First Ladies Who Don’t Wear Fur
The snow has melted (thanks be!), the daffodils and forsythia are blooming, and spring has definitely sprung. So you’re probably not thinking of winter clothes anymore. But ‘tis the season for all things winter to go on sale, and that includes the most cruel of fashion accents, fur.
We in Maryland can be proud that our first lady, Katie O’Malley doesn’t wear fur. And neither does the country’s first lady, Michelle Obama, nor the first lady of France, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. There are, in fact, quite a few first ladies who shun fur, as this column by Laura Vozzella of the Baltimore Sun points out. Someone you might call the first lady of television, Oprah Winfrey, is also in the no-fur group; so is Candace Parker of the WNBA.
I expect this entry to generate some heat, and so be it, but before anyone weighs in, I think the facts are in order. First of all, you can easily get a wide variety of fake fur clothing and accessories these days that look as good as the real thing and are nearly as warm (we don’t live in Siberia; you don’t need to bundle up against sub-zero temperatures). Fabulous Furs, whose products are made of acrylic, is one purveyor. Prefurs is another.
Second, the claim that “animals are raised for this purpose” is disingenuous at best and willfully ignorant at worst. The vast majority of commercial fur these days comes from abroad, especially China, as you can see when you look at a label that indicates “fur of imported origin” or just plain “imported.” There are little to no regulations about how animals are treated. But no matter where the fur comes from, the conditions under which these animals are killed are simply horrific. They do not go gently into this or any other good night. They are brutally beaten and stomped on to render them dazed but not unconscious, and they are often skinned alive. By the hundreds of thousands.
This is torture, pure and simple, and no amount of prettied-up euphemism or slick marketing can change that.
If you’re going to wear fur, you should at least know what it is you’re wearing and the gruesome reality of how it got to market. Many people who coo and fuss over their pets and would never think of hurting them turn a blind eye when it comes to mink, fox, raccoon, rabbit, beaver, bear, and on and on. And since labels in the U.S. don’t even have to indicate what kind of fur is being used, you might be buying fur from Fido or Muffy that’s being passed off as something else—not that it should matter: skinning a wolf or raccoon alive is just as barbaric and unconscionable as doing the same to a cat or dog.
Quoting from the Humane Society: “On fur factory farms and squalid backyard operations around the world, over 45 million animals, including raccoon dogs, rabbits, foxes, mink, and chinchillas, spend their short lives in tiny wire cages until they are killed by methods such as neck-breaking and anal electrocution.”
Amidst all the uproar over Michael Vick and his former hobby, there was nary a peep about the cruelty the rest of us are party to if we wear, or support the wearing of, fur.
The Humane Society of the United States has a lot more info on this topic if you’re interested.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few more points of controversy. There are many people who believe that even the wearing of fake fur is indefensible because it’s giving the impression that one is wearing real fur. This is, obviously, debatable. I wear a faux mink coat from Fabulous Furs that I make a point of telling people is fake, to spread the word that you can have a beautiful look without brutally slaughtering animals. Second, there are many vintage fashion lovers who believe that wearing vintage is the only responsible way to wear fur. Again, debatable. Sensible argument or self-serving rationalization? I have several cashmere sweaters with mink collars from the 1950s that I bought on eBay years ago. My rationale is that if it was created before I was born (1957), I’ll wear it. If after, I won’t.
But I’m starting to rethink even that stance. What, after all, constitutes “vintage”? How old? What about someone born in 1970? Or 1985? Or 1990? Or beyond? If she wears fur clothing that was manufactured before she was born, what difference does that make? You still have an infinite loop. The fur that’s skinned off a living creature today will, someday, be on an article of clothing manufactured before somebody else out there was born. So maybe this position is rank hypocrisy.
On the other hand, if, hypothetically, all slaughter of fur-bearing animals were stopped today, we’d still have millions of pieces of clothing with fur. Should we build a bonfire and destroy them all? Would that be a logical, humane position in keeping with a declaration to not wear fur?
And what about leather? It, too, comes from animals. Cat slaughterhouses in the Philippines and dog slaughterhouses in Thailand are also horrific places—30,000 animals a month are killed there. The skins from these countries end up in the U.S. and Europe as well as Asia. When we buy a leather bag or leather shoes or leather gloves, what are we really buying? (There are now many places to buy fake-leather-but-feels-as-good-as-the-real-thing, as I wrote about here, and more are cropping up all the time.)
It’s a lot to think about. But ignorance, in this case, is not bliss. It’s better to think about this stuff and make up one’s own mind than to follow along blindly and pretend these things don’t exist. Please leave your comments below.