The animal rights group PETA launched a $1 million Vegan Wool Challenge Award this week to find the first individual, group, or company that creates a vegan wool material “visually, texturally, and functionally akin to or better than sheep’s wool.”
The winning animal-free wool must be a biomaterial that is biodegradable or recyclable and has traditional wool’s advantages like maintaining body temperature, neutralising doors, and repelling moisture. Among other entry rules for the wool challenge, PETA requires the participants to demonstrate the innovative material’s commercial viability.
Alternatives to animal-derived materials
This vegan wool prize comes at a time when innovations in the animal-free leather category are thriving, with leather made from upcycled tamarind pods and cactus leather used to make shoes, gloves, and watches. Vegan silk is also appearing in fashion shows with startups like niLuu, a Miami-based company that launched a new range of vegan silk robes in collaboration with PETA.
The wool industry
With this initiative, PETA continues to target the wool industry claiming that sheep are treated as wool-producing machines because there is a market for their fleece and skin. The campaign group also highlights that the wool industry produces massive amounts of methane, erodes soil, and contaminates waterways.
“Among animals, sheep are second only to cows when it comes to producing the greenhouse gas methane. The huge flocks of sheep bred in the wool industry produce enormous amounts of manure, polluting water, land, and air. Sheep farming can have detrimental effects on surrounding ecosystems. Studies have shown that sheep “dip,” a toxic chemical used to rid sheep of external parasites, can poison nearby waterways and kill fish, says PETA.
Applications for the $1 million Vegan Wool Challenge Award opened on November 17th, with entry restricted to any individual, group, or company with annual revenues of less than $30 million.