a completely vegan proof clothing brand. We prefer not to use a plastic or synthetic alternative, so it takes a while to find out what the best natural and platbased substitutes are.
What exactly is vegan clothing?
With vegan clothing we mean clothing, jackets, shoes, bags, belts and other accessories that do not use animals during production. No animal materials have been processed in these fashion items and no animal additives have been used during the entire production process. Because the clothes in your wardrobe can be made of animal materials such as wool, leather, suede, fur, down, felt, feathers, silk, camel hair or dyed, printed and glued with materials of animal origin.
Did you know that one coat requires between 30 and 60 minks, or 30 to 40 rabbits, or 15 to 20 dogs? We generally want to use what we are used to using.
Change is simply not in the human comfort zone ;) But remember that also for wool and leather: the cheapest offer is used the most. Which is usually not the most animal-friendly. This creates situations that are, to put it mildly, very unfriendly to animals. Change is really needed because what is happening now is really heartbreaking. There are plenty of pictures and videos on the internet if you want to see what it's like in the animal industry (only watch if you can handle it, I couldn't watch it).
Often there is also a side that seems quite animal-friendly, such as pets that are lovingly brushed or cut, and collect the hair or wool in this way. And we especially like to see thát image in our head when we think of animal products. Understandable. But not realistic at all.
The most famous wool is sheep's wool. About 80% of the wool used for textiles comes from Australia. The type of sheep that produces the most wool is the Merino sheep. This species has many skin folds and therefore produces about 5 kilos of wool per year.
Residues of urine and faeces often remain on the rear of the sheep. This attracts flies that lay their eggs in the back fold of the skin. The larvae that come out eat at the sheep, which is very painful for the sheep and can even be fatal. To prevent this, the farmers have come up with a very animal-unfriendly solution: without anesthesia, they cut off part of the skin of the buttocks, so that no residues of urine and faeces can get stuck in it.
This mutilation is called 'mulesing'. This often happens at the same time as tail cutting and castration, also without anesthesia. Not exactly a good life for the sheep.
Does sheep-friendly wool exist?
The nostalgic ball of wool at grandma's back in the day, and that knitted woolen itchy sweater, was that really so wrong? Probably not. Earlier it was different. Speaking for myself: my grandpa and grandma had a farm with a few sheep and a spinning wheel. The woolen socks and woolen underwear were knitted by grandma herself. There was no abundance and naturally no fast fashion at al, and certainly in and just after the war there was just nothing. Everything was very small-scale and local. Nowadays you have a lot of mass production, and for wool you get situations as described above, with the Merino sheep. You can only find sheep-friendly wool from small hobby farmers who really put their heart and soul into it, and who really care about the well-being of their sheep.
The Knitwit Stable is such a farm that wants to make a positive contribution to the fashion world. Their farm with knitting studio is located in Baambrugge here in the Netherlands. They have their own sheep and goats for wool. They also buy wool from local farmers for a fair price, so they know where the wool comes from and animal welfare can be guaranteed. Because of their high quality wool you will not get a 'scratchy sweater'.
Vegan means animal-LESS, so we do not use the lovingly obtained wool, organic wool and recycled wool as a vegan clothing brand. As a wool substitute you can think of organic cotton, Tencel or hemp. Knitting and crocheting with organic cotton is even very popular.
Wool from an angora rabbit
The Angora rabbit is a breed whose hair continues to grow. The animals are therefore bred for the textile industry. Only the females are used, the males are killed because they produce too little wool. The rabbits live in dirty little wire mesh cages. Every 3 months for two to five years, the hair is pulled out forcefully and without anesthesia.
The wool is plucked and not shaved because the hair is longer with the roots and can be sold more expensively. Stunning the animals during picking is too expensive, according to the farmers. It is of course very painful and the rabbits scream out in pain.
Sometimes Angora rabbits are clipped or shaved and treated well, especially in small farms. This is a lot more animal-friendly, but you may have guessed it: this angora wool is a lot more expensive, so it is less likely to be bought by the consumer.
Sheep wool, rabbit wool, goat wool, alpaca wool, cashmere wool & bovine wool
There are many kinds of animal wool. There are different breeds of sheep, each offering a different type of wool with different characteristics and qualities. The wool of the angora rabbit is called angora wool. Mohair is the wool of the angora goat, this goat has silky shiny hair: the mohai. Alpaca wool comes from the alpaca (a mountain llama) and is the most expensive type of wool. Cashmere, also known as cashmere, is a type of wool that comes from the cashmere goat. The wool is named after the Kashmir region where the goats originally come from. The Yak is an Asian highland cattle and its wool is made from the undercoat of the yak. The Yak wool is not shaved but combed out during the moult.
