Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

A ban on mohair by dozens of clothing retailers including H&M and Esprit, is threatening a R1.5bn industry in SA, the world’s biggest producer.

Almost 70 clothing companies worldwide have announced that they will stop using mohair following the release earlier in May of video footage from 12 Angora goat farms in SA’s Karoo region.

The footage showed goats being dragged by the legs or horns and sustaining injuries from shearing.

A worker decapitating a goat also featured.

The US-based animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), which produced the video, alleges that abuse in the mohair industry is "rampant and routine" and inflicts "unspeakable suffering".

Industry response

While industry organisation Mohair SA announced earlier in May it would immediately suspend mohair from the farms implicated in the video, it said it considered much of the report to have been incorrect and misrepresenting the industry.

There are about 1,000 Angora goat farms in the country, employing an estimated 30,000 people.

"Angora goats are farmed for their fibre and not intentionally harmed in any way as they are the livelihood of every mohair farmer," the group said in a statement. "The treatment of the animals ultimately determines the farmer’s income and sustainability," it said.

Manufacturers from Ascena Retail Group to Inditex, which owns the Zara fashion chain, have now pledged to become "mohair-free".

Inditex said on its website it would have mohair phased out by the end of the 2019 winter campaign, while Esprit said it would ban mohair from the middle of 2019.

Long-Term impact

It is too early to determine the long-term impact of the ban, Deon Saayman, MD of Mohair SA, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

SA produces about 50% of the world’s mohair and exports mainly to countries in Asia and Europe, including China, Italy, the UK and Taiwan.

It is seen as a reliable supplier because the goats grow their fleeces year-round, which allows farmers to auction their produce over two seasons, in summer and winter.

Mohair from SA is used to make suits by companies such as Ermenegildo Zegna Group.

Peta wants to ban mohair farming worldwide, not just in SA, Nirali Shah, a Peta special-projects co-ordinator, said by phone from London.

"Mohair is something people don’t know much about and we wanted to expose the industry," she said.