In our exciting collaboration with PETA India, find out all about ethical fashion. Learn about the heartbreaking tortures animals face in the name of fashion and beauty, and what you can do to help. Discover about animal rights in this exclusive interview with Sachin Bangera, PETA India’s Associate Director of Celebrity and Public Relations.
“We encourage all our visitors to touch the cheetah,” said our guide on my recent visit to a wildlife rehab center in South Africa. The majestic animal sat casually on a table in front of our tour group. “Because once you touch it, you’ll never be able to wear cheetah fur again.” Petting the cheetah in Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center was just one of these experiences when I get so saddened by the tortures animals face at the hands of humans that it literally leaves me in tears.
And that’s why I can’t be more excited to share this wonderful collaboration with you. Sadly, behind some of the beautiful, most coveted fashion products lie animal torture and merciless killings. Ethical fashion is an issue that not just I, but all of us in SlubTeam, care very deeply about.
Being a fashion editor makes it a part of my daily job to see all types of new trends, which often include unethical products. I condemn fur, leather and any fashion product that’s been made by mercilessly killing or harming animals. However, PETA’s Sachin Bangera puts my thoughts into words way better than I ever could.
Funnily enough, I have to thank and commend PETA India’s team for being so proactive in reaching out to fashion brands to educate them about ethical fashion, that they even reached out to me. And as I clarified that ShilpaAhuja.com is not a fashion brand, but a fashion magazine, it struck me to suggest how we can collaborate to spread the word about this meaningful message to all of our lovely readers.
So without further ado, let’s hear it from the man himself!
PETA India X ShilpaAhuja.com: Interview with PETA’s Sachin Bangera On Ethical Fashion
1. Please tell us about yourself and PETA India.
I have been with PETA India for thirteen years. While studying commerce in college, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I could make a career out of my love for animals. It’s really the best thing that I could have ever asked for. It all began with my desire to do something for animals, so first I went vegetarian and then vegan.
Soon afterwards, I found myself walking into the PETA India office when it was in Juhu, Mumbai. I started as an office assistant there and then held various positions. I have always loved Bollywood and would talk about the latest film or a star I liked. So, I suppose my supervisors thought I’d be a good fit to work with media and celebrities for the organisation.
Since the time I’ve been with PETA India, some of my work has involved celebrities like Virat Kohli, Amitabh Bachchan and Madhuri Dixit.
2. What are animal rights and why do they matter?
Animal rights means that animals deserve certain kinds of consideration—consideration of what is in their best interests, regardless of whether they are “cute,” useful to humans, or an endangered species and regardless of whether any human cares about them at all. It means recognizing that animals are not ours to use—for food, clothing, entertainment, or experimentation.
Martin Luther King Jr’s had said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and that’s why just like child rights, women rights, gay rights and human rights, animal rights is equally important because animals are here on this planet to be with us, and not for us.
3. Could you tell us about the injustice and torture animals across the world have to face in the name of luxury fashion?
Cows, buffaloes and other animals used for leather in India are often crammed onto vehicles in such high numbers that their bones break. Those who survive this ordeal have their throats cut in full view of other animals, and many of them are dismembered and skinned while they are still conscious.
Dog abuse is also common in the leather industry
And a deeply disturbing PETA Asia undercover investigation reveals that dogs are bludgeoned and killed so that their skin can be turned into leather gloves, belts, jacket collar trim, cat toys and other items which can end up at shops around the world. At the slaughterhouse, the investigator filmed workers as they grabbed one dog after another around the neck with metal pinchers and bashed them over the head with a wooden pole.
Some dogs fell unconscious, while others cried out and writhed in agony. Some still struggled to breathe after their throats were cut. Finally, their skins were ripped off their bodies.
The fur industry is another ugly business.
Animals on fur farms spend their entire lives confined to cramped, filthy wire cages. Fur farmers use the cheapest and cruelest killing methods available, including suffocation, electrocution, gas, and poison.
