The South African mohair industry has reacted to PETA’s report of cruelty in goat farms in the country, where more than 50 percent of the world’s mohair is produced. “While we consider much of the report, and the accompanying footage, to be factually incorrect and a misrepresentation of the South African mohair industry, some isolated issues have been raised and we have launched an investigation”, said Deon Saayman, managing director of Mohair South Africa, the organisation that represents the industry, in a statement. Fashion retailers like Hennes & Mauritz AB, Inditex, Arcadia Group and Gap Inc have pledged to stop using mohair in their collections following the investigation from PETA.
Once the investigation is completed, Mohair South Africa says punitive measures will be taken against the goat farms and slaughterhouses that failed to follow the guidelines. They can also face legal action according to the Animal Protection Act, South Africa’s law concerning animal cruelty. It prohibits unnecessary suffering due to confinement, abandonment, chaining or tethering, unnecessary denying of food, keeping in dirty conditions or failing to provide veterinary assistance. In the meantime, Mohair South Africa pledges to suspend all farms implicated in the investigation until they have been audited and found to work in accordance to the organisation’s sustainability guidelines.
South Africa’s mohair industry promises further audits to ensure sustainability guidelines
Saayman noted the organisation has a sustainability officer, who conducts assessments to ensure farmers follow the rules, in an email to FashionUnited. Since February, third-party audits done at random have been added to the process, to ensure further compliance. “To date, about 450 of the 700 commercial mohair producers in South Africa have been assessed by our officer. We will assess all producers. As for the third-party audits, since they started in February, only a small number of audits have been conducted”, Saayman explained.
The CEO added that the independent auditors will work closely with animal protection organisations, but did not name which organisations they are in touch with. “The independent auditors will consult with representatives from an organisation of their choosing”, he said.
Despite of the measures taken after PETA’s complaint, Saayman sustains that the mistreatment of goats is not a common practice in the industry. “Angora goats are not intentionally harmed in any way as they are the livelihood of every mohair farmer”, he said in the statement. “The treatment of animals ultimately determines the farmer’s income and sustainability”.
Saayman also laments the retailers’ decision to stop using mohair. “We were never given the opportunity to respond to the claims and discuss the matter with any of them in any form. We have since been in contact with a number of players within the industry, including international mohair buyers, users and retailers – who in turn have been in contact with brands they have relationships with. We will maintain open lines of communication for anyone needing information about the matter”, he said.