Is It Ever Okay To Wear Fur?

It’s a fashion trend that comes at the cost of my clean conscience.

It’s one of the big paradoxes of my life: I love animals and would never do any harm to them (I even catch spiders in my apartment and release them outside), but at the same time I’m a carnivore, wear leather bags and shoes, and have even worn real fur before. I am well aware this could be considered hypocritical, and it is something that has been playing on my mind for quite some time now.

I was brought up in a family of meat lovers, so going vegetarian would be a big leap for me. However, I have yet to decide if I am okay with wearing fur, considering the animal cruelty that is apparently involved in making fur clothes. So far I haven’t given the issue too much thought, as the only piece of fur I own is a trim on a winter jacket. It’s the softest, warmest, most luxurious-looking jacket I’ve ever worn, and I love it, but I admit I have no idea where the fur came from.

As someone who writes about fashion for a living, I see beautiful fur coats, vests and accessories all the time and can’t deny I would love to wear the plush material more often myself. However, I don’t want to support animal cruelty, which is why I was determined to find a way to buy and wear fur that is sustainable and ethical.

Most people would say that’s impossible, and I understand why, considering the overwhelming amount of shocking videos and articles about fur farms, mainly produced by PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals). The animal rights organization is arguably most famous for its drastic activists’ attacks, which often involve throwing red paint on fur lovers’ clothes.

Many celebrities support PETA and have bared it all in the company’s famous “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaigns, one of them being Khloe Kardashian. However, when her sister Kim got flour-bombed by one of PETA’s activists in 2012, Khloe cancelled her contract with the animal rights group, saying “Bullying and harassment is NEVER a solution and I won’t be a part of any organization that thinks otherwise”. Khloe had previously explained she changed her mind about wearing fur after watching some of PETA’s graphic videos about how fur clothes are made.

Sharon Osbourne had a similar experience and joined PETA earlier this year. Osbourne has been vocal about the fur issue for some years now and famously boycotted Louis Vuitton back in 2010, saying “Louis Vuitton foxtail handbag accessories make me sick. Please do not purchase those! It’s heinous.”

One of the most passionate celebrity activists for animal rights is actor Joaquin Phoenix. In 2005, he narrated the documentary Earthlings, which portrays humanity’s use of other animals as pets, food, clothing, entertainment, and for scientific research. He has starred in various videos for PETA, uncovering such cruel topics as China’s dog-leather trade.

I have yet to find the courage to actually watch the disturbing videos, as I know they would make me extremely upset. Even just reading about the common practises that are involved in making fur clothes makes me feel sick. Animals are kept in tiny wire cages and filthy conditions all their lives before being killed in a way that will leave their pelt intact, such as genital electrocution or poison resulting in slow, painful deaths.

According to PETA, 85 per cent of the fur industry’s products come from unethical farms, and more than 50 million animals are killed for their fur every year. The majority of designer labels, such as Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Gucci, frequently use fur in their collections, but when I tried to find out where their fur comes from, I couldn’t find anything but defensive comments from designers like Karl Lagerfeld saying the industry is “much more regulated” now.

It would be naive to believe these big fashion houses source their furs from ethical farms and from animals that are free to roam around and live a wonderful long life before dying happy – of course that’s not the case. But does such a thing as ethical fur even exist? One thing’s for sure, it’s not a yes or no answer.

About 15 per cent of the world’s fur used in clothing comes from wild fur. Species that are overpopulated, such as beavers and raccoons, are controlled by wildlife management groups, who trap and kill a certain amount of animals in order to protect the ecological balance. Some people argue that because these animals would be killed anyway, it’s okay to use their fur for clothes.

While I agree wild fur trumps farmed fur in many ways, I am not convinced of the cruelty-free factor, as some sources suggest trapping methods can be extremely painful for animals, although official sites claim animals are “killed virtually instantly in quick-killing traps”.

So what other options does someone like me, who would love to wear fur as long as it’s ethically sourced, have? The answer might be roadkill fur. When Pamela Paquin noticed an overwhelming number of dead animals on the side of the roads near her home, she decided to give the animals’ deaths a purpose and started creating fur accessories from the roadkills’ pelts. Calling her items “accidental furs”, Paquin now sells muffs, scarves and hats through her Etsy shop.

It’s a great idea, and considering millions of animals get killed by cars every year, there is definitely enough supply. Of course, this kind of fur sourcing is better suited for smaller items; it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever get a coat made from roadkill, as you’ll need large amounts of the same fur for bigger items of clothing.

So where do I get my ethical fur coat from? The answer might be my grandmother’s closet. I understand wearing vintage fur doesn’t make it 100 per cent ethical, as I wouldn’t have a clue where the fur came from, but I am not against it for the simple reason that wearing an old fur coat doesn’t support the production of new ones and thus farming of fur-bearing animals.

I know some people would argue that wearing any kind of fur, whether it’s new, vintage or from roadkill, perpetuates the trend of wearing fur, thereby supporting the fur industry as such, and while they might be right, I think this opinion is only reasonable if you live a vegan lifestyle and don’t indulge in any animal products, whether it’s food, leather or even cosmetics that are tested on animals.

To all true vegans reading this, you have my highest respect. We should never make animals suffer, no matter the reason or purpose. I don’t know if I’ll ever wear a fur coat, but I sure as hell know I will never buy one.

Comment: What’s your opinion on this highly controversial topic?