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China.org.cn: Prejudice of PETA upon the Chinese Cashmere Industry, What Should be Done?

Release time:2019-07-03

Recently, “PETA Asia Animals Organization” went to some parts of Mongolia to sneak shots of herders “catch cashmere”. In the video, the worker used a metal comb to forcefully scrape the wool. The video exposé shows goats screaming in pain and fear as workers tear their hair out with sharp metal combs. The video accuses China and Mongolia for the cruelty as China and Mongolia produce most of the world’s cashmere. The video calls for a stop in buying anything made of cashmere. 

The authenticity of the video is yet to be verified. However, this prejudice casts a shadow on the cashmere farmers in Inner Mongolia. Some brands try to stop using cashmere in the efforts of implementing “Animal Welfare”.

Caring for animals is everyone's responsibility. While we condemn the act of cruelty to animals, we should also be rational. The commonly accepted definition of farm animal welfare is “Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare”, i.e. 1) Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor; 2) Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area; 3) Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment; 4) Freedom to express (most) normal behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind; 5) Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering. In layman's terms, animal welfare is to treat living animals well and to reduce the pain of their death.

President of the International Cooperation Committee of Animal Welfare of China Association for the Promotion of International Agricultural Cooperation (hereinafter referred to as the “ICCAW”), Mr. Ayongxi has long been committed to professional promotion of animal welfare in China. He said in an interview that most of the videos are partial. "As far as I know, in most of China's large-scale goat farms, shearing is used to get cashmere." Mr. Ayongxi said, “Animal welfare we are engaged in is more about farm animal welfare, which is different from ‘animal rights’. Compared with Western countries, farm animal welfare starts late in China. There is still a lot to improve in this aspect.”

According to Mr. Ayongxi, ICCAW took the lead in formulating the standard: “Farm Animal Welfare Requirements: Mutton Sheep” in 2015. In the standard, it’s clearly stated about how to meet animal welfare requirements in the process of getting cashmere. Firstly, cashmere should be obtained by means of shearing; Secondly, shearing cashmere should be done in the suitable season; Thirdly, adult sheep should be sheared at least once a year when the climate turns warm; Fourthly, shearing should be done by skilled personnel. The sheepskin should not be damaged when shearing. If any accident occurs, the wound should be treated immediately.

Liu Bin, Director and Researcher of Wool Sheep Research Institute of Inner Mongolia Academy of Agricultural & Animal Husbandry Sciences, introduced that the goat has two kinds of hair. One is coarse hair and the other is cashmere. The growth of cashmere is periodic. Every year, during April and May, cashmere would drop away from the skin of goats. 

According to Liu Bin, in order to make goats cool in summer, it’s common practice for herders to help goats remove the cashmere since cashmere falls off slowly and may even adhere to sand, grass or other debris, which may cause skin disease. For thousands of years, people use the method of “combing cashmere” in China, and people gently comb down cashmere from goats. If used properly, this method wouldn’t cause any harm to goats.

Regarding to the sneak short video of PETA, Liu Bin thinks that we should not take a part for the whole. Goats are active animals. As long as the goat is caught, no matter it’s for injection, shearing or hoof repair, it would always scream, leaving an impression of stress reaction. In reality, it’s a normal method of getting cashmere.

“Now, more than a half of herders have started to use shearing,” said Lin Bin, “Only few herders would comb down cashmere using the traditional method if the cashmere production is low and the wool is thick.”

According to Liu Bin, it’s urgent to solve problems in production. “The percentage of free-ranging farming is large. As to how to change to standardization, large-scale production and uniformity of products, there is a lot of work to be done. If there is a mechanism of good quality and good price, good cashmere can be sold with a good price, this would drive the enthusiasm of herders in goat farming and promote the healthy development of cashmere industry.

At the same time, Liu Bin also reminds that we have to protect the natural environment, and rationally control the farming regions, and we should not over farm or bring damage to the grassland. This industry should have ethnic and traditional characteristics. It’s necessary to increase scientific and technological investment and provide policy support.

On the other hand, in production and processing, multiple cashmere brands at home and abroad are vigorously promoting new cashmere standards, and improve the ecological environment and animal welfare. At the same time, China Association for the Promotion of International Agricultural Cooperation is uniting international animal welfare organizations in the development of cashmere goat welfare standard so as to respond to changes in international trade circumstances.

In terms of animal welfare protection, relevant domestic organizations have always been actively developing standards and strengthening the promotion and publicity of animal welfare. According to Mr. Ayongxi, for many years, the International Cooperation Committee of Animal Welfare has been working to improve welfare-friendly production and has been committed to animal welfare development in China. Starting from 2017, the organization has organized the annual World Conference on Farm Animal Welfare, in cooperation with FAO. In particular, in 2nd World Conference on Farm Animal Welfare, sixteen well-known international organizations reached “Beijing Consensus” firstly. 

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