Is silk vegan? Why vegans don’t wear silk

When it comes to fashion, many fabrics of animal origin are considered simple by-products of the meat industry.

Take the leather, it’s just not true that the preserved skin of dead animals used in jackets and handbags would be wasted if we didn’t use it some other way. For anyone who has bravely encountered the Terrans, you will know that this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Animal skin is a big deal on its own, and in some cases it is worth much more than animal flesh. Unlike leather, silk is not made from animal flesh – it is actually caterpillar saliva (or saliva) and millions of silkworms are boiled, roasted or frozen alive to cultivate it. .

Is silk vegan?

When it comes to fashion, many fabrics of animal origin are considered simple by-products of the meat industry.

Take leather for example. It is simply not true that the leather used in jackets and handbags would be wasted if we did not use it some other way. For all who bravely sat down Earthlings, you’ll know it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Animal skin is a big deal on its own and in some cases is more valuable than animal flesh.

But unlike leather, silk is not made from animal flesh. In fact, silk is made with chenille spit (or saliva).

But why can’t vegans wear silk if it’s just caterpillar saliva, you ask? Surprisingly, millions of silkworms are boiled, roasted or frozen alive in the process of spit cultivation.

Cocooning caterpillars

In commercial use, silk is almost entirely derived from the cocoons of domesticated silkworms called “bombyx mori”.

Silk is an extremely fine and strong threadlike fiber that some insects and spiders produce to build cocoons and webs. Due to its smooth and soft texture, silk is in great demand for clothing. The popular luxury material is usually woven into light blouses, dresses, scarves, ties, underwear and pajamas.

It is also widely used by the textile industry for sheets, pillow cases and other upholstery; including artificial flowers.

Before transforming into adult butterflies, young silkworms naturally build cocoons from a continuous thread of white or yellow silk. Impressively, the average length of these silk strands is around 1,400 meters lengthways.

This stage of their four-part life cycle is known as nymph and metamorphosis and will last around two weeks. Cocoons can take three to eight days to build and protect the silkworms as they reach adulthood.

Wild silk butterflies (Bombyx mandarina) are not as commercially viable in silk production. Unfortunately, this means that they live incredibly short lives, only a week in most cases, which gives them just enough time to reproduce.

Domestic silk butterflies, on the other hand, are completely dependent on humans to reproduce as a result of millennia of selective breeding and are unable to fly.

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Commercial silk production

Silk in the textile industry is produced on an industrial scale by breeding silkworms on intensive moth farms. Once they have carefully constructed their cocoons, the pupae (transforming silkworms) are killed, never to become moths.

It costs around 15 silkworms the lives to create a single gram of silk. So, to make an entire wedding dress, we talk about the lives of thousands of silkworms.

To pierce their carefully constructed cocoons, adult butterflies first release a fluid called coconase, which partially dissolves the outer silk and gum residue, and then they dig to exit with their claws.

The coconase damages the integrity of the silk, so to preserve the fiber, the nymph is killed with hot air, steam or boiling water.

Ahimsa silk

A method of producing silk without killing supposedly exists and is otherwise known as Ahimsa silk.

In Ahimsa silk production, wild (rather than domesticated) silk butterflies are bred and the pupae are believed to have the chance to complete metamorphosis to emerge as adult butterflies.

Rather than piercing the cocoon using coconase, which damages the silk, the Eri silkworms used in the production of Ahimsa leave a small opening in the cocoon through which they crawl like moths.

Since it takes an additional 10 days to produce silk in this way, this process is unlikely to take off commercially. Another problem is that silk is generally considered inferior.

Unlike the silk from domesticated silkworm cocoons which is unwound, the fiber of Ahimsa silk is spun like cotton or wool, which has an impact on the quality.

Additionally, despite the ‘no-kill’ philosophy behind Ahimsa silk, the health and welfare of farmed silkworms is still a concern.

Some producers claim that the silk is harvested from the wild rather than farmed. But since it’s completely unviable economically, it’s hard to believe. Other growers report that most of Eri’s cocoons are opened and the pupa is removed by hand for use as a food or fertilizer source, which seems much more likely.

Alternatives to vegan silk

Even choosing to buy Ahimsa silk, you cannot be sure about the production process. Additionally, Ahimsa silk still exploits animals in a way that vegans fundamentally oppose.

The best way to avoid contributing to the abuse of silkworms is not to buy silk products.

Cruelty-free plant materials like polyester, nylon, and rayon easily mimic silk and are quite widespread and available at low prices.

Rayon is made from cellulose – a natural wood pulp fiber – and can be dyed in a range of colors. However, like polyester and nylon, it can be subjected to many non-environmentally friendly chemicals in the process.

Lyocell and modal, on the other hand, are types of rayon fibers that are dyed using chemicals that are free of harmful solvents. Besides being made with environmentally friendly materials, they are also produced in a closed loop production cycle.

This means that chemicals are captured and reused over and over again. Tencel is a certified form of lyocell that is guaranteed to be made from sustainable wood pulp. It is therefore a much more ecological option for fabrics.

While it may seem like there is no perfect alternative in this case, synthetic options prevent the deaths of millions of animals.

Huge investments and research are underway by companies to make environmentally friendly fabrics. As a result, they compete to develop innovative, sustainable and environmentally friendly materials on a commercial scale.

Microsilk from Bolt Threads, made from a fermentation process of yeast, sugar and water, is just one example.

Now that you’ve found the answer to “is silk vegan?” », Find out here if faux fur or real fur is better for the environment.


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Tanya S. Norvell

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