The following essay appeared recently in the Toronto Star (Canada’s largest circulation newspaper), as the pro-fur side of a debate… Read More
The following essay appeared recently in the Toronto Star (Canada’s largest circulation newspaper), as the pro-fur side of a debate on whether banning the sale of fur apparel and accessoriesis justifiable.
If we look at facts, those of us who care about the environment, ethical lifestyles, and social justice should promote natural fur, not seek to ban it. Let's review some of the reasons why wearing fur makes sense for anyone wishing to embrace a sustainable and responsible way of living.
Fur today is produced responsibly and sustainably. Only abundant furs are used, never endangered species. This is assured by provincial/state, federal and international regulations.
In the wild, most species produce more offspring than their habitat can support to maturity. Animals that don’t make it feed others, and we too can use part of this natural surplus. This is an excellent example of “the sustainable use of renewable natural resources”, a cornerstone of the World Conservation Strategy.
There is little waste. Many fur animals – especially beavers and muskrats -- provide food for trappers and their families. Others are returned to the woods to feed birds, mice, and other animals. And because fur is “prime” in late Fall/Winter when the young of the year are already autonomous, activist claims that coyotes or other animals leave behind “starving pups” are nonsense.
Many furbearers would be culled even if we didn’t use fur. Overpopulated beavers flood property. Coyotes are top predators of lambs, calves and, increasingly, pets. Raccoons and foxes spread rabies and other diseases ... the list goes on. But if we must cull some of these animals to maintain a balance, surely it is more ethical to use the fur than to throw it away?
Trappers take animal-welfare responsibilities very seriously: Canada is the world leader in humane trapping research, and traps are certified to conform with the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards. Trapping is also strictly regulated in the US, under state “Best Practices” provisions.
Fur farmers – producing more than half the fur in North America -- follow codes of practice to ensure their animals receive excellent nutrition and care. Farms are certified to confirm that codes are followed, and farmers may be charged for animal cruelty if they are not. In any case, providing proper care is the only way to produce high-quality fur.
Farmed mink recycle left-overs from our own food production
– parts of cows, chickens and fish that we don’t eat and might otherwise clog
landfills. Manure, straw bedding, and other farm wastes are composted to
produce high-quality organic fertilizer, completing the agricultural nutrient
In contrast to mass-produced “fast fashion”, each fur garment or accessory is crafted individually by artisans, maintaining skills passed from father to son or daughter. Furs are preserved (“dressed”) using alum salts, lanolin, and other benign chemicals; the activist claim that “a World Bank report cited fur dressing as polluting” is simply not true. Furthermore, furs come in a wide range of natural colours, minimizing the need for dyes.
Fur is long-lasting, recyclable, and after decades of service can be thrown into the garden compost. Compare that with fake fur and other synthetics: generally made from petrochemicals, they are not biodegradable and leach micro-particles of plastic into our waterways when washed -- plastics that are now being found in marine life. Cruelty-free indeed!
Fur, however, is the activists’ designated scapegoat. Perhaps because fur is often associated with glamour and wealth? But most fur producers are not wealthy or glamorous. The ugly lies parroted by anti-fur activists are all the more odious because they attack the integrity and livelihoods of hard-working farm families; of First Nations and other trappers who are among the last people maintaining our North American land-based heritage; and of artisans producing warm and durable clothing with responsibly produced natural materials.
There is little public discussion of how insulting and
hurtful activist lies are for the people involved. Living far from media
centres, their voices are rarely heard. TruthAboutFur.com was created to help
bridge that gap.
No one is obliged to wear fur, but each of us should have
the right to make this decision for ourselves. Especially because animal
activists now oppose any use of animals. The same misleading and insulting
arguments and tactics used against fur are now being mustered against wearing
leather, silk and wool; against eating meat or dairy products. Shall all these
products be banned as well?
Each of us can decide where we draw the line, these are
personal choices. But if you believe it’s ethical to use animal products that
are produced responsibly and sustainably, you can wear fur with pride.
To learn more about donating to Truth About Fur, click here.
