Pearls, shells, etc
Pearls are defined as hard, roundish objects produced within the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusc, such as an oyster. The majority of pearls on the market are ‘cultured pearls’, which are formed on a pearl farm under controlled conditions. Pearl farming (mollusc acquaculture) occurs throughout Australasia, the Middle East and South America, and is achieved by inserting a foreign object into the tissue of an oyster or other mollusc in order to induce the creation of a pearl (15). The pearl is then harvested by opening the oyster (which kills it) and the shell and meat either disguarded or used.
A vegetarian does not eat any shellfish, these are typically sea animals covered with a shell. The types of shellfish include crustaceans (crustacea) and molluscs (mollusca), which can be broken down further;
Crustaceans (hard external shell) Large – e.g. lobsters, crayfish, crabsSmall – e.g. prawns, shrimps.
Molluscs (most are protected by a shell) e.g. mussels, oysters, winkles, limpets, clams, etc. This also includes cephalopods such as cuttlefish, squid, octopus.
Silk comes from silkworms, which are not true worms but the caterpillars of the silk moth, Bombyx mori. Silkworms produce silk by churning out thread from tiny holes in their jaws, which in turn is used to spin into their protective egg-bearing cocoons. Complete production takes around 3 days (72 hours), during which time they produce between 500-1200 silken threads (16). When metamorphosis is complete and the moth is ready to leave its cocoon, it secretes an alkali which eats its way through the thread. This spoils the thread for spinning as it is no longer continuous. So, in order to get good quality silk, the moths must be killed before they leave the cocoon, this is done by suffocation with steam or heating them in an oven. Only a small number necessary for breeding the next generation are allowed to complete their lifecycle. Silk can be divided into 3 categories, cultivated, wild and blended, depending upon the way the silk yarn is produced.
Wool accounts for 5-10% of the total value of a ewe. Most British wool is used for coarse fabrics such as carpets, with over 65% of the clip being used in carpet manufacture. Native breeds, such as Scottish Blackface, Herdwick and Cheviot, grow wool which is naturally designed to withstand harsh winds, driving rain and snow. The UK produces 1% of the world’s raw wool, approximately 50,000 tonnes per year (5). The majority are sheared at around 14 months old and then once a year. Lambs of some breeds may be clipped to provide lambs wool. The entire fleece is sheared in one piece. Sheep have been selectively bred to produce a thick fleece and are sheared early summer to prevent heatstroke. Wild sheep do not need to be sheared.
Around 1/3 of British wool is from slaughtered sheep, this is referred to as skin wool. Wool accounts for 3% of world fibre production (17). Australia and New Zealand produce the most raw wool, whilst Belgium and Denmark export the most ‘greasy’ wool, including skin wool and re-exports.
Mulesing of sheep (this involves slicing away the folds of skin from beneath the sheep's tail which forms a wool-free scar) occurs commonly in Australia. They have a national flock of an estimated 135 million sheep and mulesing is done at a recommended age between 2 -12 weeks old. The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries states in the Standard Operating Procedures that, "While the operation causes some pain, no pre or post operative pain relief measures are used". Antiseptics are often applied, but anaesthesia and painkillers are not required during or after the procedure. The wool industry has proposed that surgical mulesing will be phased out by 2010 (18). Around 100 million sheep suffer from mulesing each year. Australia’s export industry of wool amounts to approximately $3.5 billion each year (19).
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