What is Mohair and is it Ethical?

Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay – Ranrouha

What is mohair? Mohair fleece is among the most expensive textiles in the world and is cherished for its softness and durability. But despite its many attractive qualities, mohair has been banned by many clothing brands due to the appalling animal cruelty that is often involved in its production.

Mohair is the hair of the Angora goat and is one of the most luxurious textile fibers in the world – not to be confused with the fiber called Angora, which comes from rabbits. The long, curly white hair of the Angora goat is highly sought after in the textile industry for its exceptionally silky and soft qualities. 

What is Mohair? Wool From South Africa

Angora goats have beautiful curly hair. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay – JamesDemers)

Angora goats are originally from Turkey, but because of the increased demand for their hair, they are now also raised in Australia and parts of Africa. South Africa is currently the largest producer of mohair in the world. 

But what is the reason behind mohair’s popularity? The textile has several desirable qualities:

  • Extremely fine and silky
  • Light and durable
  • Repels water but absorbs moisture 
  • Regulates body temperature: keeps you cool in the summer, warm in the winter. 
  • When it is processed correctly, mohair does not crease. 

Use and Care of the Textile

mohair yarn
Mohair is one of the most expensive fabrics in the world. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay – Leoleobobeo)

Now that we know what mohair is, the next question is how it is used. In addition to clothing, mohair is used to make pillows, blankets, upholstery, carpets, and stuffed animals. Because natural mohair fibers are quite costly, most mohair textiles are made with a blend of different textile fibers. 

Mohair is divided into three quality categories:

  • “Kid”: The hair of the very young goat is the finest and the most valuable. It is mostly used to make clothing. Mohair fibers are so fine that they are graded in microns— kid-mohair is 24-29 microns. 
  • “Young Goat”: This category includes mohair fibers that are 24-29 microns. 
  • “Adult”: The hair of an adult Angora goat is a bit hardier and measures in at about 34-40 microns. Mohair of this grade is typically used to make carpets, upholstery, and blankets. 

Because mohair fabric is very delicate, it’s best to wash it in cold water only. To avoid damage, use the delicate cycle on your washing machine, or wash it by hand. But make sure that your mohair fabric doesn’t soak in water for too long! Do not use a dryer and avoid hanging out in direct sunlight. 

What Is the Problem With Mohair?

animal cruelty
The shearing process is terrifying for animals. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay – Franmedia)

Angora goats are sheared twice a year and provide about four to six kilograms (about 8-13 pounds) of wool each. The shearing process is intensely stressful for the goats, who are roughly treated, thrown around, and sometimes even mutilated and killed while workers remove their har, as proved by PETA in 2018.

Recently, PETA took a closer look at what the situation at mohair farms is like in South Africa, where most mohair is produced. What they found was horrifying:

  • During the shearing process, the goats are pinned to the ground, and their legs are bound. Because workers are paid not by the hour but according to how many goats they have sheared, they work as quickly as possible, with little or no regard for the animal’s well-being. The skin of the animal is often torn in the process, and the open wounds that result can quickly become infected and become fatal. 
  • But even before the first shearing, which usually occurs when the animal is about six months old, Angora goats are treated with the most abhorrent cruelty. Male animals are often castrated with a rubber band, which clamps off their testicles without anesthetic and leaves the animals in agony for days. This downright torturous procedure is employed because it is cheap and easy and does not require trained workers. Holes for ear tags are punched with sharp pliers, and the horns of young goats are often burned off, with no pain relief, when the animals are one to two weeks old (also documented by PETA). 
  • Before shearing, live goats are often thrown into caustic chemical baths to remove dirt and feces from their coats.
  • Without their coats to provide natural insulation, Angora goats have no protection against the cold and often freeze to death. 

Although the typical life expectancy of Angora goats is about ten years, the vast majority don’t live past five or six years. As soon as they are no longer profitable for mohair production, the animals are sold off to the slaughterhouse. 

Stop Animal Cruelty in the Mohair Industry! What You Can Do 

Angora goats in Turkey
Angora goats originate in Turkey. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay – Yclnl)

Since PETA brought the shocking circumstances of mohair production to light in 2018, there has been some progress. Big fashion brands like H&M, Esprit, Gap Inc., Zara, and others have banned mohair textiles from their clothing lines or promised to do so by 2020 at the latest. Not all brands have stopped using mohair, though. Here is what you can do against that: You can sign PETA’s petition against wool industry cruelty here.

The best thing you can do for Angora goats is to refuse to buy products made with mohair. If you’re not ready to give up animal fibers completely, at least avoid mass-produced textiles. Instead, look for small farmers who raise their own Angora goats, and treat the animals with care and respect. 

Sustainability

mohair in South Africa
After learning what mohair is and how it is made, here is what you can to to help Angora goats. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Pixabay – Zl2ifb)

Organic wool is a naturally renewable material that is biodegradable and does not require artificial additives. Wool also has unique properties that plant or synthetic fibers can’t compete with. Wool clothing, for example, is more robust, regulates the body temperature better, and does not need to be washed as often.

However, producing wool is resource-intensive. Mass breeding of goats and sheep can also become a problem for the environment if areas are overgrazed.

There is also the fact that Mohair wool comes mostly from South Africa – the long transport to the rest of the world is anything but sustainable.

In Summary: If sustainable living is a priority for you, don’t buy an excessive amount of clothing made with mohair or any other animal fiber. Instead, look for alternatives. There are many types of plant fibers that produce exceptionally cuddly and soft fabric. You can find more info about sustainable clothing here: PETA’s List of Eco and Vegan-Friendly Clothing Brands

On those occasions when you do buy animal textiles, look for sustainable sources. Buy only locally produced organic wool, and investigate to make sure that animal well being is a priority on the farms where the material is sourced. 

This article was translated from German to English by Christie Sacco. You can read the original here: Mohair-Wolle: Besonderheiten und Kritik

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