This recent editorial on the Huffington Post has caused a bit of commotion in the knitting world. The author professes that she is currently faced with an internal struggle as to whether she should purchase inexpensive cashmere yarn for her shop or not, and concludes that she will only be stocking “humanely” sourced cashmere from now on. To which I respond: So what?
There are so many things wrong with the fiber industry–and yes the rise of cheap cashmere is a problem–but what about the yarn on your local shops shelves that have always been low cost? Sheep raised for wool are subject to cruel practices which include, but are not limited to: mulesing, castration, tail docking, having holes punched in their ears, rough handling, inhumane transport, and finally slaughter. And if it’s overgrazing you’re worried about, sheep are just as good at that as goats.
I suppose I simply don’t understand why someone would go out of their way to research and purchase only the most “humanely” raised cashmere, and ignore the much bigger problems in the fiber industry. I’d venture to guess it’s because many customers still expect to pay a high price for most cashmere which make it an easy business decision to forgo the cheap cashmere, but when faced with the idea that half the stock on the shelves is the product of exploitation it suddenly doesn’t seem matter as much.
I also dislike the implication the author makes that just because something is expensive means that it is humane. Up to 80% of cashmere goats are killed due to defects in their coats, and that’s just how it works. Any business person is not going to invest in care for an animal if they’re not producing enough, and that goes for any sized commercial operation.