Tens of thousands of Pashimina goat kids have reportedly died in recent days, as border disputes between India and China have deprived these gentle creatures of their grazing pastures in the “roof of the world.”
These special and Kashmir-native goats produce the much-coveted pashmina wool that is highly valued in the world market for its distinctive texture, shine, and softness. Pashmina goats are reared by nomads in the inhospitable altitudes of Ladakh and this is the season they breed.
However, unlike other years, demarcation disputes between India and China in recent days have deprived these animals of the pastures they graze upon, locals and officials say, Agence France Presse reports.
The 3,500-km long Indo-China border passing through the Himalayas in the Ladakh region has been hotspots for disagreement between the two nuclear-armed nations lately. Indian officials are claiming Chinese troops have encroached their boundaries.
Sonam Tsering of the All Changtang Pashmina Growers Cooperative Marketing Society tells AFP that some traditional grazing land is lost to China each year. This year, the majority of the winter grazing lands in Chumar, Damchok, near KakJung among others are inaccessible amid heightened tensions.”In about three years, when the newborn goats would have started yielding pashmina, we will see a significant drop in production,” he said.
Peaking to AFP, local former elected official from Leh, Jurmet (who has only one name) told over phone that nearly 85% of the newborn kids have died, after being pushed out in the cold from the grazinglands. It was the breeding season for the goats and death in tens of thousands is said to cause significant damage to the regional economy in the coming years.
Warm, but cruel
While pashmina as a fabric sells for hundreds of dollars per scarf/shawl in High Street outlets like London’s Harrods and Dubai’s Dubai Mall, it is nonetheless cruelly derived. The same is with Cashmere.
Locals rear hundreds of thousands of goats for their distinctive soft wool. The extraction inflicts torture to the animals as a part of the process, from the time they start producing the fleece. Since pashmina is derived from the inner fine fleece of the goats (outer fur is coarse), obtaining the fur is a painful process for them and more than one goat is combed to obtain enough fleece to make one wearable. The goats are also dehorned, castrated, and notched, all without the use of anesthesia.
“Changra” or Pashmina goats, native to the region, are tied in their legs and are either combed or sheered to obtain the fleece, leaving them vulnerable to the biting cold in the region that can touch up to -50 degree celsious at an altitude of nearly 16,400 feet above sea-level. Sometimes these goats die from the bone-biting cold upon losing their protective inner fur.
Fortunately, the market is flooding with alternative equivalents to woolens products like Pashmina. The intricacy of the product also lies in the extensive handicraft of the native who weaves unparalleled designs on the shawls. Finding a more sustainable and cruelty-free fabric to work upon could do wonders not just for the animals but for the thousands of natives who earn their livelihoods through this trade.
In recent years, nomad herders have left their generations-long profession in search of more feasible and profitable incomes, as climate change and political disputes, like the present, have become repetative in the region, according to reports.