Why is Cashmere Controversial?
The high-quality, extravagant shawls and scarves you see in premium showrooms might be handmade Cashmere wraps. Cashmere is an exquisite animal hair that is processed for months and years to come up with ethereal accessories like shawls, wraps, and scarves. It is made by breeding, maintaining, and harvesting Cashmere goats that are found around the Himalayan mountain range. The accessories made out of this wool are considered one of the warmest in the world, and perfect for gelid winter seasons. And even though they are warm, they have a feather-light weight due to their minute fibre diameter.
Cashmere has always been in the limelight owing to certain misconceptions about it. It is said that its harvesting is cruel to animals as well as the planet. But to what extent it is true, we came to know when we personally traveled to the mountain ranges of Ladakh - a place North of India - where the best quality is found. There, indeed, is a lot to unpack, as we explore the ethical nuances of this large industry. Here is what we came to know about “soft gold” and its rich price tag.
How well do you know it?
Cashmere is a luxury fibre that’s soft, lightweight, and warm beyond belief. Moreover, it is 3 times more insulating than wool, eight times warmer than the same, and thinner than a human strand of hair (about 1/8th of it). This means you can keep exceptionally warm without layering yourself in those burdensome sweaters and jackets. Cashmere fibre is mostly used in the making of winter shawls, scarves, mufflers, wraps, and sweaters. On average, Cashmere shawls and wraps cost anywhere between $100 to $10000.
Where does Cashmere come from?
Cashmere is found growing on the underbelly of an exotic species of goats. The goats are found in the Himalayas. In areas surrounding the Himalayas, the temperature can get down to minus 40 degrees Celsius and make it impossible for the animals to survive. Thankfully, nature has blessed the goats with a very thick coat and an inner fine coat of Cashmere that has fine fibres to cope with the extremely cold conditions their surroundings have to offer.
It is obvious that the producers of Cashmere would be the countries around the Himalayan range. And it indeed is. China and Mongolia are the world’s largest producers of this luxury fabric. But it is India that has to offer the world’s finest quality Cashmere. Ladakh, North India, is the region close to the Himalayas where exotic goats are bred. They are locally known as Changthangi goats and produce the finest quality wool.
Why is Cashmere so expensive?
The luxe Cashmere is harvested just once a year. This is around the Spring season when the summer sun is just touching the long winter-hit Himalayan ranges. This is when the goat starts to naturally shed its wool. The wool is hence found lying in surrounding areas. The grounds, coarse stones, bushes, and other rough grainy areas are found loaded with small portions of Cashmere wool. Herders hence realize it's time and call for professional help. At times, experienced herders themselves comb out the rest of the wool from the bodies of their goats when they are moulting. This is the primary reason why Cashmere is expensive. The supply is way less than the ever-increasing demand.
The second reason for the premium prices of Cashmere is the meagre annual yield. A goat can give a maximum wool of 150-180 grams (just around 7 ounces). On the contrary, sheep produce 3 kg of wool a year. Hence the inadequate yield is not even sufficient for making one large wrap (200*100 cm). Hence, for one Cashmere wrap, wool from 3 to 4 goats will be sufficient. For a large sweater, wool from 5 to 6 goats will be adequate.
It is these qualities that make Cashmere the premium category of wool types that it is famous for. In addition to these, Cashmere is super lightweight, versatile, and immensely warm. This adds to it being considered a luxury.
Also read: TURNING THE WAYS FOR THE PLEDGE OF FINEST CASHMERE
Why is Cashmere Controversial?
Even though Cashmere is treasured and adored all over the world, controversies surround it all the time. The surprising amounts of controversial statements against Cashmere make one think if he is doing the right thing by buying or wearing it. The controversy is about the ethical practices while harvesting Cashmere. Many believe that goats are ill-treated and cruelly dealt with when it comes to the procurement. Others say that the wool isn't gently combed out but ripped off their bodies, thereby causing pain and suffering to the poor animal. But this is confusing on so many levels.
First, the Cashmere producing goat is one of the main sources of income for the nomadic herders. So why would they cause pain to the animal that gives them their livelihood? Some believe that Cashmere goats are shorn, that too before summer, which even causes death. But why would anyone kill their own source of livelihood?
Hence we dug deep into the facts and got some critical information.
Is Cashmere Cruel?
The controversy surrounding Cashmere boils down to cruelty. But what we came to know is that Cashmere is NOT cruel. Wool is collected by herders in summer (early spring to be precise) when the goat itself sheds most of it. This is the reason why it is always available in meagre amounts. The goats are well-fed, and this is the reason the nomadic herders do not have one particular place where they can always be found. They are nomadic because they wander in search of food and water for their herds.
Climate changes are used as an advantage for moving in between new pastures that are better suited to Cashmere goats. Cashmere goats are one of those animal herds which get proper nutrition. Cashmere goats are mostly not reared for their meat, but only for the fine wool they grow. Hence, they are taken proper care of, when it comes to food, shelter, nutrition, and general management of their overall health.
Also read: DO VEGANS WEAR CASHMERE SCARF?
Should we buy this Luxury Wool?
Cashmere is not unethically produced. At least in most cases. Buying Cashmere is not irresponsible shopping. There are many brands that have found ways to carry sustainable production of this fine wool. This means no animal cruelty, no use of machines for processing, and other factors that count toward sustainability contributing to a smaller environmental footprint. These brands arrange independent auditors to regularly check if all the standards of sustainable harvesting are met.
Fortunately, Pashmina.com is one such organization that has a check on the practices used to procure Cashmere from Ladakh. The team makes sure that the procurement is completely ethical, as well as sustainable (the icing on the cake). The shawls, scarves, and wraps from Pashmina.com have been handmade from pure Ladakhi Cashmere that is acquired cruelty-free. Apart from the products being immensely beautiful and luxurious, these are environment-friendly, with the makers sending their love all the way from the paradisiacal valley of Kashmir. With the assortments brimming with extravagant as well as minimalistic pieces, Pashmina.com has all the treasure-worthy pieces which are quintessential for a complete winter accessory wardrobe.
Also read: WHICH COUNTRY HAS THE BEST CASHMERE?
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