Would you wear fur
During these recent Arctic temperatures, the thought of wrapping up in a cozy, ultra-insulating, fluffy fur seems somehow less appalling and more appealing.
But is fur the ultimate fashion faux pas?
Animal pelts are one of the oldest forms of clothing, and Indigenous cultures in cool climates have always relied on the heat-trapping properties of fur to survive harsh conditions.
A key function of fur is thermo-regulation, keeping fur-bearing animals cool in heat and warm in the cold. Some animal pelts, such as elk and deer, actually have hollow hairs that trap air for insulation.
Marine mammals such as seals have pelts that are waterproof.
So it is little wonder that our ancestors relied on fur to cloth and protect themselves.
It has only been within the past century that inexpensive synthetic insulation has been invented, causing fur to fall out of fashion.
In the 1950s and 60s, fur coats were considered the height of luxury.
Mink and fox were the most popular choices among those who could afford them, while muskrat, beaver, lamb and wolf fur were cheaper.
Then, in the 80s and 90s, several anti-fur campaigns, some involving celebrities, were launched calling out fur as cruel and unnecessary.
In Canada, many were disgusted by the images of baby seals being clubbed to death during the annual seal hunt.
So real fur is pretty much out, right? Actually not so.
Though it is rare to see anyone local donning fur, sales of animal pelts have actually skyrocketed worldwide in the past two decades, in large part due to increased wealth in Russia and China.
Fur is still part of the traditional clothing in Baltic and Scandinavian countries, and Japan.
Most of the world’s fur is now bred at 5,000 mink, fox, and rabbit farms located across 22 countries in the European Union, and China is opening new farms.
Though there is always controversy, farm operators claim the animals are treated humanely and killed without pain, often using carbon monoxide.
Their carcasses can be used to create pet food, organic compost and fertilizer.
Compare this to any other livestock used for food or products. If the animals are purpose-bred, treated well, and don’t die suffering, is wearing fur really any different than wearing leather, or using a goose-down duvet, or eating a hamburger?
I can’t answer that question; people have their own opinion and moral compass. But what got me thinking about it is because I’ve inherited my mother’s short mink coat.
It saddens me that I can’t wear this beautiful vintage piece without fear of insults or getting paint thrown on me. And it would be a tragedy, even an insult to the creatures that once lived to make this coat, to throw it out.
For those in a similar quandary there are online consigners that will convert your fur into funds, including the appropriately named BuyMyFur.com and CashForFurCoats.com.
As for those who love the look of fur but don’t want real, of course there are tons of faux options.
Though it is ironic that some items made to look like exotic animals such as tiger or zebra are actually cowhide, which technically is real fur.
And there is still much debate whether faux products are truly more environmentally-friendly and sustainable.
It depends on factors such as how the synthetic fibres are produced, if the farmed animals are herbivores or carnivores, or if the fur is wild or from an invasive species. Some enterprising companies are even making accessories from the hides of roadkill.
It may seem easier to say “I love animals and therefore I’m anti-fur,” but it must also be recognized that non-biodegradable acrylic fast fashion hurts the earth and all the animals on it in other ways.