South African Mohair Industry Threatened by H&M, Inditex Ban

(Bloomberg) -- A ban on mohair by dozens of clothing retailers, including Hennes & Mauritz AB and Esprit Holdings, is threatening a 1.5 billion rand ($117 million) industry in South Africa, the world’s biggest producer of the fiber.

Almost 70 clothing companies worldwide have announced they’ll stop using mohair following the release this month of video footage from twelve Angora goat farms in South Africa’s Karoo region. The footage showed goats being dragged by the legs or horns and sustaining injuries from shearing. A worker decapitating a goat also featured.

The U.S.-based animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, which produced the video, alleges that abuse in the mohair industry is “rampant and routine” and inflicts “unspeakable suffering.”

While the industry organization Mohair South Africa announced earlier this month it would immediately suspend mohair from the farms implicated in the video, it said it considers much of the report to be incorrect and misrepresenting the industry. There are about 1,000 Angora goat farms in the country, employing an estimated 30,000 people.

‘Mohair-Free’

“Angora goats are farmed for their fiber and not intentionally harmed in any way as they are the livelihood of every mohair farmer,” the group said in a statement. “The treatment of the animals ultimately determines the farmer’s income and sustainability.”

Manufacturers from Ascena Retail Group Inc. to Inditex SA, which owns the Zara fashion chain, have now pledged to become “mohair-free.” Inditex says on its website it’ll have mohair phased out by the end of the 2019 winter campaign, while Esprit said it’ll ban mohair from mid-2019.

It’s too early to determine the long-term impact of the ban, Deon Saayman, managing director of Mohair South Africa, said in an emailed response to questions.

South Africa produces about 50 percent of the world’s mohair and exports mainly to countries in Asia and Europe, including China, Italy, the U.K. and Taiwan. It’s seen as a reliable supplier because the goats grow their fleeces year-round, which allows farmers to auction their produce over two seasons, in summer and winter. Mohair from South Africa is used to make suite by companies such as Ermenegildo Zegna Group.

PETA wants to ban mohair farming worldwide, not just in South Africa, Nirali Shah, a PETA special-projects coordinator, said by phone from London. “Mohair is something people don’t know much about and we wanted to expose the industry,” she said.

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