UK retailer Marks & Spencer has fallen into “humane washing” tactics as it has now reversed its ban on alpaca wool. Following pressure from the animal rights group PETA in 2020, the retailer banned this wool from its stores but has now said it will again be allowing the use of alpaca yarn in its clothes.

In 2020, PETA launched a campaign claiming that animals at the largest privately-owned alpaca farm were being left with deep wounds from shearing. Their exposé led to prosecutions in Peru. The Peruvian national police force charged five shearers at the Mallkini farm with cruelty to domestic animals.

At the time of the ban, M&S said an investigation by PETA had highlighted “concerns around the welfare of animals that are farmed to produce alpaca [wool]” and committed to phasing alpaca yarn “from all future product developments”.

However, on 18th June 2024, it reversed the ban following the introduction of the Responsible Alpaca Standard (RAS), which was launched in 2021 as a voluntary programme by industry group the Textile Exchange.

When the standard was launched, PETA claimed that it was “humane washing” which would “do nothing to stop” bad practices. Mimi Bekhechi, PETA’s vice president for the UK, Europe and Australia, said “The decision to overturn its ban on alpaca wool — which was put in place after watching Peta’s groundbreaking exposé revealing that crying alpacas, including pregnant animals, are roughly shorn and left cut up and bleeding from deep wounds for their fleece — is a slap in the face to compassionate consumers. If M&S wants to stay on the high street and in the good graces of today’s conscientious shoppers, it must take the high road and ban alpaca wool – and all animal-derived clothing and accessories – from its stores. And that’s exactly what Peta is calling on it to do.”

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.