Animals, Fashion, And COVID-19
When we think of animal farming, we often think of the billions of animals used annually to create food products like meat and cheese. However, millions of animals are also farmed around the world (and trapped in the wild) to create non-edible animal products such as fur, leather, down, wool, and silk.
The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the harms of the fur industry. Not only did the public learn that fur animals like minks and red foxes can easily contract and spread COVID-19 to humans, but many were outraged at the mass killings of more than 20 million animals on E.U. fur farms as a result of virus outbreaks. In response, British Columbia as well as several European countries including France, Ireland, and Italy have begun discussing legislation to ban fur farming.
To understand how COVID-19 has impacted beliefs about animals in the fashion industry, FOUR PAWS recently commissioned a YouGov survey of 14,000 adults in Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the U.K., and the United States. In addition to answering questions about the treatment of animals used in the fashion industry, participants were also asked to weigh in on their general attitudes toward animal welfare and fashion and their purchasing habits since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Regarding their concern for the treatment of animals, the majority of participants (64%) were aware of the animal cruelty present in the fashion industry, with Swiss and Austrian respondents being the most aware and Australian and U.S. respondents being the least aware. However, concern differed depending on species. The table below breaks down concern levels by animal category.
As you can see, respondents showed the most concern for the treatment of fur animals and the least for animals used to create wool. Austrians and South Africans indicated the highest concern levels, while adults in Switzerland and the U.S. indicated the lowest concern levels among all 12 countries included in the poll.
When it comes to animal welfare in the fashion industry, the results suggest that many adults expect a higher standard of ethical awareness among fashion brands. For example, 86% believe these brands should make animal welfare a priority alongside environmental and social standards. Furthermore, 60% of respondents said brands should assure animal welfare is upheld in their supply chains, while 54% want transparency in brand standards when it comes to animal welfare. Sixty-nine percent think ethical production is an increasingly important consideration for companies in general.
Finally, the poll gained helpful insights about the decisions consumers are making about their fashion choices in response to COVID-19. While 50% of respondents said they have changed their fashion purchasing habits since the pandemic outbreak, Bulgarians and South Africans were the most likely to claim they are changing their habits, while only 35% of U.S. adults and 32% of U.K. adults said they have made a change. Meanwhile, 17% of respondents are seeking out sustainable fashion items with higher animal welfare standards, with adults in France leading the way on this issue. Only 13% of adults globally have decided to avoid animal fashion products altogether.
With the use of animals in fashion taking center stage in many countries, animal advocates have an opportunity to capitalize on this issue to make change for millions of animals. For example, organizations like Material Innovation Initiative are promoting the development of “next-gen” materials. In addition to pushing for legislation changes and fur farm bans, advocates can join the call for scientists and fashion industry leaders to experiment with these animal-free products. Finally, to create a more humane standard in the fashion industry, FOUR PAWS has created a humane shopper pledge and a set of tools to help brands incorporate stronger animal welfare standards.