Silk is known for its elegance and luxury, but the way it is manufactured has left many people deeming it unethical. Silk is created when a protein substance derived from the glands of silkworms hardens after coming into contact with the air. Silkworms are killed before they emerge from cocoons so strands can remain unbroken. Methods of killing them include boiling, baking and steaming them, which are all done whilst the worm is still alive. Conventional silk production first began in China over 5000 years ago. As a result of the practice, mulberry silkworms have become blind moths which are unable to eat or fly due to the way their mouths now feature undeveloped structures.

Can vegans wear any silk at all?

Veganism is all about avoiding the negative treatment of animals in any way, shape or form, which means even animals as small as worms must be treated with the utmost respect. Peace silk is a more ethical form of silk that avoids the cruelty linked to typical silk production. The process of creating peace silk does not harm the moth, using chrysalis that the insect has already discarded. Peace silk is also known as Ahimsa Silk, and this has been a popular option amongst vegans since the last 20th century. With peace silk, fibres from the damaged cocoon are spun to form a silk which retains the elegant feel of conventional silk but has a ‘rawer’ look. You can normally wash peace silk by hand, with lukewarm or cold soapy water. The process of producing peace silk allows silkworms to complete their entire life cycle. The moths are given time to emerge from their cocoons, and many regard peace silk as warmer and softer than conventional silk.

Silk accounts for 0.2% of fabrics production in the world, so there is a lot of confusion in the world of ethical silk:

  1. The silk worm has evolved to be a blind and flightless insect which is not able to survive without human interaction. It needs to be fed and taken care of daily or it dies in few days. So, in other words the Bombyx mori has been domesticated, the damage has been done, due the thousands of years of humans interrupting the natural lifecycle of the moth. In fact the cocoons used in silk production are incubated in laboratories and bred for the purposes of commercial use
  2. The most unknown fact is the Ahimsa silk or the so-called Peace silk doesn’t differ from the process – instead of killing the cocoon by boiling it, the moth is killed after emerging anyway. The Ahimsa silk is basically using cocoons that have hatched before breeding, while in the conventional silk production they are boiled before hatching. The moths are killed for reeling anyway
  3. The problem with the Peace silk concept includes:

-After emerging from the cocoon, the moth mate and the female each lay hundreds of eggs, but silk farms have limited capacity and cannot feed all the hatching eggs simply because of what’s mentioned above – the silk worm has been domesticated and has evolved to be a creature which cannot survive without human interaction. So although the silk moths will emerge from their cocoons most of them will die from starvation and dehydration within just few days, so Peace silk is essentially a ‘’damaging concept’’. Also, the quality of the Ahimsa is not that good as well, the thread brakes and it’s much more fragile perhaps again due to the evolution of the silk worm and the process of making silk since thousands of years.

On the other hand silk has several very important qualities apart from just being a luxurious and beautiful material for clothing. It’s the most sustainable fabric available as well as the healthiest .Only in silk threads no virus or bacteria can survive .But that’s not all – latest research from the Oxford silk group shows that silk is possibly the material of the future and the by-products of it can be used in many fields of biotechnology and agriculture.

The same group reports that they are currently making biomedical implants from the by-product of production of silk, such as replacement joints etc.

Another very valuable by-product is the cocoon flour that is made from the dried cocoons after their use. It is currently being approved by the EU as one of the highest sources of protein and in Asia they already fry it and eat as a low-carbon source of protein.

The other by product is the seri acid used in cosmetics widely.
Why vegans see conventional silk as unethical

Vegans don’t wear conventional silk for many reasons. As they try to live their lives without exploiting or harming animals, they do not use animal products like leather, fur or wool as well as silk. As silkworms are often dropped into boiling water to create conventional silk, many vegans have spent years protesting against this form of silk production. Many vegans say silkworms are being bred for the purposes of silk production alone, with little thought being given to their well-being. Some vegans that do love the look and feel of silk avoid purchasing brand new silk items produced in a conventional manner, instead opting for second-hand products or items made from surplus stock.

About Lora GENE

Lora GENE is a leading source for stylish ethical clothing for women who care deeply about environmental, social and political issues. The company is a sustainable business that works with a range of ethical suppliers that share their values. All yarns and woven fabrics used to create Lora GENE clothing are GOTS certified or sourced from surplus stock. Lora GENE is a leading source for many ethical silk products. To get in touch with Lora GENE today, use the contact form on the site or call +447516428469. Alternatively, send a message to [email protected]