Is mohair ethical? Although harvesting mohair rarely jeopardizes the angora goat’s longevity or overall well-being, it’s driven primarily by money—therefore, it’s unethical. Humans have no incentive to breed and care for angora goats outside their mohair.
That’s the gist of it. But there’s much more to explore here. Let’s take a look at the ethics of the mohair industry.
What is mohair, and where does it come from?
Mohair is the yarn or hair from the Angora goat, native to the Angora region of Turkey. Not to be mistaken for angora fibre that comes from the angora rabbit.
Mohair is a durable, naturally elastic, flame-resistant, and crease-resistant fibre. It’s comparable to cashmere, angora, and silk in price; it’s even more costly than most sheep’s wool.
The history of angora goat farming can be traced back to the early 18th century, when the animals were first imported from Turkey to England.
By the mid-19th century, angora goats had become an essential part of the European textile industry, and their hair was highly prized for its softness and strength.
In the years since, angora goat farming has spread to countries worldwide, and the animals are now an important source of fibre.
Adult Angora goats produce approximately 11 to 17 pounds (5-8 kilograms) of mohair each year, making them one of the most efficient fibre-producing animals.
Unlike other types of wool, mohair is very soft and has a silky texture. It’s often combined in high-end fabrics such as silk, satin, and velvet.
Mohair is also highly durable, making it ideal for use in rugs, carpets, and upholstery.
How large is the mohair industry?
Angora goat farming is practised in more than 30 countries, with South Africa accounting for 50% of the global mohair supply. There are approximately 859,000 goats in South Africa, producing 7.9 million pounds (3.6 million kilograms) of mohair each year.
The United States is the second-largest mohair producer, with Texan ranchers raising the majority of angora goats in the country.
The mohair industry has faced challenges in recent years due to changing fashion trends and concerns about animal welfare. Fashion retailers like Zara and H&M stopped using mohair in their garments after animal rights groups raised concerns about animals on South African farms.
Footage was captured of workers dragging goats by their horns and legs, then hoisting them up by their tails. The goats scream in several instances while they are sheared. Additionally, farmworkers were seen flinging goats across the floor.
Despite this, demand for luxury garments made from natural fibres is on the rise again, ensuring that mohair will continue to be an important part of the global textile industry.
Is harvesting mohair cruel to animals?
The angora goat was initially bred and domesticated for its coat. However, over time, the goats were selectively bred for higher mohair yields, which led to a dramatic increase in moulting.
In the wild, angora goats shed their coats naturally every spring and fall. But domesticated goats now shed their coats year-round, resulting in a need for regular shearing.
If left unshorn, the goats would eventually become entangled in their hair, leading to serious health problems. So regular shearing is an integral part of angora goat care.
Like shearing wool from sheep, there are varying levels of cruelty when obtaining mohair, depending on the farm.
Some farms use humane methods of shearing, such as electric clippers, which cause minimal animal discomfort. Other farms still use the traditional way of shearing, which involves pulling the hair from the goat’s body with metal combs. This can be extremely painful for the goats and is often done without sedatives or pain relief.
Additionally, many angora goats are confined to small pens or cages their entire lives and are never allowed to graze or roam freely. This is done to prevent the animals from getting tangled in their hair and make shearing easier.
The cramped, unnatural living conditions can cause significant stress for the goats, leading to health problems.
Of course, this is one side of the spectrum. There are many farms that have excellent animal welfare standards, where the goats are well-cared for and treated humanely.
So, is mohair ethical?
Angora goats are primarily used for mohair production, not meat or milk. So farmers are incentivised to keep their goats for their natural life expectancy of 10-12 years. This is a positive outcome compared to cashmere goats or sheep, where the animal’s lifespans are cut short due to the co-production of meat and dairy.
Furthermore, despite some odd negligent behaviour, Angora goats are rarely harmed when getting shorn. It’s not too dissimilar to dog grooming. So on the surface, it doesn’t appear that there’s anything unethical about mohair.
But we also need to consider the economics here. Besides profiting from goat hair, humans aren’t motivated to breed and keep angora goats. The relationship is founded on profits, not companionship.
Sure, farmers may develop a bond with their goats later, but that relationship doesn’t exist without a monetary incentive. From a vegan perspective, breeding animals in a domestic situation for profit isn’t ethical.
Some small-scale farms raise their animals with care and compassion. But even on these farms, the animals are ultimately exploited for income. That’s the primary purpose of their existence.
And as long as there’s a demand for mohair, there will always be farmers breeding and keeping angora goats.
Is there such a thing as cruelty-free or vegan-friendly mohair?
Fundamentally, no—mohair will always be a product of animal exploitation. You could push the boundaries and try to source mohair from angora goats in animal sanctuaries, but even that seems like an extreme effort to access a fibre you don’t need.
Another option is buying second-hand mohair products. This is a great way to reduce your impact and avoid supporting the animal agriculture industry.
But if you’re looking for a brand new, vegan-friendly product, mohair isn’t the fibre for you. Many other options, such as viscose, bamboo, and organic cotton, don’t involve animals.
Do you think supporting mohair is cruel?
Breeding animals and domesticating goats for profit isn’t ethical. So if you’re looking to avoid all animal products, be mindful of mohair. There are plenty of other options that don’t involve directly exploiting animals.
What do you think about the mohair industry? Let us know in the comments below.
“ Additionally, many angora goats are confined to small pens or cages their entire lives and are never allowed to graze or roam freely.”
This is not true.
In South Africa the goats roam freely and are only placed in a pen when it’s shearing time or if it is cold and rainy weather.