Fearful of wearing even a faux-fur coat around York campus, vegetarian Charlotte Davey considers the stigma of fur.
I recently bought a faux fur coat, and, in the midst of Camden, I was fine. However, step outside of fashionable London and into York and I am no longer fine. I am ethically unsound and mad. I feel eyes turning upon me, judging me, not because I am ‘different’ or ‘individual’, but because I am wearing this most controversial of fabrics – fur. And although it is clearly fake, it is still able to conjure up great debate wherever it goes. However, just before I go running through the streets screaming, ‘Save your red paint for Anna Wintour!’ One has to consider why there is such a profound stigma attached to faux fur.
There are plentiful anti-fur organisations, the biggest being PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), who object to the use of animal fur, some of the most common being Mink, Red Fox and Seal. Many animals are skinned alive to get fur. This, of course, is after being ‘trapped’, in some cases, by a device for an average of 1500 hours before being collected, causing some animals to attempt to chew off their own limbs in a bid to escape. This surely speaks volumes about how much pain these animals are in. It really is absolutely horrific and I cannot understand how people can think that this is acceptable.
Doing the research for this article alone has severely put me off even thinking about real fur; just typing in ‘animal fur’ into a search engine will provide you with a feast of websites, none of which object to giving graphic detailing of how animals are killed to get their fur.
However, my complete disdain for real fur somehow does not translate into an objection to wearing faux fur. As a vegetarian, I eat ‘faux meat’, if you will, such as Quorn or whatever else the frozen section in Morrisons can offer me. There are, again, plenty of people who have problems with the consumption of meat, but this problem does not translate to Quorn, which, like fake fur, can look exactly like the real thing. But why the disparity? Perhaps the wearing of faux fur can be seen as a ‘nod’ to real fur. In reality, it is not as if the only reason I am wearing faux fur is because I could not afford the real thing, or because I’m allergic to it. Perhaps the fact that I am willing to wear faux fur suggests that I have no strong objections to the real thing.
The main factor pushing the pro-fur side, is fashion. Anna Wintour has been relentless in US Vogue’s promotion of fur. This has earned the magazine quite a bad reputation amongst ethical groups, resulting in Wintour becoming the most targeted individual for campaigns. But, as it is fashionable, many celebrities have followed suit, turning into walking adverts for fur. And when our idols and icons are promoting such a statement, it is hard not to notice. Stars such as Jay-Z, Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, who incidentally appeared in a PETA campaign, have all turned to the controversial clothing in the all-important quest for style.
Then there’s the whole leather debate; wearing the skin of an animal that happens to not be furry? Leather seems acceptable though, because it does not look like the cow it came from. But then scotch eggs hardy look like pigs, yet you won’t find a vegetarian munching on them. There is the practicality of the issue though, leather is a durable sturdy material whereas fur is, in a country of mild climate, mainly worn for its aesthetic quality. To solve that issue, many people will only buy second hand leather, benefiting from the durability of the material, yet safe in the knowledge that no animal dies specifically for their use.
Yet even this moral sort refuse to wear second hand fur. When asked, they agree with the idea that it gives off the wrong signal. One comment echoed the PETA tag line; ‘I’d rather go naked than wear fur’. I, however, would not. But for the time being, I’ll leave my poor nylon coat hanging in my wardrobe, sad that it had to resemble such an unethical fabric. However, if you do happen see me sporting my coat and think about reaching for the red paint, please, save it for Anna Wintour.