Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Moth madness

Now I know I said that I would put this up yesterday but it was my first day back at work after the Christmas break and I got a bit bogged down in paperwork. I'm sure y'all can forgive a girl for that can't you?
Anyway, I promised to post further about my views on silk moths (as if they really mattered) so this is me fulfilling my obligations. For those of you who aren't here after following a thread on Ravelry then let me expand on the point.
There has been, over the last couple of days, some small debate about the issue of ethically produced silk*. This came up because I mentioned that I try not to buy yarn with silk in it. Now I know that there is an awful lot of rubbish that goes with a subject like this and I hastily remove myself from any 'rose-tinted' territory that skips alongside. I'm a practical biologist and I like to think, a scientist to boot. In fact, I trained as an ecologist and have done some small amount of animal behaviour study. I now work as an entomologist where I study insect behaviour and morphology. As a consequence I try very hard not to anthropomorphise animals unless I'm being silly and doing it deliberately. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that its wrong to kill the little moths because they are pretty or it hurts them. I don't assign to the belief that it is wrong to kill animals as long as there is a practical reason for doing so. And I think that this is the important point.
In my book a practical reason would be, e.g. to eat. I am a firm believer that we are meant to eat meat- our morphology and evolution lead me to come to this conclusion (along with a number of other more minor points). But I also know that it is possible to survive nowadays without eating meat. There are plenty of other options as far as protein and vitamin supplements that mean that you can get by without eating any meat at all. I also think that it lowers your quality of life and that it's not practical but the point is that is is possible. (The whole meat eating thing here is not the issue- that's a whole debate in itself and to be honest I think it is a purely personal choice so not really something that requires the debate but anyway...)
Okay, so given the conclusion that it is possible to get by without eating meat this then leads me to believe that if you are still going to go ahead and kill a cow for food then you have a moral obligation to make best use of its body. By 'best use' I mean use as much as possible of it- eat as much of the flesh as you can, use the bones to make glue, use the skin to make leather, use all the squishy bits left over to make dog food, whatever- just use as much as you possibly can. This is not because I feel obliged to the cow in any way. Yes, the cow would probably still like to be alive and doing cow things but for me its more about the efficiency of energy transfer. If I make the most out of this cow that I have killed today then I can put off killing another cow for another 'x' number of days. That way I use less cows overall and I have done my best to put in as much as I get out. I'm not sure its possible for a person to be 'carbon neutral' (shudders at use of jargon) without taking a few steps down in quality of life (i.e. ditch the electrics and grow your own veg- though I have to say, that does sound kinda nice to me) but you can be sympathetic to your environment.
So what's this got to do with moths? Well, it's about an attitude to life really. That and the fact that I am constantly annoyed by people who go 'Oooh, look at the furry animal' whilst stomping on bugs. So my attitude to life is to try and be sympathetic to my environment and lessen my impact on this world insofar as practically possible given my circumstances whilst my inner insect lover tells me that I should appreciate the value of ALL life, great or small, cute or ugly, furry or crunchy.
As for the moths, well, they are bred for the purposes of silk production in the same way that we breed herds of cows for beef. But silk for me whilst beautiful and wondrous is not a necessity. There are very few things in life that actually require the use of silk and it's quite possible that I could go my whole life without any need for it. So for me its an easy choice to make. The moths don't need to die so therefore they shouldn't on my account. It is also another small way in which I can wave the 'insects have rights too' flag.
However, this does eliminate practically all Noro for me which makes me sad. I did treat myself to a skein recently that had a little silk in it and I had a minor pang of guilt around the point but decided that just occasionally a little frivolity is allowed. This is because at the end of the day I remain practical. People can only do as much as they have time for. I'm in a position where I can set my house up around my needs- we have about 5 different bins to split rubbish up into and the time to do it as there is only myself and the DH to look after apart from a few small furry animals.
As a disclaimer to all this- I also believe that it's not my job to tell others how to live their lives or judge them for not putting their cardboard out for composting. I would like it if they could and I admit, I don't understand why more people don't seem to think the same way I do but at the end of the day these are my views and my reasoning and I appreciate that others may think something completely different. Our opinions are an amalgamation of experience, education and personality which probably goes a long way to explaining how we seem to have ended up with so many different ones in this world.
So anyway, that's my two pennies worth on this particular subject. I hope it all made sense. Now I'm going to return to the more familiar and safer territory of knitting. I have things to say about woolly goodness that also need airing :)

*If you are not sure what I mean by this then let me explain. To make silk you take silkmoth larvae (caterpillars) and wait until they have created their pupae (in which they will pupate and transform into rather handsome moths even if I do say so). You then take the pupae and (normally) chuck them into a big vat of boiling water. This kills the moth and loosens up the silk. The silk is produced as a big long chain that the moth winds around itself as a protective shell so that it can go through the delicate procedure of turning from a caterpillar to a moth. These long chains of silk are pulled from the vats, stretched out, dried, dyed, spun etc to make silk. Okay, so I simplified this a bit. Anyway, to make ethically produced silk you have the option of letting the moth pupate before claiming the silk. This does mean that the silk you make is of a lower quality though as the moth chews through the pupae (also known as a cocoon btw) to get out which breaks the long chains into smaller pieces. This makes it harder to spin and produces a rougher quality silk but moth does live to breed and make more moths.

1 comment:

  1. Brownie22 from Ravelry8 January 2009 at 15:21

    I was really interested to read this, because I read your post on Ravelry about not using silk for ethical reasons, and it had never crossed my mind that silk was in any way objectionable.

    I got loads of silk yarn for Christmas, so to be honest, I was sort of avoiding thinking about the whole issue because I didn't want to feel bad about my presents, but I suppose as long as I make really good use of it and knit something amazing, and don't buy any more, then it's ok.

    Your Travelling Scarf is looking good, by the way!