A new documentary has urged the sustainable fashion movement to keep animals out of the picture


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A new documentary exploring the impact of animal-based materials used in fashion launches today on free streaming platform WaterBeer.

Made by one of the directors behind Cowspiracy, which made waves for examining the meat industry’s relationship to the climate crisis, Slay follows director Rebecca Capellin across seven countries to track chains of leather, fur and wool.

Cappelli visited tanneries in India, spoke with migrant workers in Italy, explored deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, visited a fur wholesale market in China, and broke ground in Australia with activists to save an orphaned sheep.

This documentary is about more than animal rights. Cappelli touches on the current discussion around sustainability, making the argument that the social and environmental impact of animal-based materials has not been properly addressed.

Expert voices featured in the documentary include vegan activist Ed Winters, sustainability advocates Samatha Pattinson, Dana Thomas and Bandana Tewari, and representatives of professional bodies Fur Europe and Australian Wool Innovation.

I interviewed Cappelli about the making of the documentary…

Why did you want to make this documentary?

Slay came up with sustainability and what we’re doing to the planet and I think there’s an ongoing conversation for people in the supply chain, but when it comes to animals, I feel like there’s a blind spot. Not only the animals themselves, but the impact on the planet and the people who work in the supply chain or live in areas affected by these industries.

I felt it was an opportunity to start this conversation and get people who care about sustainability and social justice to take the ethical treatment of animals into the equation.

You were particularly focused on hair, skin and wool. Why did you choose the three?

If I look in my own closet and look around, I think these three are big. We have conducted investigations in seven countries, we have investigated human rights issues, environmental protection issues, animal rights issues, it is already a huge scope! Maybe in the future there will be some opportunities to delve into some topics that may not be in the film like ostrich feathers, down, cashmere, alpaca or silk.

You worked with Keegen Kun on this particular project. Do you hope the documentary could be Cowspiracy for the fashion world?

What I really liked about Cowspiracy was that Keegan did a great job creating that conversation on a very limited budget. For me, this was an inspiration. I would say the thing about Slay is to engage with fashion professionals and sustainable fashion and ethical activists and see how we can work together. That’s why my partner on this, Emma Hakansen, is from Collective Fashion Justice. I think she’s doing a good job of being inclusive, not leaving anyone out of the conversation, not putting one in front of the other. The hope is to really accelerate the adoption of better practices and materials.

I have always done this with the audience in mind and my audience was 10 years ago I would say. But the person who does not think or think about this properly every day is from pure ignorance. I think it would be more concerning if more people had access to this information, whether they work in fashion or not. A big focus is getting out of these echo chambers.

One of the most powerful moments in the film is when they break down crying on a fur farm in China. How was that experience?

I am not an overly emotional person. One of my concerns going there is what if I can’t handle my feelings? But when you see them, it just happens.

It was hard for me to understand that I had contributed to that and had supported him in the past without realizing it or thinking about it. But it was also a good time in terms of personal growth. It was the most important moment in my life and I would choose that moment again any day.

Were you scared when you went on an Australian sheep rescue mission?

I think the scariest part is that even though I trust the integrity of the activists doing this work, I was a little skeptical. ‘Are we really going to get anything?’ I thought. We’ve crossed that fence and it’s sad when you see it right away.

It was a very calm season. It was horrible. There was a lot of fog. That is why the hunter sheep is called foggy. There were singing birds. But to see that little baby trying to find someone alone in the dark. I’m glad we were there then.

You will see the argument that natural fibers are more durable and why it may be a myth. What did you learn about making the documentary?

This is an incredibly complex discussion. I think a lot of what we see is an overly simplistic view of things: either fossilized, man-made fibers and microplastics, or animal-derived and sustainable. I think we deserve better now in 2022. If we have access to information, with the amount of images we have and the amount of work that many organizations do, we need to have a more balanced approach.

I think we need to recognize that, yes, synthetic fibers are contributing to the climate crisis, but the wool industry, the leather industry, and the fur industry are also causing significant harm to animals. We need to be able to address that and look at the innovation that’s going on in this space. Just because something is free of animal matter, doesn’t make it magically permanent.

Do you think a ban on animal-based materials for fashion is possible?

We must not forget the people who work in these industries. We cannot suddenly shut down all the tanneries in India and deprive millions of people of their livelihood. We need to ensure that people working in supply chains are cared for and that they have skills that can be transferred to work that is less harmful to them and more dignified.

I think hair should absolutely be banned these days. There is absolutely no excuse. As we have seen with covid, it also causes health problems. The European Union is launching this initiative where we will collect one million signatures to demand not only a ban on fur farms in Europe but also the sale of fur. I think that if we are serious about the climate crisis and if we are going to solve the challenge, if we are really determined about our future and the future of our children, I think that at some point we have to make a hard decision and we have to block some things. . I’m not saying we have all the solutions and it’s easy to do but I definitely think we should avoid exploitation.


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