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Textile Exchange Begins Weaving Responsible Alpaca Standard

Textile Exchange, responding to what it said was a need in the industry, has begun work on a Responsible Alpaca Standard.

The draft Responsible Alpaca Standard is aligned with the organization’s existing Responsible Wool Standard and Responsible Mohair Standard. It is structured around the Textile Exchange Animal Welfare Framework that sets principles and expectations that guide and connect Textile Exchange’s Animal Welfare Standards.

The standard would verify and identify alpaca fiber produced in farming systems that respect animal welfare and the environment. Textile Exchange said it would apply a “strong assurance system to perform regular audits of the farms and to track the material from the farm to the final product.”

“Textile Exchange has built a strong system in place to protect animal welfare in the textile and apparel industry through our existing Responsible Wool Standard and Responsible Mohair Standard,” Ashley Gill, director of standards at Textile Exchange, said. “We are proud to add alpaca to this family of standards. The industry has a responsibility for ensuring strong animal welfare throughout their supply chains and we believe that standards are an effective way to show unified demand. We are grateful for the contribution of Gap Inc. and H&M for making this work possible and look forward to seeing the positive results of this work.”

Una Hrnjak-Hadziahmetovic, senior manager for global sustainability at Gap Inc., said the company is committed to continuous improvement and due diligence in its supply chain to uphold its animal welfare policy and to keep moving the industry in a more positive direction.

“We are proud to support Textile Exchange in launching the Responsible Alpaca Standard,” Hrnjak-Hadziahmetovic said. “In partnership with key stakeholders in Peru and around the world, this standard aims to help ensure and protect the welfare alpacas in their natural environment in the Andes, while continuing to support the livelihoods of local communities in Peru.”

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Textile Exchange noted that alpaca farming has high animal welfare potential due to a husbandry system based on extensive grazing and free ranging with animals adapted to their environment. The Responsible Alpaca Standard will be developed to ensure that this high welfare potential is realized and to provide a mechanism to verify that alpaca fiber comes from animals that have been treated responsibly and that land and biodiversity has been managed appropriately, Textile Exchange said, while also addressing social welfare on the farm.

Alpaca wool was the recent subject of an undercover exposé by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that appeared to show animals being handled inhumanely at a farm in Peru.

Taken at an alpaca farm, the PETA video footage showed struggling, crying alpacas being slammed on tables and roughly sheared and sewn up without adequate pain relief.

In response to the exposé, Esprit said it was phasing out alpaca wool from its collections, while Gap and H&M severed ties with farm’s parent company, the Michell Group, an exporter of alpaca fiber, though they’ve stopped short of banning the fiber outright.

Through production, chain of custody certification ensures that the fiber from certified farms is properly identified and tracked. Textile Exchange follows the ISEAL Codes of Good Practice for standard-setting bodies to ensure it has “robust and transparent processes” for its standards. The development of the standard will be done through an International Working Group, representing a full spectrum of interested parties, including animal welfare groups, brands, retailers, farmers, supply chain members and industry associations.

The draft Responsible Alpaca Standard is ready to pilot on farms. Findings from the pilot audits will help further develop and finalize the standard.