"Say No to Shahtoosh"

It's hard to break with tradition -- not to mention profits. In India, traditional shawls made from shahtoosh wool (translated as "the king of wools") are still in high demand. Thousands of weavers in Jammu and Kashmir still make the shawls, which each sell for $2,500 and require the skins of five endangered Tibetan antelope known as chiru -- a species some predict could be extinct in as little as eight years.

India banned the shahtoosh trade more than 30 years ago, and finally banned chiru hunting in 2002, but that hasn't stopped traditional weavers, who feel that weaving the shawls is their "birthright," according to a report in The Los Angeles Times.

According to the Times:

Conservationists blame the dire predicament of the chiru on the popularity of shahtoosh among wealthy consumers in Asia, the U.S. and Europe from the 1990s onward. Seizures of shahtoosh shawls, each weighing less than 6 ounces and hyped for their warmth and snob value, have been made in the fashion capitals of London, Rome and New Delhi, as well as in China, Japan, France, Dubai and Switzerland.

India has spent the last few years trying to convince weavers to switch to pashma wool, which harvested from domesticated Changra mountain goats, another species highly desired for its soft under-fleece, but one which is not endangered, and which doesn't need to be killed to get its fleece. Pashma shawls sell for $250-$500 -- still pricey, but with a much more affordable cost overall.