So you just happened to be passing the shops and notice that cute little fluffy cardigan in the window? Stop. Think. Educate yourself. What is it made from? While you might be inclined to reach for a soft angora cardigan this season, you should consider the pain and suffering that occurred to make that cardigan possible. Let’s have a look at the truth behind the angora industry.
Angora is one of the most sought after materials for those soft, warm sweaters. The fine fibres come from the domestic angora rabbit. Although its history is contentious, the angora rabbit has been bred for centuries throughout Europe and was only recently brought to the United States in the 1920’s.
Today, 90% of angora fur is produced in China. Remember, China has NO animal welfare laws and there are more than 50 million angora rabbits, growing 2,500–3,000 tonnes of fur per year. Harvesting occurs up to three times a year (about every 4 months) and is collected by ripping the fur from the animal.
These intelligent, docile and clean animals spend their lives on angora farms in tiny filthy cages surrounded by their own excrements. In 2013, PETA released footage from their undercover investigations of ten angora farms in China. The footage is graphic, but it is heartbreakingly real.
Only female angora rabbits are used within the fur trade as they grow much larger than the males and therefore produce more fur. Males chosen for breeding purposes are selected and then caged. Those not required for breeding within the angora fur trade are killed automatically at birth. PETA stated that the male rabbits are considered the luckiest of rabbits as their life and death is quick and virtually painless.
A PETA undercover investigator visited almost a dozen angora rabbit farms in China and found that rabbits screamed and writhed in pain as workers ripped the fur out of their delicate skin. Rabbits endure this terrifying ordeal every three months for two to five years before they’re ultimately killed. They are then strung up; their throats are slit and then they are fed back into the human food chain. After the fur has been harvested the angora rabbit is then returned back to its cage, naked, freezing and in shock - the rabbit will sit still quivering in fear in a trance like comatose state. Death is common yet still the trade continues.
There are no penalties in China for animal abuse on rabbit farms and no standards that regulate the treatment of animals.
Sometimes the rabbits are sheared which can be as traumatic as having ones fur ripped clean out. This is known as ‘plucking’. During this process, their front and back legs are tightly tethered and the sharp cutting tools inevitably wound them as they struggle desperately to escape. Some farmers will suspend the rabbits from a block of wood fixed to a beam in the fur room. Bleeding and shaking in shock the process is not fast. Taking on average around ten to fifteen minutes the pain inflicted is gruesome and barbaric.
Rabbits are one of the most abused species on the planet. They are not only used for angora and in the fur industry but for animal testing and experimentation, meat, Easter gifts and in the entertainment industry. Rabbits are considered very delicate and sensitive animals of which suffer more or less the same stress and loneliness feelings as we humans do.
Stress in the fur trade kills 90% of all rabbits. However, this is not the only factor. Heat stress is also commonly known to kill many rabbits, loud noises, irrational human behaviour, confusion or inconsistent mishandling can also lead to the deaths of many Angora Fur farm rabbits.
Rabbits are social animals and being separated from another rabbit causes immense stress. This social deprivation leads to stereotyped behaviour such as gnawing on cage bars and over-grooming. Even group housing of adolescent sibling rabbits is no better. The overcrowding of the cages leads to increased aggression and fighting. Fur-plucking and ear-biting are behavioural manifestations attributed to overcrowding.
What can I do?
Since the exposure of the angora rabbit trade many retailers across the UK, Europe, America and Australia have decided to cease the trade of angora fur. In 2013 several clothing retailers suspended the sourcing of products containing angora wool after the footage was released from Peta. Major retailers that banned angora products in response to welfare concerns include Gap Inc., Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, H&M, Esprit Australian retailers and designers like David Jones, Myer, Sportsgirl and, most recently, the Just Group.
Optimistically, the angora fur trade is on its way out. Talk to your friends and please pledge to leave angora out of your wardrobe and instead choose cruelty-free alternative materials.
Please take the time to read the label If it says ‘angora’ - leave it on the rack.