IT is a company which has woven its magic to ensure that a certain boy wizard looked every inch a British school pupil on his first day at Hogwarts. 

Now the Scottish knitwear firm which dressed Harry Potter and his wizard chums has announced it is casting aside the use of cashmere – because of the risk of animal cruelty. 

Lochaven of Scotland, the original supplier of school uniforms in the Harry Potter film series, has made the decisions following discussions with the charity Peta, which has campaigned against the use of cashmere.

The company supplies all the replica cardigans, scarves, tank tops and jerseys sold in theme parks and merchandising shops around the world, even as far away as Japan and the Far East.  

And it could soon be that would-be wizards won’t be clothing themselves in wool at all as the company looks to make a switch away from animal fibres to plant-based or synthetic wools. 

Cashmere wool is a fibre obtained from special types of goats, rather than wool from sheep and lambs.  

Company director Keith Murray said that it was becoming increasingly problematic to source high-quality strands as much of the wool which claims to be cashmere is too poor quality to be sold in the UK.

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The firm has been cutting the amount it uses for a number of years, and now agreed with Peta that it was time to phase it out entirely. 

Mr Murray said: “Peta get a bad rap, but they are decent enough people. They showed us their research and we have made a conscious decision that we won’t go back to using cashmere.

“We use British wool and it has to be the best quality possible, so it doesn’t make sense to use low-quality wool claiming to be cashmere any more. 

“And if we can minimise the harm to animals, we will.”

Lochaven, which is based in Stewarton,  was set up by the Red Cross after the Second World War for employment of disabled former servicemen and over the years it has became part of the Haven products charity. But it lost its charitable status and the loss of a major customer saw it enter receivership in 2007.

Mr Murray, who previously specialised in helping distressed companies, noticed signed photos of the cast of Harry Potter during a visit to the factory, and found out Lochaven’s connection to the series. The firm had never marketed the products, and after a takeover, which saw all jobs saved, Mr Murray proceeded to take them down that road. 

Now Lochaven supplies garments to Warner Bros, which sells them via its website, and in upmarket retailers throughout Europe and Japan. 

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The official Wizarding World theme park in Orlando began stocking Harry Potter knitwear in 2011 – and dressing its staff in their outfits – and the Harry Potter studio tour at Leavesden studios in London followed in 2012, then Diagon Alley Orlando and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Osaka, Japan, opened in 2014. One of Lochaven’s busiest Harry Potter outlets is Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station in London.

A spokesman at Lochaven added: “Apart from the Harry Potter products we also work with some of the best-known clothing brands in the world and later this year will be launching a range with a hugely popular Japanese brand made from 100 per cent animal-free fibre.”  

A recent Peta Asia video investigation conducted on cashmere farms and in abattoirs in China and Mongolia – the two countries responsible for 90 per cent of the world’s cashmere production – showed workers pinning down crying goats as their legs were bent and their hair was torn out with sharp metal combs.

In China, goats deemed no longer profitable were slaughtered after workers hit them on the head with a hammer in an attempt to stun them. And in Mongolia, workers dragged them by one leg on to the abattoir floor before slitting their throats. 

“Gentle goats’ hair is torn out and the animals are hit with hammers and hacked to death, all for cashmere sweaters and scarves,” says Peta director Elisa Allen.
“Lochaven International of Scotland has just stood up to cruelty to animals in a huge way, and Peta is urging all other clothing companies to follow its compassionate, business-savvy lead and go cashmere-free.”