Earlier this week, I saw a feature on a BBC programe. It appears that many items being sold as ‘fake fur’ are nothing of the sort. They are real fur. Unimaginably, it appears that raising animals in awful conditions, then killing them for their fur, is cheaper than producing the fibres needed to simulate it as fake fur. The TV show had distressing images of rabbits and Raccoon Dogs (I had never heard of Raccoon Dogs) being kept in abysmal conditions. Crammed into wire cages, and stacked on top of each other. As well as coming from the Far East, this animal fur is also widely produced in Poland, a member of the EU.
Is it used to provide warmth at least? Perhaps to help people who live in very cold places survive harsh winters. Of course not. It merely provides decoration. Bobbles for beanie hats, facings on sweaters, and adornment on the sides of handbags or on the toes of high-heeled shoes. Those poor animals endure pitiful lives, painful deaths, and all for something that serves no purpose on top of a winter hat, or fashionable bag. That’s appalling.
But when I woke up today, I was thinking of a time when fur was not only desirable, but acceptable in the mainstream. A time when my aunties coveted a fox-fur stole, worn around their neck with the head of the poor creature still attached. Fashion. Fur collars on the overcoats of wealthy gentlemen. Fashion. Chinchilla-fur wraps covering the shoulders of starlets, who never walked outside anyway. And let’s not forget the mink coats, the ultimate symbol of sexuality and wealth; worn by film-stars, and the girlfriends of sugar daddies all around the world. Worn in the heat of a Californian summer, not the desolate wastelands of Siberia. White Arctic Fox, one of nature’s most beautiful animals, Reduced to a bolero jacket discarded at the entrance to a film festival in the south of France.
The poor made do with dyed rabbit skins, even dog fur. But they still had their furs. Fashion.
Then came the backlash, and rightly so. Protesters threw blood or red paint at models and actresses wearing fur. They mounted permanent demonstrations outside shops selling furs in big cities like London. We signed petitions against the fur trade, and the companies began to listen. Over the decades, they changed to fake fur, using man-made materials. These eventually became so convincing, only an expert could tell the difference between the two. Fashion was changing, and reflecting the sympathies of a better-informed public. A public learning respect for the small animals previously bred for an early death, and just for their skins.
Now it is 2018, and you might have hoped that the fur trade was a memory, outside of places in certain countries where there is little or no alternative for warm clothing. But profit rules, and if it’s cheaper to kill a rabbit to provide a bobble for a hat, or slaughter a Raccoon Dog to have some bits of fluff to stick on the front of some high-heeled shoes, than to use commercially-available alternatives. Market forces rule, and the animals are being caged and killed once again, in ever-increasing numbers.
I am not a vegetarian, I hasten to add. And I wear leather shoes, as well as owning leather furniture. But when it comes to breeding animals for adornments to woolen hats, shoes, or handbags, then surely that is a step too far in animal exploitation?
Let me know what you think about the Fur Trade.
And if you feel inclined to do so, please share this post on social media, to spread the word that fake fur is mostly real fur.