In response to animal cruelty and sustainability concerns, H&M – the world’s second largest clothing retailer – has announced it will phase ‘conventional cashmere’ from its collections, ceasing to place orders for the material by 2020.

The move follows an exposé by PETA, who obtained footage from China and Mongolia (which produce 90 per cent of the world’s cashmere) showing the cruel reality of cashmere production. The video shows terrified goats being held down and screaming out in pain as their hair was torn out with sharp metal combs. Later when no longer of value, the footage shows their fate, suffering inhumane treatment – from being hit in the head with hammers to having their throats slit in full view of other goats – at slaughterhouses.

According to PETA (the largest animal rights protection organisation in the world), sustainability is also a major issue, with cashmere production having the most destructive environmental impact of any animal-based fibre. The industry is a significant contributor to soil degradation followed by desertification – 65 per cent of Mongolia’s grasslands are degraded and 90 per cent of Mongolia is in danger of desertification, leading to some of the world’s worst dust storms on record.

In heartening news, H&M is working towards using 100% sustainable materials by 2030 and have stated: “we are dedicated to transforming the fashion industry and make it more sustainable – and more transparent.” Of the decision to boycott cashmere, it said:

While cashmere is popular for its soft texture and known as a high-quality material, it comes with both environmental and animal welfare challenges.

H&M’s decision follows that of ASOS who, after talks with PETA, updated their animal welfare policy, boycotting cashmere, silk, fur and mohair.

With so many cruelty free alternatives available – bamboo, Tencel, organic cotton, hemp, viscose, model, soy cashmere – the question becomes one of “why on earth would you choose to buy conventional cashmere knowing the pain and suffering involved?”

Image credit: H&M