The answer is goats! A specific type of goat known as a cashmere goat gives us cashmere for yarn and clothing!
I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of cashmere production (that’s for a fiber post), however, I AM going to talk a little bit about the ethical nature surrounding cashmere.
First, don’t believe PETA, they’re morons who refuse to think something through logically when it comes to animals. They put out an article claiming that the cashmere industry shores the goats mid-winter, taking all of their undercoats and leaving them to freeze. This isn’t even close to the case. The animals are shorn once a year when they are shedding, meaning probably around springtime.(HuffPost) This is so that it is easier to remove the hair without harming the animal. Why? Because cashmere goats are expensive, there is no way a fiber farmer is going to jeopardize their livelihood by shoring the goat mid-winter. Get real.
There are some concerns for ethics around the fiber though. Because cashmere is so lucrative and prized, there have been efforts, especially in Asia, to cut down wildlife areas to allow more room for these goats. This is a great danger to the other wildlife, especially snow leopards. (Daily News) Mongolia also does not have any controls in place for cashmere goat fibers or meat. While meat may not be a primary motive and I don’t think the fiber farmers are killing willy-nilly, there are additional ways to make money from the slaughter of these animals. However, most are not doing that, if the diminishing grassland in mongolia is anything to go by. (NPR) Another cause for concern is how fiber is taken, it often involves wrestling a goat and holding it down. (factsanddetails) Depending on how sensitive you are to the treatment of animals, this can be a deal breaker.
My personal opinion is that buying from a limited and more expensive local farm is probably more ethical. However, from everything I’ve read, I don’t think cashmere goats are treated nearly as bad as PETA claims.
When You Find Out Where Cashmere Comes From, You’ll Never Wear It Again