Fur Is As Cruel As Ever

Posted by Sarah Perelstein, Law Student at Lewis & Clark Law School on December 29, 2011

December in New York City and the winter is nothing like I remember growing up here as a kid. It’s not even that cold at the moment!

Although winter jackets have hardly been necessary this season, with temperatures hovering around 50 to 60 degrees a few days this week, I have still seen enough people wearing fur and fur-trimmed coats and accessories to remember why winter in New York has always made me uncomfortable.

It’s funny – I stepped off the plane earlier this week on a redeye flight from Portland, Oregon (where I’ve been living for the last two years while earning my law degree at Lewis and Clark), and the phenomenon of people wearing animal fur couldn’t have been further from my mind. It must have been the whirlwind of the weeks leading up to law school final exams, or the fact that wearing fur would look so out of place among über-environmentally conscious and conscientious Portlanders, but I hadn’t given it much thought.  

Once I arrived back in New York, though, I was reminded that although wearing fur has become increasingly incongruous with our warming winters, it’s hardly a moot issue. I can’t say I’m surprised that designers are still creating clothes with animal fur or that that fur trim still appears in magazine advertisements; the incredibly powerful fur industry throws money (and fur samples) at the magazines deciding what’s in fashion, and at the most promising emerging designers. By the way, Oprah’s O Magazine announced an anti-fur stance in its October 2011 issue. In it, Oprah describes how she had an “aha” moment while staring at a sable cape in her closet “and that was it. I gave away all my furs 20 years ago.”

As I re-emerge from my Portland-bubble, I guess I’m most disappointed that people are still choosing to wear it. Do people still not know where the fur trimming on their jacket comes from? Or what makes fur for fashion particularly distressing, and in an entirely different category than other sartorial ‘materials’ like cotton or rayon or even wool or leather? There’s the possibility, too, that people know that fur for fashion comes from animals–know that the fur must literally be taken off the animals’ backs, and the animals must be killed in this process–and choose to wear it anyway, but it is a dark view of human nature to fathom that people know where it comes from, know about the cruel process, and choose to wear it anyway.

Because fur is still out there, it is still worth reminding people–shoppers and winter coat-wearers and everyone, really–that fur isn’t just another material. It’s mean, because it means the death of an animal, or many, for a single fur pelt. Fur-bearing animals like foxes, chinchillas, rabbits, and raccoon dogs are killed for their fur in some of the most gruesome ways imaginable (think (or don’t) anal electrocution (totally legal in most states), and being skinned alive). Producing animal’s fur for fashion is the sole product being peddled by the fur industry, and more than 75 million animals are killed every year to make this happen. It’s legal and it’s fueled by demand–which is to say that buying products with animal fur or promoting the idea that fur is in fashion translates into more animals being killed to satiate this demand.

With so many grave and complex problems in the world fueled by poverty, massive inequality, warming climates, and lack of access to basic essential services like food, water, and health care, this seems like it would be one of the easier ills to cure. Fur is ultimately just a fashion choice–both trivial and unnecessary to us, but the cause of great suffering and death for the animals whose fur we wear.

In this holiday season, please renew your commitment not to buy fur, and share your knowledge with others about where fur comes from. It’s just one thing you can do to help make the world a more compassionate place. 

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