Those who follow this blog know that I have written often about why banning fur sales – as California did… Read More
Those who follow this blog know that I have written often about why banning fur sales – as California did recently - is a really bad idea. I have repeatedly argued that banning fur makes no sense economically, socially, ecologically, or ethically. After more than 30 years of writing about fur, you wouldn’t think there was much to add. Then I read a remarkable new book about rare-earth elements and the dark underbelly of our much-vaunted “green transition”.
In his French-language book La Guerre des Métaux Rares* ("The Rare Metals War"), journalist Guillaume Pitron reveals the hidden face of our society’s emerging energetic and digital transformation. How is this related to fur? Well, I think it’s fair to say that the current trendiness of anti-fur rhetoric is part of a much broader rejection of all things "messy". That includes raising and killing animals, cutting trees, digging stuff out of the earth, and burning fossil fuels. Stuff produced by rural working people with calloused hands and dirt under their fingernails.
The cool kids now feel much more comfortable with the clean slickness of computer screens and iPhones, and with lightweight, throwaway fashions. Yes, these pretty things usually involve petroleum in the making of many of their parts, but they don’t look it, so why spoil a good story?
As for the energy to power our fast-paced society, its bye-bye to dirty coal-burning power-plants and smelly combustion engines; hello shiny new solar panels and whooshing wind turbines. And this is only the beginning. New digital “smart” technology will soon direct “clean” energy when and where we need it, eliminating waste, creating wealth, and improving human health. The future looks bright!
Goodbye Coal, Hello Rare Earths
Not so fast, warns Pitron. All our slick new “green” technology relies on a group of some 30 rare metals with exotic names like vanadium, cerium, gallium, and lutetium. While the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century was powered by coal, to fire steam engines, and the 20th century by petroleum, to fuel internal combustion engines, the 21st century’s “green transition” in fact depends upon vanadium, germanium, platinoids, tungsten, antimony, beryllium, rhonium, and niobium. These rare metals have extraordinary magnetic, conductive, and other properties that lie at the heart of our current digital and renewable energy revolution.
These metals are indeed rare compared to iron, copper, nickel and other metals that supported our society until now. Only 600 tonnes of gallium are produced per year compared with 15 million tonnes of copper. And only 160,000 tonnes of rare-earth elements are produced annually, compared with about 2 billion tonnes of iron.
Not only do rare metals occur in very small quantities, but considerable refining is required to extract them: eight tonnes of ore must be crushed to extract one kilogram of vanadium; 16 tonnes to produce one kilo of cerium; 50 tonnes for a single kilo of gallium ... and 1,200 tonnes of ore for one kilo of lutetium.
To put it another way, only 0.8 milligrams of lutetium can be extracted from one kilogram of ore.
And there’s the rub. To extract these remarkable minerals from their ores, huge quantities of rock must be crushed and then dissolved with strong chemicals, including sulphuric and nitric acids. And because rare-earth elements are usually closely fused with other materials, these highly-toxic and polluting operations must be repeated multiple times to refine the pure metals. This is one reason why most of the world’s rare-earth elements are produced in remote parts of China, Africa and South America - far from the prying eyes of the media and environmental protection groups.
Pitron’s research took him, at considerable personal risk, to Inner Mongolia and other parts of China where much of the world’s rare-earth elements is produced. He saw great lakes of effluent-polluted water from the refineries, and heard from local people about crop failures and shockingly high rates of cancer and other diseases. Did I mention that every tonne of ore processed requires at least 200 cubic metres of water?
Cobalt from Congo
The situation is no better in the so-called Democratic Republic of Congo, an important producer of cobalt and other rare metals, where children do much of the most dangerous work. These mines too are now often owned by Chinese companies – as they are in many other countries. In fact, China has quietly achieved overwhelming dominance in the production of the rare metals upon which our new digital and electronic society increasingly depends, raising security concerns as well as economic and ecological ones.
China is now leveraging its control of rare metals both to produce and consume the new technologies they support. The Middle Kingdom already produces four-fifths of the world’s electric car batteries, and while representing only 20% of the world’s population, will soon account for 60% of electric cars. (Ironically, three-quarters of the electricity needed to run these “green” cars in China is produced by burning fossil fuels, especially coal! The same is true in India, the world’s most populous nation.)
