According to statements from the animal rights group this week, Chico’s, White House|Black Market and Soma have all agreed not to use the fiber in their apparel lines after PETA revealed a damning expose from a large alpaca farm in Peru last year. The footage showed animals being treated roughly as they were shorn, often sustaining injuries at the hands of farm hands.
The investigation revealed that alpacas, some of which were pregnant, were thrust onto a table and tied to a rack during the shearing process. As the scared animals struggled to free themselves, many were cut by shearing tools. Their wounds were crudely sewn up before they were released, PETA said in a statement.
PETA corporate responsibility officer Sara Britt told Sourcing Journal Thursday that the conversations between the non-profit and the corporation regarding alpaca fleece began in August of 2020 shortly after PETA’s expose was made public. At the time, Chico’s told PETA that the willingness to cut the fiber from its lines stemmed from ongoing commitments to ethical sourcing.
Chico’s June sustainability report detailed the company’s stance on the use of animal products within its supply chain. “While only a small percentage of our product offerings contain materials derived from animals, we are continuing our journey to explore and introduce animal-friendly alternatives into our product assortment,” it said.
A Sourcing of Animal Products policy, implemented in June, includes an obligation for the company’s suppliers to conduct due diligence to ensure that when used in Chico’s products, materials derived from animals are sourced in accordance with the “five freedoms” criteria. Animals used across the lines must be free from hunger and thirst, discomfort and pain, and injury and disease, and must be allowed to express normal behaviors, like roaming in adequately sized enclosures among peers. Animals must also be free from fear and distress, the company wrote.
“We know that Chico’s cares about the environment just based on its latest sustainability report, and so it makes sense that they would ban alpaca,” PETA’s Britt said, adding that the group’s expose was “indicative of standard industry practices” for shearing the animals. “There’s no right way to do this—they are prey animals and straining them in any way is very fear-inducing for them.”
“The best thing that people can do is to just simply not buy alpaca fleece, or really anything made from an animal,” she added. The decision was an easy one for Chico’s, she said, underscoring the company’s assertion that it uses minimal animal-based materials in its lines. “It just really aligns with their values of wanting to protect animals, as well as wanting to be better for the environment.”
Thus far, PETA has engaged with more than 55 brands that have agreed to ban alpaca from their ranges, Britt said. Labels like Ann Taylor, Columbia Sportswear, Express, J Brand, Marks & Spencer, Rebecca Taylor, Ted Baker, Uniqlo, Vince, Valentino, Victoria’s Secret, and more have all removed the fiber from their offerings. Currently, the animal rights organization is calling upon Anthropologie to follow suit.
More brands are defaulting to plant-based options and synthetics to take the place of leather and animal-shorn materials like wools, Britt remarked. Organic hemp, cotton and bamboo, along with tree-based fibers like Tencel, can mimic the properties of animal-derived inputs, she said.
PETA is hopeful that Chico’s will ultimately decide to ban all animal products, including sheep’s wool, from its line. “They’re made the compassionate decision to end using fur, angora and mohair, and now ending the use of alpaca is showing us that it’s taking another significant step towards being completely cruelty free,” Britt said. Chico’s FAS did not respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this summer, PETA engaged with the Textile Exchange, claiming that the group’s Responsible Alpaca Standard (RAS) fails to prevent animal suffering and urged brands to forgo using the material altogether. The groups traded barbs about the RAS’ ability to ensure that alpacas are treated ethically, with PETA insisting that “The RAS fails to protect the basic welfare of alpacas in substantial ways.”
The move comes as Chico’s sees signs of its long-awaited turnaround taking hold, following positive second-quarter results earlier this week.