Updated: May 7
Alpacas, cute, funny, quirky and sometime aggressive are a favourite on farms. With their smiley face and mop of curly hair they are loveable and have become popular as pets. Alpacas are a part of the Camelidae family, which also includes llamas and camels. They are cute and charming animals with a tufty mop of hair and sweet smiles, however they are also farm animals bred for their wool.
Getting to Know Alpacas
Alpacas are herd animals, they live between 15-20 years and are also calm and friendly, they don't bite or kick unless provoked. Some people with large areas of land keep alpacas to control grass and weed growth as alpacas have soft feet, not hooves, so they don't tear up the ground. They are also gentle on the plants, nibbling at the new growth, leaving the rest to create lush fresh growth. Alpacas are also easy to care for, they need minimal shelter, they are cheap to feed as they eat grass and hay, they will pick a toilet spot and not stray from it, keeping poop and pee to only a few areas so only a little cleaning is required.
Alpaca wool and fleeces have been used by humans for thousands of years. The Amerindians of Peru used the fibre to make different styles of fabrics for around 6000 thousand years before it was introduced to Europeans as a commercial product. The alpaca was crucial to ancient life in the Andes both for practical and religious reasons. They provided warm clothing and meat, but also the Inca's used alpaca in ritual sacrifices to gods and spirits.
In modern times alpacas are mainly used for their fleeces, with most of the alpaca wool coming from Peru. Small farms around the world are very proud of how they care for their alpacas and the relationship that they develop with the animals. However, on larger farms the alpaca are treated as many farmed animals are, badly.
PETA went undercover at the world's largest privately owned alpaca farm in Peru. Mallkini is a farm owned by the Michell Group and is the world’s largest exporter of alpaca clothing and yarn. The Mallkini workers were seen pulling alpacas up off of the floor by their tails and yanked them around; pregnant alpacas were slammed onto tables. The farm workers were tying the animals tightly by their legs to restrain them and during shearing no care was taken, animals were treated roughly, many had cuts and other injuries when the shearing was finished. The alpacas that had larger wounds were stitched up by workers that had no medical training, the animals were given no painkillers, no antiseptic was used and the animals received no antibiotics to protect against infection. Then there were the animals waiting to go next, listening to members of their herd suffering this abuse. They would huddle in fear, knowing that their time would come.
Not every alpaca has to suffer this, many smaller farms take far better care of the animals, but it is still farming. It is still using the animals, exploiting them. If you want to help the alpacas the first and simplest thing that you can do is don't buy the wool or anything made from it, also tell your friends and family about where alpaca wool comes from, get onto social media and shine a light on the truth of alpaca farming.
PETA also have a petition that you can sign and share to get brands to stop using and selling alpaca wool. Many brands have already committed to not selling the wool, but there are still more to go. If we can stop people from buying it, the shops will stop offering it, the farmers will no longer breed and farm the alpaca and, at least some, animal abuse will stop.