What Dirty Secrets Are Stitched Into a Cashmere Scarf?

Posted on by Chelsea Munro

PETA Asia went undercover in Mongolia to expose lies about “sustainable” and “responsible” cashmere, and the findings reveal that – no matter what sort of labelling is used – all cashmere comes from goats whose hair was violently stolen from them before they were slaughtered.

Between April 2022 and February 2023, PETA Asia’s investigators visited cashmere operations in Mongolia – including one herding operation with ties to clothing companies such as Louis Vuitton, Dior, Prada, Gucci, Hermès, Chanel, Burberry, Naadam, and Bottega Veneta. Investigators discovered the following:

  • Workers pinned goats down by the legs and horns and ripped out their hair – all while the animals screamed in pain and fear.
  • A herder used an unsterilised knife to cut open kid goats’ scrotums and pulled out their testicles with his bare hands and without pain relief.
  • Pieces of the animals’ skin were pulled off with the hair.
  • Goats were left to suffer from bleeding wounds.
  • There were multiple dead animals on site, including kids who likely died from extreme cold and hunger and a goat found dead the day after they were seen sick or injured, limping around a pen.

Combing Is a Painful, Prolonged Process

Goats screamed as workers tied them down by the legs and pulled the hair out of their sensitive skin with sharp metal combs – a terrifying process that usually takes an hour per goat. Hand-combing is done only to make money, since cashmere goats would shed their coats naturally.

Kid goats cried out while they were castrated without pain relief, as a worker cut their scrotum with an unsterilised knife and yanked out their testicles with his bare hands. One goat sustained a bloody wound during combing, and an investigator found pieces of cashmere with skin on it. Another goat was seen with a bleeding penis. An investigator found a goat who appeared sick or injured while limping around in a pen. The animal was found dead the following day. And kids, like many others, died during the harsh Mongolian winter. A contact from a herding family also told PETA Asia investigators that smaller goats die from being trampled by larger ones as they rush for shelter at night, when it can get as cold as minus 30 degrees Celsius.

Workers Bash Goats’ Heads In With Hammers

What consumers may not realise is that the cashmere industry is a slaughter industry – workers kill goats when they’re no longer considered productive enough for this trade.

Investigators visited abattoirs, where they documented that workers drag cashmere goats to the kill floor, hit them on the head with a hammer, and cut their throats. Workers killed them in full sight of other goats. Afterwards, some goats continued to move for over four agonising minutes after their throats had been cut before finally dying.

Sham ‘Standards’ Support Goats’ Suffering

In the wake of PETA Asia’s first investigation into the cashmere industry, clothing companies claimed that they would follow and support certain animal welfare “standards”, including by signing up to the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA), an organisation that certifies two of the cashmere operations seen in PETA Asia’s most recent footage. But the reality is that animal-skin industries will never be rid of exploitation and rampant cruelty, no matter what standards are adopted. Subscribing to “standards” instead of eliminating animal-derived materials fails animals and perpetuates their suffering.

For example, the SFA Code of Practice does the following:

  • It recommends that combing be used to collect cashmere, despite the negative welfare outcomes associated with it.
  • It doesn’t require pain relief for castration or injuries that occur during combing.
  • It considers treating animals “humanely” prior to slaughter a recommendation, not a requirement.
  • It doesn’t require that goats be stunned prior to slaughter, and it allows for blunt force trauma to be used to kill goats.

Producers aren’t even required to meet all the guidelines set out in the codes of practice in order to be certified by the SFA.

Cashmere Production Devastates the Environment

Goats must consume more than 10% of their body weight in roughage every day, and they often eat plants down to the root, preventing them from growing back. About 80% of the recent decline in vegetation on grassland is attributable to the explosion of goat and other ruminant animal populations in Mongolia, and the United Nations Development Programme found that 90% of Mongolia consists of dry, vulnerable land that’s under increasing threat of desertification.

“More goats mean more grazing; which, in turn, leads to degradation of the grasslands. The result is undernourished goats with coarser hairs, causing the supply of high-quality cashmere to shrink. To make up the lost revenue, herders breed bigger herds, setting off the cycle again.”
– Common Objective, global fashion monitor

Advertising Versus Reality

Goats are clever animals who form strong bonds with each other, just as humans do. Like all animals, goats deserve respect and compassion. You have the power to help stop the abuse of these inquisitive, social animals.

Companies like to paint a pretty picture of what happens to animals for cashmere. But as PETA Asia’s footage of herders who supply major global retailers shows, the reality is far different:

On the left is an image showing cashmere production on Naadam’s website. On the right is an image from PETA Asia’s investigation into an operation that provides cashmere to Naadam’s supplier.

Urge Brands to Ditch Cashmere

Tell Louis Vuitton, Dior, Prada, Gucci, Hermès, Chanel, Burberry, Naadam, Bottega Veneta, and other brands to choose only vegan materials and stop supporting the exploitation and slaughter of goats.