What is Mohair?
Mohair is a luxury fibre produced from the long curly hair of angora goats. It’s one of several fine fibres that are commonly seen as 'luxurious' in the fashion industry. Others in this group include angora wool (a soft wool that comes from angora rabbits), alpaca (a dry fibre harvested from alpacas), yak (the long coat hair from cows usually found in the Himalayan region) and cashmere (a very fine fibre usually obtained from cashmere and pashmina goats).
Angora goats produce around 3-8 kg of mohair per year and are typically shorn twice a year (in contrast to cashmere goats, that are shorn only once per year) because the hair grows at a fast rate of about 2 cm per month. The mohair is then used to make various clothing items such as sweatshirts, hats, and scarves, as well as blankets, carpets, wigs, children's toys and many other products (1).
Where is Mohair Produced?
Most of the world’s mohair (over 50%) comes from South Africa, mainly from the Karoo area of the Eastern Cape, and rest comes mainly from Texas (USA), Australia and Turkey.
However, there are only 2 processing mills in South Africa – most of it is exported raw or semi-processed to textile producers in Europe or Asia. The UK imports roughly 60% of the globally produced mohair and uses it to make clothing items that are either sold there or exported to other countries.
Why Is Mohair Cruel?
Around 5,000 tonnes of mohair is produced each year, and millions of angora goats suffer greatly as part of this industry, therefore
Ban on painful shearing procedures
- During the sheering process, goats (who are natural prey animals) suffer severe distress being pinned down while shorn. There have been investigations done that have documented rough handling of the animals, with workers dragging the goats by their horns and legs or even by their tails. Workers are time-constricted and are working quickly and carelessly, not providing any pain relief to the animals that are inevitably injured in the overtly rushed shearing process (2). With new regulations, the workers are supposed to shear the animals in front of CCTV cameras to prevent unnecessary abuse of the animals, but it does not change the goat’s stress while being pinned down.
- Unlike sheep, goats do not have insulating layers of body fat to keep them warm after shearing. Thermoregulatory consequences can be fatal even during the summer shearing process – in spite of the moderate temperatures, the wind and rain make goats vulnerable to pneumonia and consequently high mortality rate (3).
Ban on painful mutilations
- Like other farm animals, goats are subjects to painful mutilations. When they are 1-2 weeks old, they are de-horned with a hot iron or with a caustic chemical paste that can cause severe burns or even blindness if it comes into contact with their skin or eyes. Male kid goats are also painfully castrated, as they don’t receive anaesthesia and/or analgesics. Different methods are in place for castration, with surgical castration being the most acutely painful and with a risk for infections and fly infestations, if not properly cared for post-surgery. Castration with rubber rings or Burdizzo can lead to tetanus infections and leaves the animals in distress for days and weeks, as in a slow process the testis’ tissues are dying off. All these procedures are usually done without any pain relief, which makes it completely unacceptable Learn more about mutilation of goats here.
Higher standards during transport
The transport of production animals on the African continent usually takes place by truck and in some cases on foot. In addition to this transport, live animals are exported from South Africa by ship to Mauritius, among others, with a journey of 7 to 10 days. Various abuses are known about this route, such as dehydration due to lack of water supply, diseases, and injuries to the animals due to rough handling.
Higher standards during slaughter
The natural life-expectancy of an angora goat is ten years, but most goats in the mohair industry are killed well before then, as soon as they are deemed no longer ‘profitable’. The animals are then often slaughtered without prior stunning and after experiencing yet another poor human-animal interaction by being rough handled.
Better management of animals
- Management of the pregnant ewe – they are fragile and prone to infections and nutrition deficiencies; additional feeding is needed for the lactating ewes
- Artificial insemination in goats is potentially an invasive procedure without anaesthesia and analgesia, without a vet
- In first months, shearing/care needs to be done every 3 months so they can see
- Parasite management is necessary in the 'wild' environment they are living in
- Regulation on euthanasia when necessary, tooth care
Fulfillment of basic needs
If neglected it leads to poor welfare states and therefore to suffering, acute pain, distress, fear and long-term negative welfare states. Basic needs of goats are:
- Goats are a social species and must be kept in stable groups – no individual keeping allowed, with kids having access to the does and male goats should be separated in a different group once they reach maturity (3 months)
- A diet of quality grazing material is not only essential for maintaining their physical health, but also gives them the possibility to express their natural behaviour of browsing for food
- Adequate laying space: kept in outdoor climate stalls (open front deep litter stalls) with a permanently accessible, paved and sure-footed running yard and elevated areas for climbing and retreat; or (in case for most cashmere goats) if kept outside, they must have a shelter in place that gives protection from extreme weather conditions with readily available water and food
- Animals should be given the opportunity to graze and browse for food as well as have the ability to explore their surroundings also vertically – goats need to climb as a part of their natural behaviour
- Animals should be kept in good health, get parasite treatments and receive veterinary care if needed – they should be checked for their well-being and health at least twice a day and the claws should be checked twice a year
We Need More Compassion in Fashion!
To make kinder fashion choices, you can avoid mohair and shop for animal-friendly alternatives. You could consider buying second-hand clothing from places such as charity shops, and if you are buying brand new, there are several sustainable alternatives you can choose when out shopping:
- Recycled acrylic - made from recycled plastic. This is the most widely used fabric for a wool alternative
- Recycled polyester – made from recycled plastic bottles. Also widely used and requires only 30% of the energy that polyester does
- Organic cotton – no use of chemicals of GMOs. Organic cotton products are produced without using harmful synthetic chemicals or additives
- TENCEL™ Lyocell – made from wood pulp. This is manufactured through an environmentally friendly process and is biodegradable and recyclable… and many more!
Over six billion animals are exploited for fashion and textiles every single year. Animal-free clothing is the ultimate kind and cruelty-free fashion and making carefully considered decisions is a great step towards achieving a kinder wardrobe.
Make a conscious choice about the clothes that you wear and #WearItKind by avoiding Mohair products.