Yes, Pitron acknowledges, rare metals could theoretically be
produced with better environmental controls – while enhancing national security
-- if production was ramped up in Western countries. But that would be costly -
who wants to pay more for their iPhone or laptop? - and environmental groups
strongly resist any attempt to increase mining activity in the West, a
hypocritical stance that Pitron challenges them to confront more honestly.
In fact, the much-touted “clean and green transition" is really a smokescreen for shifting pollution off-shore. Solar energy, wind turbines, electric cars and digital “smart” technologies are all based on the unregulated exploitation of rare metals that is trashing the environment and hurting people in faraway places we rarely talk about.
And this environmental damage will only get worse. Our “green transition" will require doubling the production of rare metals every 15 years. Over the next 30 years – in a single generation – we will rip more minerals from the Earth’s crust than we have done over the past 70,000 years of our existence on this planet!
So what are political leaders in California doing in response to the crises being generated by these new technologies? They're banning fur, a responsibly produced and truly renewable natural resource.
The new “clean" energy produced by windmills and solar panels is anything but. (Ask the people in the Baotou region of Inner Mongolia where thorium levels are 36 times higher than acceptable levels.) But even if extraction were better regulated, our “renewable” energy technologies are really based on the rapidly accelerating exploitation of rare metals – a non-renewable resource!
California as a whole, and Silicon Valley in particular, is of course the heartland of these supposedly “green” new technologies. So what are political leaders in California doing in response to the emerging environmental, social, economic and security crises being generated by these new technologies, of which their state is a major proponent and beneficiary? They're banning fur, a responsibly produced and truly renewable natural resource.
City’s Fur Ban an “Unconstitutional Attack on Consumer Rights” The International Fur Federation (IFF) has launched litigation to prevent San… Read More
City’s Fur Ban an “Unconstitutional Attack on Consumer Rights”
The International Fur Federation (IFF) has launched litigation to prevent San Francisco from implementing a city ordinance banning the sale of fur. The ordinance, passed in 2018, gave existing department stores until Jan. 1, 2020, to sell off their remaining fur stock and prohibits the sale of newly manufactured fur coats, hats, gloves, fur-trimmed parkas, and other products.
The lawsuit, filed on January 13, argues San Francisco has “no legitimate local interest to ban fur sales” and that the ordinance is an “unconstitutional restriction on interstate and foreign commerce”.
“In an attempt to legislate morality, Supervisor Katy Tang,
sponsor of the ban, stated that businesses ‘need to get with the times.’ Yet
the current times do not allow for ignoring the Constitution’s prohibition on
restraining interstate commerce,” said Mike Brown, the IFF’s CEO for North
“Proponents of San Francisco’s fur ban, including the
radical animal rights group PETA, also want the sale of leather, wool, and
other animal products to be banned,” said Brown.
Contrary to San Francisco city council claims, fur products remain popular with consumers in that city and nationwide. Fur sales in San Francisco alone are estimated to be $40 million annually. Globally, the fur industry is a $23 billion business. A 2019 Gallup poll also confirmed that a majority of Americans believe that it is morally acceptable to wear fur.
While fur producers worldwide are complying with the humane standards under the IFF’s new FurMark program, San Francisco’s fur ban is so extreme that it blocks even humanely certified products. FurMark is a certification program to provide consumers with assurance about animal welfare and sustainability standards in place for the production of fur products in North America and Europe.
The San Francisco fur ban is completely arbitrary and creates a troubling precedent for other responsibly produced animal products. “If this law is allowed to stand, there’s nothing stopping San Francisco from banning wool, leather, meat, or other products that a small group of activists don’t approve of,” said Mark Oaten, CEO of the IFF.
“Californians should have no fewer rights than residents of other states. They should be free to buy legally produced goods unless there is a public safety or health issue - which does not exist here,” said Oaten.
Counter-Productive in Fight Against Pollution
Along with harming local businesses, San Francisco’s fur ban
will have unintended consequences that damage California’s efforts to fight
pollution, because the “fake fur” alternatives to natural fur are made with
petroleum. Research is showing that these synthetics shed microfibers into the
waterways when they are cleaned. Plastic microfibers are now even being found
in marine life. A single garment can shed 100,000 microfibers in the wash.
