Silk is used to make everyday things, such as bed sheets, formal wear, blouses, etc. Most people live their entire lives not wondering where it came from. We know silk comes from silkworms who spin their own cocoons. We know that silk is a fiber produced by insects and spiders who use it to build nests, webs, and cocoons. That’s the extent of our knowledge.
It’s sad knowing that not many people stop to think about where everything comes from. That’s because we have a roof over our heads, a warm bed to sleep in, and clothes to wear. So many people out there would be glad to own an old blanket.
How Is Silk Made?
Let me tell you how silk is made. Silk is produced by a silkworm. A silkworm is actually a moth pupa. Commercial silk is most commonly produced by Bombyx mori, the mulberry silk moth and related species of the same genus.
First, the eggs are laid by millions of silk moths. Look at the size of your monitor screen. 100 female moths would deposit about 400,000 eggs on it. Each egg is the size of a pinhead. The parents die soon after the eggs are laid.
Once hatched, the tiny larvae are fed chopped mulberry leaves, Osage orange, or lettuce. Mulberry-fed larvae produce the finest silk. After 6 weeks of continuous eating, they stop eating and change color.
The next step is called pupating. The silkworm attaches itself to a frame, twig, or shrub to spin its silk cocoon. It could take 3-8 days. The silkworm rotates its body in a figure 8 shape about 300,000 times.
In the wild, the moths would have to chew holes into the cocoon to free itself. However, this would damage the silk. Commercial silk industries have a cruel solution: kill the worms. They are boiled alive inside their cocoons, pierced with a needle shoved into the cocoon, or baked alive in an oven. These hardworking creatures never complete their metamorphosis. They never get to spread their wings are take flight to the skies. They die painful gruesome deaths.
Most people believe insects can’t feel pain. There is no scientific proof; in fact, studies disprove it. I think all living creatures can feel pain. Studies even show plants are aware when they are being picked or stepped on (oops…sorry, grass).
Plus, let’s be honest. worms aren’t exactly cute and cuddly creatures. I personally think both the worms and moths are adorable. I mean, look at this adorable fuzzy silk moth!
These worms spend their entire short lives preparing for a better future, one where they can fly. This can be compared to our lives. We spend our lives learning and preparing for our futures. Some of us succeed at life, and some do not. These silkworms never get a chance at a new life.
What About Cruelty-Free Silk?
There is “cruelty-free silk” out there. There is a silk called Ahimsa Silk. “Ahimsa” means peace or nonviolence. However, I don’t truly believe that there is such thing as cruelty-free silk.
You see, once the moths emerge from the cocoons, they mate and lay eggs. This means millions and millions of more tiny hatchlings. It’s not possible to provide enough food for all those hungry mouths. Few survive; most die of starvation and dehydration.
Tussah and Tatar silk comes from worms raised outdoors on plantations. However, it doesn’t make sense to use the damaged silk that the moths leave behind. Reeled, whole silk is the best quality and most profitable. A sericulturalist, a producer of raw silk, from India estimated that only one out of ten thousand cocoons were actually allowed to hatch. The rest were killed. I cannot see how this could be called cruelty-free or nonviolent.
Also, Tussah and Tatar silk is called “organic” and “wildcrafted.” The term wildcrafted means to obtain something from nature in an untended environment. It’s like picking apples, berries, or mushrooms in an untended forest. How can silk be wildcrafted if the silkworms are raised on tended plantations?
In conclusion, I don’t think that any silk could ever be “cruelty-free.” Living creatures were harmed in the making of silk. I don’t see how wearing the hardened spit of a worm could be called fashionable, just like I don’t think fur is fashionable. Please limit the amount of silk you buy. Donate old silk clothes and bed sheets to charities. Many people will benefit from that.
Whenever you are tempted to buy that gorgeous blouse, please think of all the innocent silkworms that died to make that useless piece of clothing.
Ahimsa (Peace) Silk – Why I Think It Doesn’t Add Up. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.wormspit.com/peacesilk.htm