(ANIMAL WELFARE/FUR) Just in time for the holidays, several fashion brands like Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, IZOD, ARROW, Van Heusen, and Asos are partaking in an act of kindness for angora rabbits, by banning all products made from angora fur. The stores joined the fight against the monstrous angora fur industry after PETA released an appalling video of Chinese workers ripping fur from terrified live rabbits on a rabbit farm.
“After this terrifying and barbaric ordeal, which the rabbits endure every three months, many of them appeared to go into shock, lying motionless inside their tiny, filthy cages, with no solid flooring or bedding, and without the vital companionship of other rabbits. After two to five years, those who have survived are hung upside down, their throats are slit, and their bodies are sold,” PETA said in a statement.
Asos is giving customers who bought angora products the right to a full refund. Read on to learn why we must boycott this cruel industry and sign the petition urging the Chinese government to end this senseless suffering. — Global Animal
Internet retailer Asos has joined companies including Marks and Spencer, Next and H&M in banning any products made with angora.
The announcement follows the release of video footage that shows workers in Chinese factories violently ripping the fur from the bodies of screaming rabbits.
A spokesman from the company said: ‘ASOS firmly believes it is not acceptable for animals to suffer in the name of fashion or cosmetics. ASOS is a member of the Fur Free Alliance of retailers and recognises that the sourcing of angora and other rabbit hair products causes distress to animals.
‘As such, we will remove all ASOS and third party branded product that fails to meet the policy and no new orders will be raised containing angora or other rabbit hair.’
Customers who have bought any products containing angora are entitled to a full refund.
‘By pulling all angora products from its international websites and shelves, ASOS has done the right thing for animals and consumers’, says PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) UK’s Mimi Bekhechi.
‘Angora production is cruel, and PETA urges all retailers to follow ASOS’s example and show that cruelty to animals has no place in their stores.’
Angora fibres are prized for their exceptionally fluffy texture. It’s warmer than wool and the fibre is also exceptionally fine — just 11 microns (11 thousandths of a millimetre) in diameter — which means angora is softer than cashmere.
It is also far cheaper than the luxury fabric, with angora jumpers on sale in Topshop for £36 and scarves in John Lewis for just £30.
But an investigation revealed these bargain knits may be coming at an immense cost to the animals that produce this wool.
Animal rights group PETA released a gut-wrenching exposé into the angora industry in China, which is responsible for 90 per cent of the world’s supply of angora wool.
Investigators went to ten different angora farms and witnessed, they say, appalling abuse of animals at all ten locations. At half of the farms a particularly barbaric form of live plucking is used to remove the fur.
PETA, which is campaigning for shoppers to boycott angora, is not naming the farms to protect its sources, but has documented its hard-hitting findings in video footage. Be warned, neither the still images nor the video make for easy viewing.
Terrified white rabbits, screaming with fear, are stretched prone on wooden boards and held by the neck while that much-prized soft fur is plucked by hand — though scalped might be a more appropriate term. Hair is wrenched from the follicles until only raw, pink skin remains.
In other scenes, the defenceless creatures are tethered with rope by the front and back legs while they are sheared by men armed with metal scissors, who pay little attention to the cuts they are inflicting on the animals.
There can be little doubt that in this footage, rabbits are treated in a horrifying manner.
‘After their fur is yanked out, the gentle, sensitive rabbits are left in shock, able only to lie motionless inside their tiny, filthy cages,’ says PETA spokesman Ben Williamson.
Rather than simply trimming the fur with clippers, as many breeders do, the factory workers are seen wrenching the fur from the root, causing the rabbits incredible pain. The reason for this cruelty? Simple economics — and expedience.
Angora has a trade value of £22 to £28 per kilogram, but the longer hair that comes from plucking, as opposed to shearing, can sell for more than double that. As for speed, one only needs to watch the footage to discover how quick removing the hair in this manner is.
Angora breeders in the UK told the Mail that plucking a rabbit without causing harm takes up to two weeks of gently removing loosened hair, not the minutes it takes to rip hunks of fur from a terrified animal in the factories visited in China.
Shearing a rabbit takes up to an hour when done with care — but again, the process recorded on these videos was terrifyingly swift.
This process is repeated every three months for the two to three years of the animal’s life.
Angoras can live for five years, or even as long as ten years when well looked after, but farmed rabbits have a much shorter lifespan, which can be as little as two years.