Much of the world’s fur comes from China. Millions of dogs and cats are bludgeoned, hanged, bled to death, and often skinned alive for their fur. Chinese fur is often deliberately mislabeled. So if you wear any fur, there’s no way of knowing for sure whose skin you’re in. 40 animals can be killed to make just one fur coat.
Snakes, alligators and other exotic animals suffer greatly before their skins are turned into shoes, bags and other products. Snakes are often nailed to trees or posts and skinned alive. After the animals’ peeled and mutilated bodies are discarded, it can take hours for them to die. And it’s usually from shock or dehydration. Alligators are often crammed into small spaces on factory farms and then beaten to death with hammers or axes.
PETA US has investigated the wool industry in numerous countries. Shearers were caught punching, kicking, and stomping on sheep. In addition, they were also hitting them in the face with electric clippers and standing on their heads, necks, and hind limbs. One shearer was seen beating a lamb in the head with a hammer. Another even used a sheep’s body to wipe the sheep’s own urine off the floor. And yet another shearer repeatedly twisted and bent a sheep’s neck, breaking it. Such cruelty should not prevail and never be supported. A vegan world is the call of the hour.
4. Could you bring to light how the makeup industry affects animals?
More than 3,000 companies around the world have banned all animal tests in favour of effective, modern non-animal methods. In India, following efforts by PETA India, the testing of cosmetics or their components on animals has been banned since 2014, as has the import of animal-tested cosmetics. However, China still requires animal tests for companies that wish to sell cosmetics there. Additionally, numerous companies still choose to subject animals to painful cosmetic testing. Substances are dripped into their eyes, smeared onto their shaved skin, sprayed in their faces or forced down their throats. Because of the vast physiological differences between humans and the animals used in these tests, the results are often misleading.
5. Apart from the beauty, lifestyle and fashion industries, what other sectors are involved in animal cruelty?
Animals are abused in numerous industries, including circuses and zoos, but the most numbers of animals are abused for meat, eggs and dairy. So, the best way each of us can help animals is by simply not eating them. According to one estimate, each vegan can save the lives of nearly 200 animals a year just by not eating them. Globally, animal farming involves some 77 billion land animals a year. This number is more than ten times more than the number of humans there are on the planet. Most of them are in intensive factory farming systems that deny them their natural behaviors. The food industry kills trillions of fish annually. And these numbers keep rising. In India alone, the poultry industry kills an estimated one million chickens every four hours.
As seen in PETA’s exposé “Glass Walls” narrated by R. Madhavan in today’s industrialised meat and dairy industries, chickens’ throats are cut while they’re still conscious. The expose also showed fish suffocate or cut open while they’re still alive. Pigs are often stabbed in the heart as they scream in pain and calves are torn away from their mothers within hours of birth. At the slaughterhouse, animals are often killed in full view of one another and dismembered while they’re still conscious.
6. Have you noticed any changes in terms of how ethical fashion has evolved over the past few decades? Would you say animal cruelty has gone up or down in the fashion industry?
Vegan fashion is taking the world by storm. That’s because, people now more than ever know that cows, buffaloes, sheep, goats—even dogs—suffer unimaginably in the name of fashion and are choosing vegan materials instead.
The fashion industry is now increasingly embracing animal-friendly materials such as synthetic leather, mock crock, faux fur, fake snake and so on instead of those derived from killing or harming animals. It’s easy to find high-quality, ethical fashion and cruelty-free shoes and accessories that are stylish and inexpensive. Just about anywhere you shop, including at high-end designer stores, you can find a wide selection of non-leather jackets, shoes and accessories made from synthetics or other non-animal materials.
Ethical Fashion Brands & Designers
A growing number of ethical fashion designers refuse to work with leather including Anita Dongre, Hemant Trivedi, Anupama Dayal, Marc Bouwer and Stella McCartney. There are a growing number of Indian brands which are completely leather-free such as Baggit, Senso Veg, Ethik, Veruschka, The Alternate, Redesyn and Merci. Companies that sell only vegan products, or even those that want to mark their vegan products, can contact us to use the PETA Approved Vegan logo.
