By Paige Arden
One of the largest misconceptions about the silk industry is that since it’s an all-natural way to make fabric, it is one of the best options to protect the environment. While that is true to a certain extent, the fact is that the exploitation of any living thing cancels out whatever chemical products may be expelled in an artificial alternative. What good is saving the environment if we choose not to save the species living in it?
While silk production is generally a lesser-known industry, its profits come from the exploitation of the products of silkworms. The cocoon built by a silkworm that contains pupae is where the comes from. Each cocoon is boiled to produce the silk.
On average, 2500 caterpillar pupae are killed to make a single pound of silk. Each year, it is thus estimated that a minimum of 10 billion cocoons are needed to support the silk industry. The silkworm, Bombyx mori, has been bred specifically to produce as much silk as they can in their short lifetime. Male and female silkworms are separated after breeding, where the males are killed off directly afterwards due to their uselessness to the silk manufacturing process. The females are killed right after they lay their eggs, thus becoming as useless as the males were. Their corpses then get checked for diseases and if any are found, every egg they laid are then rejected as well.
Humans have perfected their exploitation of silkworms to such an extent that they are bred to be killed. They are not born with any other purpose than to be useful for those participating in the silk industry. It is not hard to see why this “born to be killed” mindset is harmful.
A large problem is that scientists disagree on the level of pain felt by silkworms. Studies suggest that the probability of the silkworms feeling at least some sort of pain is high. Their central nervous system means that when they react to heat or cutting in such a way that resembles pain, it is likely that they are truly experiencing nociceptive pain.
The suffering of the silkworms is a big concern surrounding the silk industry. However, even when the pain is taken out of the equation, silk is still not animal-friendly. It exploits the resources of the silkworm and included the captivity of billions of silkworms annually. They are bred and slaughtered and mistreated all for a product that we, as humans, can live without. Our continued support of the silk industry means our continued support of taking away the silkworm’s livelihood, children and lives.
This slaughter and exploitation of the silkworm are not necessary for human survival, as silk products are but a luxury. Using synthetic materials for our clothing and fabrics means that we have the power to create a safer world for everyone- one where the exploitation of living beings goes out of fashion and a world in which we can live in harmony with the animals of the earth.