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Is Silk Vegan?

Radiant, smooth, and resplendent; you can always rely on silk fabric to add an instantly elegant touch to your look, but is it vegan-friendly? And how much do we know about the processes that go into making this textile? Ahead, we answer these very questions by diving deep into how silk is extracted and find out if it’s ethical.

Key Takeaways: Unsympathetic Sericulture

As children, we have all learned about mother nature’s unique process called ‘metamorphosis’ — a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism. The exact process where a caterpillar transforms into a chrysalis and from the pupa emerges as an adult butterfly. 

The Bombyx mori (mulberry silkworm) also goes through the same process before achieving metamorphosis into a moth. And since silk is the fibre that these silkworms weave to make their cocoons, most of them don’t live past the pupal stage because they are boiled or gassed alive inside their cocoons for silk fibre extraction. 

The ruthless process of gassing the silkworms alive causes the cocoons to unravel so that their silk threads can be extracted. Since a metamorphosed moth would have to break out of the cocoon to emerge, the process would rupture the continuous filament (an undesirable outcome for silk producers), which is why they are slaughtered at an early stage. A marvel of nature, a single silkworm is capable of creating nearly 915 metres of silk yarn in a matter of just three days. But unfortunately, a staggering 6,600 silkworms are killed for the measly production of just 1 kilogram worth of silk fabric.  

Vegans Don’t Wear Silk

Veganism is a way of living that consciously excludes all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, whether in food, personal care products or clothing. But with the constant (albeit important) conversation around animal exploitation — brutality against insects often gets left out of the dialogue. Insects are an essential part of our ecosystem because of their diversity, ecological role, and influence on agriculture, human health, and natural resources.

Fortunately for the conscientious vegan, there is a better and cruelty-free alternative to conventional silk. Peace silk, also known as ‘Ahimsa silk’ or ‘Vegan silk’ follows a similar extraction process as conventional sericulture, minus the killing of silkworms. Peaceful sericulture encourages the silkworm’s natural process of metamorphosis by obtaining the cracked cocoon after the moth has broken free and emerged. 

The silk producers make do and mend those broken filaments into short fibres that are softened and spun, creating a silk material with slight slubs on their texture which is an unnoticeable compromise that saves a ton of insect lives. The result is a delightfully silky, ethical, and sustainable fabric that feels and looks the same as regular silk — without the barbaric act. 

Next time you go hunting for some stylish silk options, be sure to make a more ethically sound and sustainable choice by opting for peace silk instead.  

Published by: Vibhuti Vazirani/ 2021-04-27

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