Leather or Nubuck and Suede is made from the skin of animals. Suede is a type of leather that feels different, this is because it is made from the bottom of the skin. Leather mainly comes from cows, (unborn) calves, horses, sheep, lambs, goats and pigs. The hide-industry is an extremely lucrative multi-million dollar industry and is directly linked to the meat industry. The profits of the meat industry depend for the most part on the 'by-products', especially the (bovine) leather. The fashion industry not only uses leather for clothing, but also for the leather patches on jeans and other leather accessories such as bags, belts, jewellery, hats, shoes and gloves.
Working in a tannery is dirty and dangerous. A lot has to happen before leather bags, jackets and shoes can be made from animal skins. To counteract the natural rotting process of the skin, the leather is tanned. This stops the biodegradability. Very toxic substances are used for tanning. The amount of waste and pollution from the leather industry is enormous. The chemicals used in the leather industry are so toxic that people working in tanneries often suffer from cancer and respiratory diseases. The workers who work with these toxic substances often do so without protective clothing. It is therefore not only bad for the animals, but also for the people who have to work with it. You can see what it's like in a tannery in the program ' Genaaid', presented by Jennifer Hoffman.
Animals such as snakes, crocodiles, kangaroos, deer, sharks and turtles are also hunted and sometimes even bred for their skin. It takes two to three crocodile skins to make a single handbag. Reptiles are often skinned alive, as this is said to keep the skins supple. Ostriches are the only birds whose leather is used. They are kept for their leather and feathers. More than a third of the so-called exotic leather worldwide comes from endangered species (of which killing and importing is a crime).
Animal-friendly animal leather does not exist, after all, it is the skin of the beast, and to obtain that, the animal must be skinned. Fortunately, it can also be done differently!
Vegan leather, imitation leather, is on the rise. In recent years, there has been plenty of experimentation with vegan alternatives to leather. For example, you have synthetic leather such as Skai, polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). However, this 'faux leather' is made of plastic (petroleum) and therefore not very durable.
There is also a better type of leather: vegetable leather - plantbased leather. This leatherless leather is made from waxed cotton, rubber, cork leather, Piñatex (pineapple leather), corn leather, seaweed leather, mushroom leather, paper leather, apple leather or cactus leather and here in the Netherlands, the company Fruitleather Rotterdam makes leather from mango waste. How cool is that?!
By a thread
Silk The silk moth or silkworm is a butterfly from the family of true spinners. It is one of the best known and most cultivated insects in the world. The butterfly is mainly cultivated because of the larva that spins a cocoon from a single thread. The thread is very strong and is used for the production of silk.
It takes about 3,000 cocoons to produce half a kilo of silk.
In silk production, cocoons are placed in very hot water, which kills the caterpillar inside and loosens the fibers. These fibers are called raw silk and can be made into cloth directly.
The most animal-friendly solution for natural silk is Peace silk. These are silk fibers that come from "non-violent" sericulture. The silkworm spins her cocoon, transforms into a butterfly inside and then exits her silvery casing through a self-made hole. Only then are the cocoons processed for unwinding the silk threads.
In this way, the life of caterpillars and butterflies is protected. This silk is also called Ahimsa silk in India. Ahimsa means non-violent.
Nylon was once specially developed as a synthetic substitute for silk. Nylon thread is cheaper and stronger, but it is made from petroleum so it is not very environmentally friendly. Rayon (viscose), formerly known as artificial silk, is an artificially manufactured fiber based on a natural raw material that is extracted from wood pulp. Just like, for example, bamboo, eucalyptus wood (the silky soft lyocell) or Triacetate. Triacetate is used as a substitute for silk because of its lustrous appearance and is also referred to as 'vegan silk' or 'wood silk'.
Down and feathers
Down comes from the soft underfeathers of ducks or geese, and is the bottom layer of skin covering of these waterfowl. Down feathers are soft, light as a feather and small, so it takes a lot of feathers before you can make something out of them. However, the process from bird to finished product is not so gentle.
Just like with leather, the feathers can be a by-product of the meat industry, but these are really the exceptions. The vast majority of the down that is used comes from China, Poland or Hungary, where the animals are often live-plucked. This causes a lot of pain and injuries. On average they are picked live 4 times, then they are slaughtered and picked one last time.
In principle, live plucking is prohibited in Europe, but the regulations leave some room for cheating due to the molting of the birds, so that even a quality mark is no longer completely reliable. The origin of down is usually difficult to trace, all down ends up on the same 'down mountain'. In hindsight it is very difficult to determine which down came from a living or dead bird. So you really have to research this carefully and see what a brand says about the origin of its down.
Feathers are used in fashion in clothing and accessories, such as jewelry and boas and other decorations. Most feathers for this come from slaughterhouses, and not because a bird is moulting.
Down is used in the fashion industry as a filling in winter coats, such as winter parkas. Fortunately, there are now several clothing brands that use recycled down or synthetic down. Faux down is just as soft, recyclable and cheaper.
