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M&S reverses ban on alpaca wool

  

Potentially igniting the controversy with campaigners who argue that shearing alpacas causes significant sufferings, Marks & Spencer (M&S) has reversed its ban on alpaca wool. The retailer had initially banned the wool in 2020 following pressure from animal rights group PETA, which highlighted animal welfare concerns.

In 2020, M&S announced it would phase out alpaca yarn from its products after a PETA investigation revealed concerns around the welfare of animals farmed for alpaca wool. However, M&S recently stated, it would resume using alpaca yarn, citing the introduction of the Responsible Alpaca Standard (RAS) in supply chains as a key factor. According to M&S, the RAS gives the brand the confidence to start sourcing this fibre again.

Launched in 2021 by industry group the Textile Exchange, the RAS is a voluntary certification program for alpaca farmers and ranchers, assessing factors such as animal welfare and land management. M&S emphasised that the use of this certification will be the minimum standard for all alpacafibre in M&S products, highlighting the quality and traditional know-how associated with the fibre’s production. Previously, M&S used alpaca yarn in its jumpers and coats, though currently, no products contain alpaca yarn.

PETA had campaigned against the use of alpaca wool in 2020, alleging that animals at the largest privately-owned alpaca farm suffered deep wounds from shearing. This led to a court case in Peru on charges of animal cruelty. PETA and other campaigners have warned that the RAS fails to prevent animal suffering, criticising it as humane washing and pointing out shortcomings such as only requiring inspections once a year.

Mimi Bekhechi, Vice President-UK, Europe and Australia, PETA, strongly opposed M&S’s decision, suggesting it could alienate compassionate consumers.

She states, if M&S wants to be in the good graces of today’s conscientious shoppers, it must ban alpaca wool – and all animal-derived clothing and accessories – from its stores. And that’s exactly what PETA is urging on it to do.

The Textile Exchange recognised the role of animal rights organisations in driving necessary change in the fashion industry, stating that the RAS was designed to incentivise humane treatment and improve practices across the industry.

 
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