Where Have All the Silkworms Gone?

Cultivate is a result of my long process of questioning the status quo I grew up around.

At first, I questioned the meat I was eating. Later, it was the dairy industry, then my use of plastic and the amount of waste it’s so easy to generate in everyday life. And eventually, the materials used by the fashion industry. 

Silk, in particular, seems like an easy thing to overlook. It has been considered a luxury fabric since it was discovered around 2700 BCE. Yet in 2016, still the only way to cultivate silk is by killing the magical creature that makes it. 

While the silkworm spins its cocoon (which is made up of the thread that will become silk) it makes a figure-8 motion about 300,000 times in order to create one kilometer (or 0.621 miles) of thread. If the silkworm somehow injures itself in this process, it will paralyze itself until it heals (much like our “couch time” when we’re sick), which suggests it experiences pain. 

Because the silk is destroyed once the worm hatches, the cocoon is placed in boiling water or shot with steam. Either way, the larvae is killed. 

That’s approximately 10 billion silkworms a year, killed while doing what nature intended.

Cotton robe options.

Cotton robe options.

We have so many material options now that can be grown organically and not harm any lives in the process. When will we question what we’ve been told is luxury? Must animals and insects die so that we can have what we’ve told each other is “luxury”? 

I hope more of us will start to look around when we shop and ask questions that are consistent with our beliefs. Whether at the mall or the grocery store, it’s worth considering: At what cost was this produced? 

With love,
Maria