Thermolit is fake down made from polyester fibers. Other synthetic alternatives to down include thinsulate, polargaurd, and primaloft.
Fur is skinned, soft-haired animal skin. Animals are specially bred and killed for the production of fur, so fur is not a residual product. A lot of fur comes from countries like China. The fact that fur is so cheap is mainly because breeding animals in those countries is very cheap, and because they are kept under appalling conditions. You can't rely on a label in a coat as to the authenticity of fur. It is often stated that it concerns imitation fur, while it is indeed real. Animals are killed in horrible ways for fur. They are clubbed to death, skinned alive, electrocuted or gassed. Several animals are already used for a small fur collar, such as raccoon dogs, foxes, arctic foxes and coyotes.
Real or faux fur?
Do the fur test This is how you recognize real fur / fake fur:
* The easiest is to take a few hairs out of the fur and burn them. Real fur scorches and smells like burnt hair; faux fur smolders and smells like burnt plastic.
* You can also recognize real fur by touching it. Real fur feels soft and smooth, while faux fur can feel a bit hard and stiff.
* If you push the hair aside you can see whether the hair is attached to textile (synthetic fur) or whether it is in the skin of the animal (leather).
* Real fur consists of several layers of hair: soft and fluffy undercoat (visible when you push the long hairs aside) and long soft hairs.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - PETA
In the Netherlands, fox and chinchilla farms have been banned for about 25 years, but millions of mink are still gassed for their fur at large mink farms every year. Fortunately, as of January 1, 2024, mink farms are also prohibited in the Netherlands. In 2010, according to Wikipedia, some 30 million minks, two million foxes and 100,000 raccoon dogs were bred in Europe for their fur. In Europe, most fur animals are bred in Denmark, Finland and... The Netherlands.
Since the 1960s, protests against wearing fur have increased significantly. A vast majority is against the use of fur. Internationally, animal rights organization PETA opposes the fur trade and in the Netherlands it is mainly the Bont voor Dieren that is committed to a fur-free fashion industry.
Strangely enough, despite all the anti-fur actions, the production of fur has increased in recent years from 25 million pelts per year (worldwide) to 60 million pelts per year.
Fox breeding ban thanks to Fur for Animals
There are no more fox farms in the Netherlands. Every year, 20,000 foxes were bred in our country for their fur. Bont voor Dieren spent years campaigning and politically lobbying for a ban, resulting in a huge victory.
The Dutch ban has an exemplary function: Denmark later also drew a line through fox breeding. The fact that the Netherlands already had a fox breeding ban was an important support for the Danish ban.
Any animal with fur is prey for the fashion industry
About 2 million dogs and cats are killed every year for the fur industry. The dogs are mainly bred in the open air in the cold north of China for a thicker coat. German Shepherds are especially popular.
The fur is used in clothing, but also for toys and cuddly toys. Labels are being tampered with to sell the fur in the Western market, where dog and cat fur is often banned.
Make the switch to animal-friendly fashion
Why would you still want to wear clothing made of animals when there are plenty of other products available that are cheaper, more environmentally friendly and free of animal suffering. Think of vegan leather, rubber, canvas, organic cotton, hemp and bamboo. These natural and vegetable substances are also sustainable. As far as we are concerned, vegan fashion and animal-friendly fashion is the future. That is why New Angels is a 100% vegan clothing brand.
Soon New Angels will work with vegan cork leather for bags and modal (vegan silk) for scarves. New Angels is a very honest leatherless, woolless and sorrowless fashion brand. Made with love.
Peta approved VEGAN
Animal welfare organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has a certificate for (clothing) brands and stores that are completely vegan. The "PETA-Approved Vegan" label. New Angels could apply for this quality mark, but it is still too expensive for us as a small company. Hopefully this will be possible in the future.
Since going vegan a few years ago, I've become more aware of what goes on in the shadows, with all the animals that are 'necessary' and 'unnecessary' and all the consequences of our behavior. An animal is not a product. It is a living being just like us, with feelings and emotions. If you realize that you are already a very big step in the right direction. Every little bit helps, and you really don't have to throw away your leather shoes right away (that's not sustainable either ;)) Everything starts with that first small step you take. The choice is yours.
What do you think about vegan clothing, and are you already (a little) involved in a vegan lifestyle and/or wardrobe?
Lots of love,
Resources you might want to explore further after reading this blog:
PETA is on a mission: Animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any way.
Bont voor Dieren is a foundation that works for animals and against fur.
Een Dier Een Vriend believes that animals should be allowed to keep their own jackets, and strives for an animal-friendly production of clothing and shoes.
In the Netherlands, too, things often go wrong in slaughterhouses, and animals are skinned and cooked alive. RTL Nieuws wrote an article about this in 2018.