What’s Wrong With Silk?

Silk, prized as a luxury material all over the world, is composed of the fibre that silkworms weave to make their cocoons and later emerge as adult moths.

Once their cocoon is complete, the worm would usually release proteolyticenzymes to make a hole in the cocoon so that they can emerge as a moth. However, since this would cut short the threads and ruin the silk, commercially reared silkworm pupae are usually boiled alive while still in the cocoon in a process the industry calls stoving. Silk worms are known to have a physical response to pain not dissimilar from that of other animals. Producing 1kg of silk requires the deaths of approximately 5000 individual worms.

Besides this obvious cruelty to the worms involved in production, the silk industry is well known for its human rights abuses. The Human Rights Watch reports hundreds of thousands of children who toil as virtual slaves in the country’s silk industry, where the majority of silk is sourced from. At every stage of the silk industry, bonded children as young as five years old work 12 or more hours a day, six and a half or seven days a week in dangerous conditions. They do not go to school and are often beaten by their employers.

In light of these atrocities, many people choose to invest in “peace silk”, which claims to have been taken from discarded moth cocoons and produced in better conditions. However, no certification authorities exist to guarantee that these standards are upheld. Even in the cases where they are, these animals are still being exploited and often kept in cruel conditions to be reared and bred for profit. With synthetic silk widely available which is almost indistinguishable from natural silk and often cheaper, there is simply no good reason to support this inhumane and exploitative industry.

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