3. Ahisma & Peace Silk
Is it really cruelty-free?
What is Peace Silk?
Peace silk, also known as Ahisma Silk, refers to silk produced without killing the silkworms. Ahisma comes from Sanskrit and translates as "non-violent" or "non-injury."
Its creation comes from Kusuma Rajaiah, a government officer from India with 40 years of experience in sericulture. Inspired by Gandhi, Rajaiah developed a way to gather silk from cocoons without killing the silkworms within. (9)
Is Ahisma Silk Cruelty-Free?
Peace silk might seem cruelty-free at first glance, but when examined closely, it isn't much better at all.
Often touted as an ethical alternative to traditional silk, peace silk avoids the process of stifling and allows the moths to climb out of the cocoon and breed. Sounds good, right? Not so fast.
1. Silkworms Still Die
Like other industries that rely on animals, silkworms must reproduce to create more silk cocoons. When breeding, farmers use male moths repeatedly until their fertility decreases. Once they are no longer needed, they find themselves thrown out of the factory and left for the local birds to eat. (10)
And don't forget, centuries of breeding for the sole purpose of silk production creates moths that live just a few days, bumbling about with large bodies and tiny, wholly inadequate wings. The unusual shape of their mouth makes it hard for them to eat. (11)
2. Silkworms Still Die In Large Numbers
Peace silk ends up killing more silkworms than traditional silk.
Here's how the numbers add up. One female moth lays around 200 to 1000 eggs, and most silkworms raised for Ahimsa silk have multiple breeds per season. That's a lot of offspring.
Let's use the example of 20,000 moths. After breeding, the next generation results in roughly 2.5 million cocoons. The generation after that, about 312 million cocoons.
It is impossible to feed every single silk moth. Instead, many are left to die from starvation and dehydration.
So, instead of killing just one pupa per cocoon in traditional silk production, Ahimsa silk kills hundreds. (12)
3. It's Still Bad for the Environment
Silk is a biodegradable natural fabric, so it might surprise you to know that it's so resource-intensive.
First of all, producing silk uses a ton of water.
Silkworms eat ten times their weight in mulberry leaves during their lifetime. One mature tree produces enough foliage for just one hundred silkworms. Doing the math, 3,000 cocoons for one yard of silk equals a lot of trees. Thirsty trees can place strains on freshwater supplies.
Plus, several steps in the processing require large volumes of water.
Next, silk requires a lot of energy. Farms must keep controlled temperatures during processing. Harvesting and cooking cocoons use both hot air and hot water.
Lastly, using chemicals to clean and dye silk can pollute local water sources. Biological waste contributes to land degradation and eutrophication. (13, 14)
4. There's No Certification
Keep in mind; there's no such thing as an official peace silk certification. The companies who claim to have peace silk don't receive inspections, so there's no guarantee that they follow the Ahisma process.
Research and investigations by BWC India revealed that some companies claiming to use the Ahisma label, in reality, kill their silkworms. Others didn't kill the silkworms but did kill the males used for breeding at the end of their useful life. (1)
What About Wild Silk?
Wild Silk comes from discarded cocoons left in open forests where several wild moth species live.
You'll find varying claims on whether or not this product is vegan-friendly since it allows the animals to go through their typical lifecycle. Choosing wild silk would indeed be better for the animal, no doubt about it.
But, wearing these items still sends a message that silk clothing is not only acceptable but it's also fashionable. After all, people will have little to no clue that the item is peace silk. They will only see the thing for what it is; silk, the product of an animal.
Instead, let's work on reducing and eliminating these items from being manufactured while at the same time rejecting silk as fashion.