Dec. 17, 2013 at 9:34 AM ET
Winter might seem like prime time to snuggle up in a cozy angora sweater, but that soft fiber comes at a high price, according to PETA: the animal rights organization has been urging retailers to ban angora, after documenting the torture rabbits go through to give up their fur in overseas factories.
PETA Asia investigators visited several angora factories in China, the world's biggest producer of angora fur, where they documented workers violently pulling out angora rabbits' fur until they "screamed at the top of their lungs in pain," according to PETA's website. The investigators also noted that the rabbits are kept in tiny cages in horrific conditions, and are typically killed after two to five years.
"One farmer admitted that about 60 percent of the rabbits who are plucked actually wind up dying within one to two years," Lindsay Rajt, a PETA spokesperson, told TODAY.com.
PETA sent video from the angora investigation to major retailers who sell the fur, pleading with them to drop the fiber from their collections. And more than a few big companies, like H&M, Topshop and Esprit, have since ceased production of angora products.
"As of Nov. 27, H&M stopped all production of angora products until we have secured that our strict product policy is being followed," a spokesperson for the U.K.-based retailer e-mailed TODAY.com in a statement, adding that customers who have purchased angora products can return them for a full refund.
The company says they'll be investigating the farms from which they source angora fur and wool further. "H&M conducts both systematic and thorough audits in our suppliers’ factories and does not ever accept the poor treatment of animals. We only allow products made of angora rabbit hair from farms with good animal husbandry. “
Though PETA says they're pleased companies are taking the initiative to cease producing angora, they are disappointed more retailers haven't pulled the fiber completely.
"Of course, consumers are angry that these companies are choosing to squeeze every last dime out of these rabbits and are continuing to sell off their current stocks of the cruelly sourced angora," Rajt said. "We really need them to pull the angora products off the shelves today." PVH Corp., which owns big name labels like Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, has reportedly pledged to remove all angora wool from its stores and websites, according to PETA, though requests from the company for comment have not been returned.
And a spokesperson for major U.K.-based online retailer ASOS told TODAY.com that they too will be angora-free by the end of the month. "As an online global fashion destination, ASOS firmly believes it is not acceptable for animals to suffer in the name of fashion or cosmetics," they said in an e-mail statement. "ASOS is a member of the Fur Free Alliance of retailers and recognizes that the sourcing of angora and other rabbit hair products causes distress to animals. As such, we will remove all ASOS and third party branded product that fails to meet the policy and no new orders will be raised containing angora or other rabbit hair."
Angora isn't the only clothing fabric PETA takes issue with, and the organization cautions consumers against purchasing anything animal-sourced, including wool, leather, exotic skins and down products.
"Many people are surprised to learn that the production of down for pillows and jackets is cruel, but a lot of birds that are used for down are live-plucked," Rajt said. "Buyer beware, if it came from an animal, the animal suffered for the product." For a cruelty-free clothing collection, PETA suggests you stick with synthetic fibers or organic natural pant fibers like cotton.