I received a letter today asking why strict vegans do not use silk. I explained the following:

There are four types of silk processing. Only one permits the pupa to mature, metamorphose and escape. In India this is called Ahimsa silk. It has a nice raw ‘nubbly’ sort of texture.

I also found an interesting article from which I have lifted this excerpt.

“In most eastern cultures, including Indian, silk has long been regarded the chosen fabric to represent prosperity, culture and tradition. Not many of us know how silk is made or even think about it. Many of us even take it for granted, just like I did, until a little while ago when I really learnt what goes into making it.


The silk industry is not exactly a ‘saatvic’ one; pretty comparable to the fur industry, if not worse.

The first stage of silk production is hatching the silkworm eggs, which have been previously examined and shown to be free from disease. Larvae are then fed cut-up mulberry leaves and after the fourth month climb a twig placed near them and spin their silken cocoons. The silk is a continuous-filament fiber consisting of fibroin protein secreted from two salivary glands in the head of each larva, and a gum called sericin, which cements the two filaments together.


Most pupae within cocoons are killed by steam or fumigation to prevent adult emergence, which would cut and tangle the silk filaments. Cocoons are later softened in hot water to remove the sericin, thus freeing silk filaments for reeling. Single filaments are drawn from cocoons in water bowls and combined to form yarn. This yarn is drawn under tension through several guides and eventually wound onto reels. The yarn is dried, packed according to quality, and is now raw silk ready for marketing.

However, all is not lost for ardent silk lovers. There’s Ahimsa silk, of course! In making of Ahimsa silk, the cocoons are left alone for seven to 10 days. Once the worms mature, they are allowed to pierce the cocoons and fly away as moths. Only then does the manufacture of silk begin. Each cocoon is checked individually to ensure that the moth has escaped before the silk thread is spun. The result, although not as lustrous as regular silk, is a much softer fabric. But the arduousness of the process increases the cost of production, and thereby the price for the consumer”
Posted by Kurma on 6/3/06; 7:01:46 AM

Life and Travel

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