Alpaca farming is not the future

| 11th September 2020 |
Alpaca
Farming UK
Expanding alpaca farming is a step in the wrong direction. We need to explore viable vegan alternatives, for animals' sake and the health of the planet.

If farmers want to keep up with changing times, the choice is clear: they must stop exploiting animals and explore viable vegan options.

Two baby alpacas – one male and one female – were recently born at Aberystwyth University's Pwllpeiran Upland Research Platform.

The babies are admittedly cute, but their arrival is no reason to celebrate. They are part of a research project being led by Dr Mariecia Fraser, who said in a statement: "These are changing times for Welsh upland farming …. In setting up a research herd of alpacas at Pwllpeiran, we want to test whether the alpaca could offer hill farmers a viable alternative to sheep."

Yes, these are changing times, but swapping the exploitation of one species for another shows that Dr Fraser and her team are mired in the past. Ethical consumers and fashion brands alike are increasingly shunning clothing made out of animal-derived materials and embracing sustainable, humane vegan options.

Violence 

We need to explore viable vegan alternatives, for animals' sake and the health of the planet. Expanding alpaca farming is a step in the wrong direction.

From fur to fleece, exposés by PETA and others have shown that whenever animals are used for profit, their welfare always takes a backseat to the bottom line.

A disturbing first-of-its-kind PETA US undercover investigation exposed the rampant abuse of alpacas at the world's largest privately owned alpaca farm, Mallkini. Workers hit, kicked, tied down, and mutilated pregnant, crying alpacas, pulled them up off the floor by the tail and violently yanked them around.

A veterinary expert who reviewed the footage said the excessive force likely caused dislocations, fractures, and severe, permanent nerve damage. Workers slammed pregnant alpacas onto tables, strapped them tightly by the legs into a restraining device resembling a medieval torture rack, and forcibly stretched them out, nearly wrenching their legs out of their sockets. 

Forceful restraint isn't just physically painful – it's terrifying to prey animals like alpacas, who fear that they are about to be killed (and indeed, once they're no longer wanted for their coats, many are slaughtered for food). Pinned down and totally defenceless, the alpacas cried out, spit, and vomited in fear as workers grabbed them by the ears, violently sheared them and then threw them to the concrete floor.

Impacts

As in the wool industry, shearers worked quickly and carelessly, and many alpacas were left bleeding from deep, painful wounds. One alpaca's eyelid appeared to have been severed, while another bled from the mouth. The most gaping wounds were crudely stitched up with a needle and thread.

Welsh farmers should reject this cruelty, not perpetuate it.

Just like other animal-derived fibres, alpaca has a large environmental impact. As with other forms of animal agriculture, raising and killing alpacas generates significant amounts of greenhouse gases and can contaminate water when manure and other toxins seep into local waterways.

The Higg Materials Sustainability Index ranks alpaca as the second most environmentally damaging material – and notes that it's six times as harmful as polyester. But companies don't have to choose between supporting industries that abuse animals and using petroleum-based products, as some farming groups claim.

Natural vegan options, such as bamboo, Tencel, hemp, and organic cotton as well as recycled fibres, are readily available, and many more are in development.

Future 

There's another reason why farmers should stop raising both sheep and alpacas and make the transition to growing crops: it's the future of both food and fashion.

Ethics and sustainability are increasingly important factors to consumers, who are more aware than ever before of the damaging environmental impact and cruelty inherent in industries that exploit animals, and fashion brands are responding accordingly.

After viewing PETA's exposé, luxury fashion brand Valentino confirmed that it will end the use of alpaca wool in its garments by the end of next year. UNIQLO (the third­-largest clothing retailer in the world), Esprit, and Marks & Spencer have also banned the material. Gap Inc and H&M Group have cut ties with Mallkini's parent company, the Michell Group. More companies are sure to follow.

If farmers want to keep up with changing times, the choice is clear: they must stop exploiting animals and explore viable vegan options.

This Author 

Elisa Allen is the director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) UK.

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