What About Ahimsa or Peace Silk?
Ahimsa, or Peace Silk, is silk that is processed from cocoons without killing the pupae inside and though some might think that this type of silk is vegan, it is not. The silkworm is raised just like conventional cultivated silk, up to the stage where the cocoons would be processed with heat (killing the silkworm). Ahisma silkworms are allowed to hatch and breed, and the silk is made from hatched cocoons. It might sound good so far- but not so fast:
“…each fertilized female moth will lay between 200 and 1000 eggs, averaging around 500. In some strains, the eggs will require refrigeration – without refrigeration, the living embryos within the fertilized eggs will wither and die over the course of a month or two. If they are refrigerated, they will hatch upon removal from refrigeration, in which case they have to be fed immediately, or they will die of starvation and dehydration. Either process will require the destruction of approximately 200 – 300 embryos or hatchling silkworm per moth, for any amount that exceeds what is required for the next crop. Instead of killing one pupa for the silk of the cocoon, it kills hundreds of caterpillars. In India, where the vast majority of Ahimsa silk is being raised, most silkworm strains are multivoltine. This means that the silkworms do not undergo refrigeration, and the eggs will hatch approximately two weeks after being laid. The ones that are not fed will die within a day of hatching, from a combination of dessication and starvation. In a batch of, say, 20,000 cocoons, this means that the next generation (if they were all raised) would be two and a half million, and the generation after that, three hundred twelve million. It’s just not possible to feed so many. While it may be true that the individual caterpillar that spun the cocoon didn’t die inside it, its offspring will have to be ruthlessly culled. Is it considered more virtuous to create conditions of wholesale starvation, to avoid killing the pupa quickly with heat?” (3)
How is Silk Listed on Labels?
It would be great if the labels on our clothing, bedding, and other textiles would list the animal that the natural materials came from, but sadly that isn’t the case. Not only are the labels ambiguous in terms of who the raw material was cultivated from, there are a plethora of names to describe the type and weave of the textile. This can confuse even the most well-informed consumer. I’ve listed some of the most common names you might find listed on a label, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. When the origin of a textile is in doubt, avoiding it in favor of a plant-based alternative may be the only solution.
Brocade, Canton Crepe, Charmeuse, Chiffon, China Silk, Doupinoni, Faille, Georgette, Matelasse, Noil, Organza, Peau de Soie, Pongee, Poult de soie, Silk Shantung, Silk Broadcloth, Silk Linen, Silk Satin, and Tussah Silk. Note that Chiffon, Georgette, Crepe, and Satin may also be made from synthetic fibers, so be sure to check the label for fabric content prior to purchasing.
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Your Daily Vegan is committed to providing accurate information to the vegan community. The information and data presented in this article has been meticulously researched, and is based on the information available to me at the time of publication. Each guide is periodically reviewed for accuracy and updated as necessary. You can find the update date listed at the end of every guide. Please contact me if you find out-of-date or incorrect information.
This guide is authored by KD Angle-Traegner. Last update July 2016