When Aussie brands One Teaspoon and Australian Fashion Labels (Finders Keepers, C/MEO Collective, Keepsake, The Fifth Label, Jaggar) announced they were stopping their use of cashmere last week, they put cashmere back under the vegan spotlight.

Cashmere has had its fair share of publicity this year. Back in January, online retail juggernaut ASOS announced it was banning cashmere products (among other things) from its site. And fast fashion giant H&M pledged in May this year that it will stop placing orders on cashmere by the end of 2020 in a bid to tackle the “environmental and animal welfare challenges of sourcing cashmere”.

This is all good news. But what is it about cashmere that sucks?

Cashmere is a ‘luxury’ fibre that comes from goats. But ordinary goat hair it is not; it’s made from the superfine fibres combed from the undercoat – the soft bit right next to the skin. To make one high-quality cashmere sweater can take the fur of five goats. Most cashmere (about 90 per cent of the world’s production) comes from Asia – the Gobi Desert to be precise – which reaches into China and Mongolia. Millions of goats are bred here on farms for the purpose of harvesting the precious yarn for Western markets.

Cashmere goats are shorn in midwinter, when their coats are nice and thick. The irony that this is just when they need to protect themselves most from the bitter cold is disregarded. Goats have little fat on their bodies and without their fur, often die of cold.

This, and the ruthless and cruel treatment at the hands of the farm workers, was exposed by PETA earlier this year. Footage taken by the animal rights organisation shows workers holding down goats, who cry out in pain as their legs are bent and their hair is torn out with sharp metal combs.

And if that’s not reason enough to ban the use of cashmere, a study on the declining numbers of large mammals in Central Asia found that as goat herds are expanded to increase profits for the cashmere trade, wildlife including snow leopards, wild yak, Bactrian camels and gazelles are losing their natural habitat and being pushed towards extinction.

Do right by goats and don’t use them for fashion. Always check clothing tags for cashmere, and ask your friends to do the same.

Main image: The Fifth Label, “Present Knit” – $109.95 (100% cotton) from The Iconic