When you think about animals used for clothing your mind probably goes to leather, wool, down or fur. You wouldn't be the first to overlook silk. There are a few reasons for this. Many people don't know how silk is produced, or that it's made through very cruel means. Silk worms are also overlooked because... "they're just worms". (Note: silk worms are in fact much more like a caterpillar than a worm).
Silk is extracted by boiling cocooned worms, on their way to becoming moths (see photo, shot at a silk production facility in Laos). The cocoon itself is raw silk, built by the silk worm, which will be destroyed by the moth as it chews its way out of the cocoon. For this reason, the moths are boiled alive, killing the moth and making it easier to unravel the silk. Tens of millions of silk moths are boiled alive every year; it takes 2000 to 3000 cocoons to make 1lb of silk.
Believe it or not, silk moths are sentient as well. They have a neurological system and being boiled is a painful death.
There is now cruelty-free silk, or Peace Silk, on the market and it's being used by more and more famous (and compassionate!) designers. The moths are allowed to emerge from the cocoon before the cocoon is used. Having said that, there are plenty of beautiful materials out there that are completely animal-free as well which we can buy and wear.
How you can help:
*Let people know that silk production is cruel and that there are alternatives. My hope is that if people know they are wearing the cocoons of tens of thousands of worms who were boiled alive, they will rethink their choice of clothing.
*Buy cruelty free clothing that doesn't come from animals, like cotton, nylon and hemp materials to name a few.