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Frequently Asked Questions

Your questions and answers on animal welfare in fashion

Aren't animal-based textiles just a by-product of the meat industry?

There are many types of animal skins and fibers that deliver the main or significant income earned from that animal, making them either a primary or a co-product. For example, this includes fur and crocodile skin.

In the instances where textile products are of a lower value, for example cow skin, then say the meat derived from that animal, the income earned from these animal products adds up significantly over time and may contribute just enough, to make that industry viable. Leather plays a vital role in the economic value chain of livestock, contributing up to 26% of a slaughterhouse's earnings. Or in the case of wool, at times producers can earn more for wool, and at other times meat is the primary income driver.  

Therefore, by making good fashion choices and calling for transparency on all animal-based products, regardless of whether or not the products use materials that are the primary or secondary income earners of a particular industry, every purchase and person can influence how animals are treated across all agricultural industries.

Which are the most commonly used animals for fashion?

Five billion animals are used by the fashion industry every year. This includes:

  • 3.4 billion ducks and geese slaughtered annually in the production of down and feathers.
  • 777 million bovines, sheep, lambs, and goats slaughtered annually in the production of meat and domesticated leather.
  • 672 million animals in the production of fine wools such as merino, cashmere, alpaca, and mohair.
  • 107 million animals still slaughtered for their fur, despite a rapidly declining fur industry.
  • 3 million animals slaughtered annually by the exotic leathers industry. 

What can I do to help animals used for fashion?

We can express ourselves through what we wear, and one of the best things you can do is to wear what you feel good in, and about.

As a first step, become informed about the standard of animal welfare within the fashion industry. We have loads of information available throughout our website, plus a handy "How to Wear it Kind" guide to read through and save to help you make kinder choices.

And importantly, you can pledge to Wear It Kind ensuring to choose clothes and brands that encourage kindness. By pledging, you’ll show the fashion industry that you care about animals and want to see brands and retailers value their protection too.

Another way you can take action is to sign our petition to #EndMulesing to save lambs from this painful mutilation. Mulesing entails lambs being restrained on a metal cradle, where skin around their hind quarters is cut away to encourage the growth of scar tissue. This is seen as a cheap and quick way to avoid a parasitic issue that primarily impacts this area, but there are pain-free and more effective alternatives to dealing with this issue.

What can brands do to help animals used for fashion?

Most immediately, FOUR PAWS is urging brands to understand, know more about, and take responsibility for animal welfare in their supply chains. Brands must also become transparent and enable their consumers to make informed decisions. We take this approach because we know that transparency leads to accountability and accountability leads to change.

Through our Wear It Kind program, FOUR PAWS is focused on achieving overall improvements, as well as targeted action on key spotlight issues. These are moving companies to end their use of fur, mulesed sheep wool, live-plucked down, and overall encouraging the reduced use of animal-derived materials. 

Are you a brand or retailer and want to know more? Check out our Brands & Retailers page.

What should I look for if I want to be eco-conscious and reduce my consumption of animal-based textiles?

Tencel, cotton, linen, hemp, and more, or even better organic or recycled versions of these materials are environmentally friendly and lovely to wear. Many brands are also using recycled materials for outdoor wear and shoes, and even recycled nylon too. Check out Bakato turning discarded fishing nets into swimwear!  Check out Bakato turning discarded fishing nets into swimwear!

Plant and mycelium based leathers are also now becoming more mainstream.  Next-gen leather such as Mycowork’s "Reishi" or Natural Fiber Welding’s "Mirum" leather, are both animal and plastic free, and thankfully also becoming increasingly available!

Eager to stop micro-plastics? We are too! It’s important we all reduce our consumption of any new plastic materials. And for washing our clothes that contain the stuff, use a Guppyfriend laundry bag.

What about human and environmental welfare in fashion?

While there is still much more to do on these fronts, the rise of ethical fashion is encouraging big leaps forward to help protect humans and the environment in the production of clothing. Through the Wear it Kind program, together we’re making sure that animal protection is the critical third pillar of ethical fashion. We believe that fashion can, and should, be kind to humans, the environment, and animals. Read more on the links between human welfare and standards of animal care.

How has FOUR PAWS helped protect animals within the fashion industry?

Working collaboratively with other animal protection groups and the fashion industry itself, while campaigning for change, FOUR PAWS has effectively moved the industry to better care for animals.  

Since 1988, we have advocated for animals who are abused for fur, and now more broadly, fashion. We’ve successfully encouraged almost all major European outdoor brands to end their use of down from live-plucked or force-fed geese.  

We moved Nike to end their use of mulesed sheep wool, and we’ve encouraged countless brands to strengthen their animal welfare practices, by banning cruel products, reducing use of animal-derived materials, and ensuring to only use certified supply chains.  

With the support of the public, we’ll continue to make change and call on brands to do better for animals.

What is the difference between transparency and traceability, in relation to animal protection?

Transparency to enable better animal welfare standards, includes operating in such a way that it is easy for consumers to see how animal protection is valued and ensured by a brand or retailer. For example, brands should publish effective animal protection or welfare policies, as well as information about what standards of care are ensured for each type of animal used.

Traceability is having the capability to trace something, and to be able to know and share its credentials of where it originated from and the standards applied.

Check out our brands and retailer page if you’d like to know more.

Aren't there laws protecting animals used for fashion?

Sadly, international laws around animal production and labelling vary greatly, and most often they are severely lacking or non-existent. Even when there are laws, these can be ignored and completely unenforced. 

Animal-based fashion products are created all around the world. For example, even if your shoes are labelled as being manufactured in the U.S., the raw materials can come from anywhere.

While FOUR PAWS is calling for better animal welfare laws, effective legislation can take decades to achieve and implement. That’s why we need brands to be transparent, thereby enabling consumers to make the right decision today. The animals can’t wait.


1 Libera C, Marote S, Lúcia Horta A. Brazil’s Path to Sustainable Cattle Farming. Bain and Company. 2020 Oct 29 [accessed 2023 June 2]. https://www.bain.com/insights/ brazils-path-to-sustainable-cattle-farming/
2 FOUR PAWS Wear It Kind. Animal Use in Fashion. [accessed 2023 June 3] https://media.4-paws. org/8/0/8/7/8087eb5d763358f8ef231b87c200172c17 ffd4c9/2023-03_FAN_animals_in_fashion_factsheet_EN.pdf.  

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