The race is on to develop the world’s first animal-free wool. PETA announced that it will award $1 million — one million dollars! — to the first person or small business to create a vegan alternative to the sheep-derived textile.
The task at hand is no small feat. Per PETA’s contest rules, the material must mimic sheep wool in appearance, feeling, and performance. In other words, submissions must neutralize odor, regulate temperature, wick away moisture, and feel soft to the touch.
And don’t think you can swap animal byproduct for plastic, as brands often do when producing vegan leather and faux fur wares. PETA is only considering materials made of bio-based natural fibers or bioengineered fibers with “100% traceable inputs.”
Other stipulations: wool replacements must biodegrade or recycle (ideally both) at the end of their lifetime, boast low pilling and low shedding, and have the ability to be produced in multiple weights.
Approved fabric samples will move on to phase two of the competition, in which entrants will demonstrate that their material can be “manufactured in sufficient quantities to be sold as a standard inventory item by at least one of the top 10 global clothing retail brands.”
While sheep aren’t killed for their wool, PETA argues that the animals are often injured in the shearing process, both accidentally and deliberately.
According to the animal right’s organization, shearers are paid by volume, not by the hour, resulting in hasty clippings that can leave the sheep covered in electric clipper cuts. On other occasions, shearers kick, stomp, and otherwise abuse the animals to get them to “behave.”
Of course, the organization has its fair share of critics, thanks to its history of extreme marketing campaigns, animal euthanization, and misleading claims.
PETA’s spotty reputation aside, the hunt for a biodegradable, animal-free wool alternative seems like something we can all get behind.