Around the world, more than 300 major ethical fashion brands have now banned angora wool after it was revealed that workers tear live rabbits’ fur out by the fistful or remove it in other cruel ways.
This includes retail giants like Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Forever 21, Mango, Topshop and Marks & Spencer. Luxury fashion house Stella McCartney also recently pledged to begin developing alternative vegan materials to replace wool in future collections. Also, global retail giant, INTERMIX, decided to end sales of animal fur which means that the world’s top three largest clothing retailers—Gap Inc., Inditex, and H&M—and many others, are now completely fur-free.
H&M, Nike and other companies have pledged never to use exotic skins. Global Brands Group—the parent company to well-known brands including David Beckham, Jennifer Lopez, and Rachel Zoe banned using ostrich skin after a PETA US investigation and the production of this “Behind the Leather” ad. This ad produced by Ogilvy & Mather, won five awards at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Following PETA US and Asia’s investigation into goose farms across China (where 80% of the world’s down and feathers come from), mega retailer Topshop joined ASOS, Dr. Martens and many other brands in pledging to end the use of down feathers.
Indian Ethical Fashion
Fashion Weeks in India have also come out in favour of animal-friendly, ethical fashion. PETA India promoted vegan clothing at Lakme Fashion Week, Amazon India Fashion Week, Pune Fashion Week and India Runway Week. PETA India has worked to promote various animal protection issues through ethical fashion shows. Some of the designers are Anupama Dayal, Jayanthi Ballal, Manish Gupta, Hemant and Nandita. We have also reached out to thousands of students by talking about ethical fashion at fashion schools. They include NIFT, JD Institute of Fashion Technology, FAD International and MIT Institute of Design. And we’ve also had associations with other fashion design schools.
Prominent celebrities have also contributed to alleviating the suffering of animals like Hollywood actors Pamela Anderson, Joaquin Phoenix, Alicia Silverstone and singer Pink. Bollywood actors Dia Mirza, Raveena Tandon-Thadani, Gulshan Grover, Ileana D’cruz and Dipannita Sharma have all starred in ads for PETA or its affiliates in order to support our campaign against the use of various types of animal skins.
6. Fur, leather and feathers are amongst the most widely used materials in the luxury fashion industry. Can you suggest how consumers can wear ethical fashion, or contribute towards socially responsible fashion?
Fashion is supposed to be fun, not grisly.
Yet, cows have their throats slit for leather, snakes are skinned while conscious and foxes are electrocuted on fur farms. Rabbits have their fur ripped off of them often while they are still alive for angora wool. And sheep are often kicked and beaten by wool industry workers. These are just a few horrendous examples of how animals suffer for fashion.
But things do not have to be this way. Today, luxurious high-quality and high-tech non-animal leather, mock croc, faux [pronounced foe] fur, synthetic shearling and more are available. There are countless styles of non-leather shoes, clothing, belts, bags, and wallets. In fact, many products that look like leather are actually synthetic (leather). Just check the label for those magic words: “all man-made materials” or “synthetic” or ask the shop assistant.
PETA also has a list of companies that have signed up to use its “PETA Approved Vegan” logo on its site. Indian designer, Anita Dongre uses the logo on her vegan designs.
6. Other than these three materials, what are other fabrics or products that are not vegan? And what vegan alternatives do you suggest we look for?
Vegan leather can be made from a variety of synthetics, rubber, cork or other non-animal materials. It is modern and can be given a variety of looks and textures, including that of exotic skin like snake and crocodile.
Designers are even making stylish accessories out of recycled plastic bottles, cork oak, waxed canvas and recycled rope.
Cotton, cotton flannel, polyester fleece and synthetic shearling are alternates to wool. Another wool substitute is Tencel®, which is breathable, durable and biodegradable.