Yet it is not just the manner in which these animals — which are more commonly kept as pets in Britain — have their fur harvested that has sparked animal welfare concerns.
Pictures show forlorn looking rabbits with tattered and partially shaved fur cowering in tiny cages in half-covered sheds.
‘The rabbits are kept in tiny filthy cages, surrounded by their own waste,’ says Mr Williamson. ‘The cages offer little protection from the elements.
They are forced to spend their entire miserable lives standing on the thin cage wires that constantly cut into their sensitive footpads, never having a chance to dig, jump or run around.’
Once the rabbit’s health fails, they are of little use to breeders.
Those who survive the brutal conditions in these rabbit farms are killed by having their necks broken, and are hung upside down and have their throats slit before their flesh is sold to local markets, PETA says.
There are thought to be more than 50 million rabbits on angora farms in China, producing more than 4,000 tonnes of fur a year.
It is by far the world’s biggest producer, followed by Argentina, Chile, the Czech Republic and Hungary, which produce the bulk of the remaining 10 per cent of the supply chain.
While plucking of angora rabbits does occur in other countries, the Mail has not found any reports of the particularly barbaric form witnessed in these Chinese factories being employed elsewhere.
There is no doubt that China has a woeful record of factory farming and animal cruelty, particularly when it comes to producing clothes for the fashion industry, many of which end up on sale on British High Streets.
In 2009, campaigners exposed how down used in jackets and other items was being ripped from the bodies of live geese by Chinese suppliers.
Two years later it emerged that raccoon dogs were being skinned while still alive to produce imitation sheepskin boots.
In China, there are no penalties for the abuse of animals on farms and minimal, if any, standards to regulate their treatment. A new law was drafted in 2009, but has not been implemented.
The UK once had its own angora industry, but it died out after World War II and now remains only as a cottage industry, with producers unable to compete with the cheap angora from eastern countries such as China.
‘We can’t compete with the Chinese, so it’s very much a niche market,’ says Sarah Paul, who breeds and produces angora on a small scale on her farm in North Yorkshire and has raised rabbits for the past 30 years.
‘I’m one of the few left, there are no commercial producers in the UK any more. As an animal, they are lovely and very easy to keep and the fibre is absolutely gorgeous.’
Her rabbits (all lovingly tended to, nails clipped, and coats combed) mostly live on the barn floor and are clipped, not plucked, every 14 to 16 weeks. Angora rabbits regularly moult, which allows breeders to harvest their hair in this manner.
‘That’s the most labour intensive part,’ says the mother-of-four. She says that, far from screaming and struggling to escape, the rabbits become quite ‘soporific’ as they are groomed and clipped, a process that can take an hour for each one.
If a rabbit is not clipped, she says, its fur can become matted, ‘almost imprisoning’ the animal.
Ms Paul, who runs Bigwigs Angora, sells her rabbits’ fibres to independent wool spinners in small packs of nearly an ounce for £3.
A single angora rabbit, well looked after, may produce about just over 1lb of fur a year from three to four clippings, which is blended with other fibres to make a 50 per cent angora yarn — enough to make two and a half jumpers.
A single jumper would cost £64 to make with £8 balls of yarn, a far higher price than the mainstream fashion industry can tolerate with its insistence on large profit margins. On the British High Street, the Mail found angora products on sale in every store we visited, most of them displaying labels saying ‘Made in China’.
While this doesn’t necessarily mean the wool was sourced in China, the vast majority of angora sold in Britain comes from that country.
Of the retailers approached by the Mail — which included John Lewis, Topshop and H&M — only Marks & Spencer told us where they sourced their angora: China.
Among the store’s offerings this season are a £39.50 roll-neck jumper, made from 38 per cent angora, and a three-quarter sleeve cardigan in the palest of pinks, made of 55 per cent angora, for £49.50.
A spokesman said: ‘We put animal welfare at the heart of our business and are committed to the highest standards in all our supply chains, including angora wool.’
The store said live plucking did not meet their high welfare standards, while H&M also condemned the practice and Topshop said only shearing and combing were acceptable.
‘As a condition of doing business with us, all our suppliers must adhere to our strict animal welfare policies,’ said the M&S spokesman.
While this may be the case for some stores, this week’s horrific images of rabbits will surely be enough to give many British shoppers pause for thought when they stop to stroke the fluffy angora jumpers on offer on our High Streets this winter.