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Ahimsa silk, also known as peace silk, is a type of silk that is purported to be made in a fashion that is much more humane to the creatures creating the silk than many traditional methodologies.
Kusuma Rajaiah, a government officer from India's Andhra Pradesh state, applied the theories behind the ahimsa way of life to the making of silk and found that it was possible to create silk without killing the creatures that created it. Traditional silk manufacturing methods involve boiling the cocoons of the silkworm and then sorting out the threads to be used later in production. Rajaiah's idea involves a gentler method, specifically letting the worms hatch and then using the cocoons once vacant. He started deploying this process in 1992 and has hence been supported by a larger community of people interested in the welfare and rights of animals and non-humans.
The process of creating ahimsa silk begins in one of two ways: either the pupa is allowed to hatch and the leftover cocoon is then used to create silk, or the cocoon may be cut open, achieving much the same result but often saving the resultant material from contamination by urine from the hatching moth.
While Bombyx mori are the preferred species for creating ahimsa silk, there are a few other types of species that fall under the category of ahimsa silk, which is defined not necessarily by the species of the moth involved but by the methods for harvesting the cocoon. The other types of silkworm that are used for this process are a subspecies of the ailanthus silkmoth and several types of tussah or tasar moths: the Chinese tussah moth, the Indian tasar moth, and the muga moth.
The subspecies of the ailanthus silkmoth, Samia cynthia ricini, eats the leaves of the castor bean or cassava leaves. It is also known as the eri silkmoth. Eri silk is made from the cocoons of these particular insects and is also produced using less violent methods than the normal heat treating, but the quality of eri silk is often seen as inferior to that of the silk created by the offspring of the Bombyx mori moth.
Ahimsa silk may also be manufactured from tasar and tussah silks, leaving the moths to their own designs.
The main qualities of ahimsa silk are derived from the ideals surrounding the concept of ahimsa. This allows the silk to be manufactured without harm to the beings that created it. These ideals appeal to religions like Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism whose followers forego all injury to other forms of life. Non-violent lifestyle proponents have more recently found peace silk to be in keeping with their way of life. These arguments while valid for many other reasons have not been conclusively proven to affect the actual physical structure of the cloth itself.
From a short-run economic standpoint, it is difficult to make the argument for peace silk as it requires 10 extra days in the process to let the larvae grow and the moths to hatch out of the cocoons. In contrast, the less humane process takes about 15 minutes. At this later stage the cocoon yields one-sixth of the filament. This inflates the cost of nonviolent silk, which is priced at roughly 6,000 rupees (US$92) per kilogram—about twice the price of the regular kind.
- Farida, Syeda (July 11, 2012). "Going global with Ahimsa silk". The Hindu. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
- Cook, Michael. "Ahimsa (Peace) Silk – Why I Think it Doesn't Add Up". Wormspit.com. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- Wangkiat, Paritta (19 February 2017). "Ericulture reeling them in". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
- Stancati, Margherita (January 4, 2011). "Taking the Violence Out of Silk". WSJ. Retrieved April 20, 2016.