Is silk vegan? There’s only one group of living beings who need it to live, and that’s silkworms. But despite numerous animal-free alternatives to silk available today, humans continue to exploit and kill these fragile beings.
Silk is the fiber that so-called “silkworms” (who are actually domesticated insects) weave to make cocoons. In nature, the worms go through the same stages of metamorphosis—egg, larval, pupal, and adult—that all moths do.
Imagine resting while completely vulnerable, awaiting a magnificent metamorphosis, only to be violently boiled or gassed alive.
Silk is derived from the cocoons of larvae, so most of the insects raised by the industry don’t live past the pupal stage. Roughly 3,000 silkworms are killed to make a single pound of silk. That means that billions, if not trillions, of them are killed for this every year.
While worms can’t show their distress in ways that humans easily recognize—such as by screaming—anyone who has ever seen earthworms be startled when their dark homes are uncovered must acknowledge that they’re sensitive beings who experience fear. Silkworms may look different from humans and age differently than we do, but they have central nervous systems and brains, just like us. Most importantly, they’re living beings, and they want to stay that way.
Humans shopping for new threads and silkworms waiting to spread their wings are all individuals who value their lives and want to avoid pain and torment. But over thousands of years, humans have destroyed silkworms’ chance to have a natural, peaceful existence. Unlike their wild counterparts, adult domesticated silkworms have lost the ability to fly and no longer possess their camouflage coloration.
Fashion that claims victims is cruel—period.
Humane alternatives to silk—including nylon, silk-cotton tree and ceiba tree filaments, polyester, and rayon—are easy to find and usually less expensive than silk, too.