Six months ago, we kicked off our Great Fur Burial to compare degradation rates of real and fake fur. Here’s what we buried: mink on the left, fake fur on the right. How do they look now?
The fur industry is proud of the many ways in which fur is eco-friendly, including that after decades of use, it biodegrades. In contrast, when fake fur made from petrochemicals reaches the end of its useful, and typically very short, life, it goes in a landfill where it will sit until the end of time. Or will it? In pursuit of knowledge and truth, we decided to do a little experiment: the Great Fur Burial.
On May 14, we took a mink stole and a fake fur vest, cut them into equal-sized pieces, and buried them. Above is how the pieces looked on burial day. The plan was that after 3 months, 6 months, and then once a year for five years, we would unearth two pieces of the mink and fake fur to compare degradation rates. This experiment is hardly scientific, but it only has to show one thing: do they rot, or not?
Let’s start our November news roundup by celebrating the trapping victory in Montana. Bill i-177, which would have prohibited the use of animal traps on public lands, was voted down. Well done Montanans!
In other trapping news, raccoons are part of a legal battle in New Jersey, with animal rights activists fighting against the use of enclosed foothold traps. Did we mention these raccoons are rabid? Let’s hope it doesn’t take a major outbreak of rabies to make this court case go away. Speaking of legal battles, there is one under way in Maine over incidental lynx trapping (see above), whereas in Canada there has been a proposed private members bill to designate May 20 as National Seal Products Day. We love this idea and give it our seal of approval.
The article included a photo of me with Maggie, my 10-year-old Golden-Lab rescue dog. In response, several readers asked, sarcastically, why I hadn’t used Maggie to trim my parka instead.
Then, in the past few weeks, activists protesting the opening of the first Canada Goose bricks-and-mortar stores – in Toronto, New York, and London (UK) – deployed the same tactic, bringing their dogs to the demos. If we are not ready to use our pets for fur, they argued, how can we justify using coyotes?
At first glance, they raise an interesting dilemma: since Maggie and the coyote are both canines, it seems morally inconsistent to love and pamper one while killing and “exploiting” the other. But is it really?
Here are five reasons why my dog is not a coyote, and why wearing fur is not like wearing your pet:
Fur farming in the US is subject to a host of government regulations which it then interprets in developing strict industry standards. Photo: Fur Commission USA.
“Fur farms in the U.S. are the only sector of animal agriculture unregulated by the federal government,” charges People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. And it’s no throwaway statement either, making it onto PETA’s list of Nine Shocking Fur Facts. When presented with no context, the casual reader will conclude that US fur farming is unregulated, period. But this could not be further from the truth.
The trick employed by PETA here relies on the fact that most readers will only see “unregulated by the government”, and not even register the word “federal”.
In common with all livestock in the US, almost every aspect of furbearers’ lives comes under the jurisdiction of state departments of agriculture, not the federal government. State departments of agriculture are, of course, still government bodies, and love regulating just as much as the federal government. So are fur farms regulated by government? You bet they are, but – like most of animal agriculture – mostly by state and municipal governments.
Where the federal government does get involved in livestock production is in regulating the slaughter of animals raised for food, because there are human health concerns. Since farmed mink and fox are not produced or sold for human consumption, their production (including euthanasia) is mostly the responsibility of state governments.
One of the arguments I hear over and over again is that fur is wrong because we are killing animals “for fashion”. Fur’s main purpose is not for fashion and I think it is time to set the record straight about why the majority of us wear fur.
Furs from Neiman Marcus: a sable coat from Oscar de la Renta (left), and a mink jacket from Gorski (right). Both look good, but their primary purpose is to keep the wearer warm.
Defined as “A popular or the latest style of clothing, hair, decoration, or behavior” (Oxford Dictionary), fashion is constantly changing. When someone buys something to be fashionable, it is usually an item of clothing – or an accessory – whose life-cycle as a fashionable product is relatively short. That print, silhouette, or shape that is considered fashionable today is probably not going to be so next season or next year. On the other hand, classic clothing could be considered as wardrobe staples that do not follow trends and can be worn for many years. Would you not consider fur to fit into the latter? Fur coats are made to last and while some may be considered fashionable, nearly all are designed to have some degree of longevity.
Modesty and Protection
Let’s consider the purpose of clothing. We wear clothing for a lot of reasons, sometimes it is for fashion, other times status, or for identification purposes (a uniform, for example). But the majority of us wear clothing primarily for modesty and for protection from the elements.
Fur plays a huge role in protecting us from the elements. The majority of human beings live in climates where it is necessary to wear clothing throughout the year to protect ourselves from the sun, rain, wind, and cold. We have many options when the weather turns cold, and we have discussed the unintended consequences of wearing synthetics here.
Have you ever wanted to buy vintage fur? If you’ve ever been to a secondhand store or an antiques market, you’ll know that there is a huge selection of beautiful furs available for sale. Whether you are an eco fashion warrior who tries to choose secondhand, or a new fur coat is out of budget for you, secondhand furs can be an excellent way to add newness (and warmth) to your winter wardrobe. If you choose to go vintage, then there are a few things you need to consider before making your purchase.
Here are our tips on avoiding moths, dry rot, and tears when shopping for your next piece of vintage fur.
• If the fur has a yellow tinge, then it means it is oxidized. The discolouration shouldn’t turn you off buying a fur if it is a great piece, but it does affect the colour of the pelts. Look for the yellow tinge on the areas that are exposed to the sun, for example the shoulders, and the sleeves.
• If the fur and its leather have a brittle feel, then do not buy it. Fur and its leather should be soft and supple and skins that have dried out or have dry rot tend to be brittle and crunchy.
Montana trapping is under threat. All sportsmen should pull together to protect this right.
The time of year is approaching when the main thing on many people’s minds is trapping. But we aren’t just talking about where and when to go trapping, or what to say to your boss if you want to skip work to go trapping. We’re also talking about a very important Montana trapping ballot coming up on Nov. 8. If it passes, it will ban trapping on the state’s public lands. Vote Clinton or vote Trump, that’s your decision, but please make sure you vote NO on i-177. The campaign has been primarily funded by out-of-state animal rights groups. If they win this, they’ll be one step closer to banning all trapping and hunting, and to their ultimate goal of making us all vegan. We’re serious, that is their goal.