The stigma of fur

Fearful of wearing even a faux-fur coat around York campus, vegetarian considers the stigma of fur to avoid running through the streets screaming, ‘Save your red paint for Anna Wintour!’

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.

7 comments

  1. I feel the same way. To want to wear fake fur is to show that you appreciate the beauty of the real fur of animals and want to emulate/copy it. That is one hundred percent different than ripping the actual skin off their back and using that to adorn yourself. The unfortunate thing is that in today’s societies, there are still a frustrating few who will choose to wear real fur despite the horrendous cruelty that it supports. And those of us that would otherwise like to wear fake fur, are left unable to, because, like you say, we realize that our fake fur will be grossly mistaken for real fur. And the last thing I would ever want to do is unintentionally promote the idea that real fur is beautiful, anywhere other than on its original owner – the animal. Today, indeed I choose not to wear any fur or fur trim at all.

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  2. There is nothing unethical about wearing fur. Preaching morality, especially with ignorance as a basis, to others is unethical. The videos you mention on the Internet are provided by groups that are not motivated by honesty, objectivity, or reality. They are motivated by their own self professed hatred, and history has plenty of lessons about what happens when people believe and blindly follow such groups.

    Most furs do NOT come from wild sources such as trapping. The majority of furs come from farming. Nations such as Canada, America, and those in Scandinavia have very strict standards regarding animal welfare and these nations provide the vast majority of fur that are used to manufacture the coats (usually the coats are manufactured in China with the fur coming from the North America and Scandinavia, and then re-imported back to North America and Europe for sale). The notion that animals are somehow “skinned alive” is nothing short of absolutely laughable and glaringly shows how ignorant and gullible people can be. They proclaim it as if they have actually been to a farm and seen it first hand! Do you honestly believe that everything you see on the Internet is true? Try skinning a mink alive, and just be sure to have an orthopedic surgeon available so he can assemble the pieces together and reattach your hand to your arm. Abused or neglected animals do not produce quality fur.

    As far as the treatment of individuals such as Anna Wintour by these zealot animal rights groups, do you also sanction the same treatment of preaching morality via harassment and intimidation to homosexuals too? Dan Matthews of PeTA is gay. What would you and others say if an anti-gay group used the same tactics of preaching morality by force and intimidation to Dan Matthews and other gays? How is one hateful and the other so-called free speech?

    If you don’t want to wear fur, fine, make your own choice. However, it is just that, your choice, so let others decide freely for themselves.

    It’s no surprise that those who boldly preach their morality to others lack the courage to live their own lives free from the fear of what others think.

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  3. “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.”

    You’re paranoid. Most people at York wouldn’t say “boo” to a goose. I think you’re also overstimating the extent to which people care about what you wear! I wouldn’t give a second glance to someone wearing fur; it’s hardly cutting edge.

    Next winter, should it be cold enough, I fully intend to lord around campus in my floor-length coat of squirrel. It is inherited- and from the days before every home in the U.K. had central heating- so I can hardly be held responsible for (JA:) “ripping the/skin off (animals’) backs”. But even if it had been made to order for me, it is still nobody else’s business what I choose to wear.

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  4. The only problem I have with fur is when animals are skinned alive for it. If they are killed humanely and skinned for a product it is a more than valid way of doing an animal justice arguably more so than eating it.

    That said however, it is proving very hard to sell fur in the UK any more because of the stigma wrongly attached to it. My grandmother has a few very nice mink coats but cannot sell them to ny potential wearers because people over-react so much when one is cited wearing fur. My word, imagine if she bumped into Heather Mills in the street.

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  5. Of course if the slaughter method is unnecessarily cruel it needs changing right away.

    I for one cannot trust the anti-abuse lobby much anymore. Shame, seeing as I agree with the majority of their causes, especially with regards to foie gras and factory farming.

    But surely if it’s done humanely there’s nothing worse about fur than leather. Or even meat?

    Ultimately it’s an issue of personal freedom to purchase a legal product. The anti lobby must respect this freedom and not terrorise people for making a choice.

    Anti smoking groups don’t feel the need to letterbomb smokers, or hold violent protests outside every shop that stocks cigarettes, for example. There’s clearly an agenda beyond animal welfare for many of these activists. For many, it’s personal – about making a statement against an individual, or even a class-based protest against anyone extravagant enough to spend money on furs.

    And i agree with dan, people shouldnt have to be afraid of over-reaction to an item of clothing. And heather mills is the lowest of the low. Don’t even start me on that scumbag. I’d be ranting all day!

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  6. 22 Nov ’08 at 1:19 pm

    N. du Plessis

    I’m going to keep on posting this info for the uninformed until they finally get it:

    What many people don’t realise is that most of the fur that gets exported to the West comes from China. Now this is where the problem lies:

    1.) China has no animal welfare laws whatsoever.
    2.) Among animals such as foxes, raccoons and mink, they also skin dogs and cats alive. Yes, you heard me right. They skin them alive! You may think it’s an urban legend, but it is completely true. Just Google ‘chinese fur trade’ and you’ll see for yourself.
    3.) The dog and cat fur is marketed to the West as faux fur/rabbit fur/fur with exotic sounding names.
    You might be wearing a coat that contains dog fur and not even be aware of it.
    4.) The barbaric Chinese fur industry is going strong as we speak and it won’t stop until people STOP BUYING FUR.
    6.) China skins up to 2 million dogs and cats every year.
    7.)China is the biggest exporter of fur globally.

    And if you still don’t believe me, just watch this disgusting footage:

    (Please copy and paste into your browser.)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueBWi8BL0PQ

    And another thing, the above video is not an isolated case. This sickening stuff is happening on a daily basis.

    And for anyone that says these are hoaxes: Come out from underneath the rock you’ve been living and OPEN YOUR EYES! I STRONGLY URGE YOU TO WATCH THE VIDEO.
    There is no room for this barbaric trade in the 21st century and the same goes for ignorant people!
    And if you’re still stubborn: THE EU HAS VOTED TO BAN THE CAT AND DOG FUR TRADE IN 2009. Now why would they do that if all this is untrue propaganda?

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  7. Being heavily involved with a reenacmtent group, we frequently use fur and leather in a quest for authenticity during our shows. We use rabbit, sheep, deer and fox mainly both to wear and to put on the floors of our tents.
    Those of us who own these pelts purchase them from trade fairs where we are careful to ask about the ethical policies of the traders. All of the fur that I own is by-products of the food and cull trade. Contrary to what animal rights activists would have you believe, not all fur is cruel. Surely if the fur has been taken from an animal that has already been killed for its meat then using something else it produces is better than leaving it to waste.
    Also, I have never heard anyone protesting about leather use, surely this is just the same thing minus the fluffy bit?

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