Instead of turning to silk, try animal-friendly fabrics, including nylon, polyester, milkweed seed-pod fibres, silk-cotton tree filaments and rayon.
There’s no need whatsoever to wear the products of cruelty. Nature has so much in store for us. And there are countless varieties of materials that can be used to create animal-friendly fabrics and products. For example, Piñatexis is a textile that was recently developed from pineapple leaves. An alternate to silk, banana silk is a textile extracted from the banana plant.
Polartec® Wind Pro®, which is made primarily from recycled plastic soda bottles, is a high-density fleece. It has four times the wind resistance of wool, and also keeps away moisture.
7. What makes a fashion brand cruelty-free? How can fashion designers make their brand socially conscious and stand against animal torture?
A fashion brand can become cruelty-free by simply refusing to use animal skins. For example, leather, fur, wool, silk, angora-fur, cashmere, etc. By doing so, the company will not only be kind to animals but will stand apart for becoming socially conscious. Conscious consumers today want ethical fashion that is kind to animals. And PETA’s new logo scheme helps give them the confidence they need to know the product they are buying did not harm a hair on any animal’s head.
8. How can a brand be PETA-approved? What is your checking process for the same, and how do you see that evolve in the future?
The PETA-Approved Vegan logo helps shoppers easily identify animal-friendly clothing, shoes, accessories, furniture. Or other items that could otherwise be made with fur, leather, wool, silk, etc. It can be used on the labelling of a company’s vegan products. And if the company is entirely vegan, it may be placed on the front of the company’s website and storefronts. They can do this to highlight that the company is “PETA-Approved” and cares about animals. The logo can also be used for in-store displays, tags, and literature as well as on websites and social media even if the company is not wholly vegan. As long as it’s clear that it’s referring specifically to their vegan goods only.
PETA loves to build mutually beneficial relationships with companies that care about animals to promote vegan products, raise awareness of issues, and support animal-friendly business practices and services. All that a company has to do to be considered for the “PETA-Approved Vegan” logo is fill out and send a questionnaire and Statement of Assurance to [email protected]. Once we receive a company’s completed documents, we review them and complete the process. Once the process gets completed, the company is listed on our website.
Wearing animal-friendly, ethical fashion not only sets a style statement but also reflects one’s inner beauty.
It is luxurious and modern too and allows one to wear their compassion on their sleeve.
Increasingly consumers are embarrassed to wear leather, wool, silk and other cruelty-derived products.
9. Please suggest ways in which fashion influencers and celebrities can bring animal abuse to light. And how can they spread the word about ethical fashion, other than saying no to fur/leather?
As designers (and the celebrities they dress) learn about the cruelty inherent in the skins trade, a growing number of them are shunning leather, fur and other animal skins. These include Stella McCartney, Marc Bouwer, Anita Dongre and Hemant Trivedi. They are proving that you can create a look that kills without killing animals.
Pink, Pamela Anderson, Joaquin Phoenix, Alicia Silverstone, Richa Chadha, Ileana D’Cruz and many others refuse to wear animal skins. These celebrities and influencers have legions of fans who like to emulate them. The more celebrities and influencers refuse wearing animal skins, the more people they’ll be reaching out to through their actions and ethical fashion choices.
10. Could you give a shout out to ethical fashion brands or fashion designers whose collections/ products stand against animal cruelty?
PETA promotes companies that use our “PETA Approved Vegan” logo on their ethical fashion items by listing them on our website. We also develop fun ways of working with companies like offering contests for consumers to win vegan products that are promoted on PETA India’s social media pages – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
PETA India is regularly part of various fashion weeks in India where we often have information stalls about vegan fashion. PETA India has worked to promote various animal protection issues through the ethical fashion ramp shows of Anupama Dayal, Jayanthi Ballal, Manish Gupta, Hemant and Nandita and others. We have also reached out to thousands of students by talking about vegan fashion and cruelty-free companies at fashion design schools like NIFT, JD Institute of Fashion Technology, FAD International and MIT Institute of Design, and we’ve had other associations with other fashion schools.
11. Please tell us about other endeavours that PETA India is involved with?
PETA India’s motto is that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on or use for entertainment. Our many victories and efforts for animals include rescuing animals from circuses and elephants from lives in chains in temples. We’ve also been successful in running a sterilization program to help cats, stopping bull races and ending cruel animal tests.
We encourage people interested in learning more about PETA India and ways to get active to sign up for our e-news.
12. Could you tell us about the Indian celebrities and Bollywood stars who have spoken up against animal abuse?
- Amitabh Bachchan took to Twitter to call much-needed attention to the plight of abused elephant Sunder, who was rescued by PETA and is now leading a happy life in a vast forested sanctuary.
- World number one doubles tennis star Sania Mirza used her racquet not just to win her matches but also to fund animal rights work by putting it on the auction block.
- Hema Malini joined PETA’s campaign against jallikattu. Following in her footsteps were Vidya Balan and Shikhar Dhawa. Virat Kohli and Jacqueline Fernandez are a few others who signed a petition against jallikattu.
Madhuri Dixit and her husband, Shriram Nene, wrote a heartfelt letter to help elephant Sunder.
- Rohit Sharma, Sonakshi Sinha, Trisha Krishnan, Sunny Leone and Kapil Sharma posed for PETA ads that promoted adopting homeless dogs.
- Lara Dutta, Richa Chadha, Esha Gupta, R Madhavan, Shahid Kapoor, Sonu Sood, Pankaj Advani, Neha Dhupia and Rahul Sharma are among the stars who have teamed up with PETA for ads and exclusive interviews about their healthy vegetarian diets.
- Raveena Tandon, Dia Mirza and Ileana D’Cruz showed their legions of fans what happens to animals who are skinned for fashion.
- Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, along with sons Amaan and Ayaan, as well as Vijender Singh, Celina Jaitly, Shilpa Shetty, Hard Kaur, Malaika Arora, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Jacqueline Fernandez all spoke out against jailing animals in zoos, keeping them captive in circuses, using and abusing them in other performances or keeping them caged. Sandip Soparrkar, Jesse Randhawa, Priya Anand and Rahul Khanna also spoke out for the cause.
- Anushka Sharma, John Abraham, Arjun Rampal, Pooja Bhatt, Mahesh Bhatt and Zeenat Aman are among the top celebrities who have written letters to authorities calling for a ban on cruel horse-drawn carriages in Mumbai or helped in other ways.
This is the perfect job for me! It gives me joy to know that I’m helping change people’s hearts and minds by working with their favorite stars.
– We Condemn Real Fur at ShilpaAhuja.com
Shilpa Ahuja a designer and entrepreneur. She is the editor-in-chief of ShilpaAhuja.com, which she founded with the goal of inspiring confidence in the modern working woman through fashion.
Fashion has traditionally been for the rich, white, thin woman. That’s how it evolved over centuries and that’s how it’s been represented in fashion media. But Shilpa believes that with the changing role of women in the society, fashion has changed, too. She believes that fashion is for everyone, regardless of their age, gender, color, body type and background. So she translates runway fashion into easy style advice that one can incorporate into their daily lives.
Shilpa’s work has been published in the University of Fashion blog and Jet Airways magazine. She is also an artist, illustrator and cartoonist. She is also the creator of Audrey O., a comic series that represents the lifestyle of millennial women. She enjoys creative writing and world travel. Her art has been exhibited at Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Aroma Hotel, Chandigarh and been published in Chandigarh Times.
Originally from Chandigarh, Shilpa also has a professional degree in architecture and has worked in interior project management. She is also the author of the book “Designing a Chinese Cultural Center in India”. Shilpa has a Masters in Design Studies degree from Harvard University. For feedback and questions, please email [email protected]