“Plastic microfibers are a leading cause of ocean pollution, in San Francisco Bay and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The National Science Foundation recently announced that microplastics may be 1 million times more prevalent than previously estimated,” said Oaten.
The IFF lawsuit is the latest in a string of legal challenges to California’s attempt to legislate “morality”. The state of Louisiana and a coalition of members of the alligator/crocodile supply chain have sued California over its ban on alligator and crocodile products, which was slated to take effect Jan. 1. As a result, a temporary stay was imposed on the implementation of this ban.
The fur industry’s legal challenge zeroes in on the constitutionality of state and municipal fur bans in California under the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. Additionally, legal experts believe US states cannot arbitrarily ban products from foreign countries from being sold under free-trade treaties such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. The IFF lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. Los Angeles and the California state legislature also passed fur bans in 2019, but they do not take effect for several years.
“California’s fur bans are an arbitrary assault on consumer choice and retail businesses," said Brown. "These laws ban a responsibly and legally produced natural product from the marketplace simply because certain special interests don’t like the product. This is a startling precedent, to impose the morality of specific groups onto all citizens. There is no legitimate issue of public health and safety behind fur bans - simply a belief by some lawmakers that they don’t like fur, and therefore no one should be allowed to buy it."
Kwasny set out to “investigate the history and ongoing
relationship forged between humans and the nonhuman animals whom we still
depend on to clothe and adorn us.” In this quest, she says, “one of my goals
has been to meet and learn from people who spend their lives working with these
animals – hunters, trappers, farmers, ranchers and shepherds – and find
out what their experience can teach the
rest of us in a broader sense about our place in nature.”
She also sought to explore the “time-consuming process of
making and, therefore, interacting with the material these animals provide, by
hearing from tanners, spinners, weavers, sewers, dyers, and artisans of all
What does it mean, she asks, for us as consumers (and as
individuals) to have lost connection with the source of our clothing, now that
few of us make our own anymore?
“Putting on the dog” is an American expression meaning to get dressed up for a special occasion, perhaps derived from the stiff “dog collar” shirts once worn for formal events at Yale University. Kwasny finds it an appropriate title for her book because it reminds us that the materials animals provide “are precious, given that they often require the loss of an animal’s life and hours of care from those humans who have hunted it, raised it, and crafted painstakingly elegant and practical things from it.”
What follows is a fascinating voyage into the world of six important animal products: leather (including sheepskin), wool (including cashmere, angora, and mohair), silk, feathers (including down), pearls, and fur. Her voyage takes her – and us -- from Alaska’s tundra to sheep farms atop Montana’s Continental Divide, from silkworm farms in northern Japan to a mink farm on Denmark’s western coast, and to pearl beds in the Sea of Cortes.
Her first stop is a visit to a Yu’pik community in Alaska where she considers the aboriginal understanding of how animals “give themselves” to the hunter. “The worst thing is to not appreciate that gift or to turn it down,” she writes. For the Yupiit – like other aboriginal peoples -- making beautiful clothing from these gifts is a way to pay respect to the animals that provide them. As Barry Lopez wrote in his 1986 masterpiece Arctic Dreams, “It was the gift rather than the death that was preeminent in the Eskimo view of hunting.” (PETA take note!)
Kwasny then explores commercial leather production, tracing the process back from wholesalers and tanners, to the abattoir and cattle ranches, becoming aware of the skills, knowledge - and the animals - incarnated in that beautiful leather wallet, jacket, or pair of shoes.
The next chapter recounts the remarkable history of wool since the domestication of sheep some 8,000 years ago. As an indicator of the economic importance of wool in British history, Kwasny reminds us that the Lord Speaker of the UK's House of Lords "today literally sits on a sack of wool, the ‘Woolsack’.” The wool industry has also been good for sheep: there is now one sheep for every six people on Earth.
Kwasny visits people who are raising traditional breeds (including some that produce natural colour ranges, without dyeing), as well as artisanal spinners whose wool commands premium prices among knitters ready to pay the price to know by who and how their materials were produced. “They want to be assured their wool is ‘green’, that the processing of their wool has low impact on the earth. They like to think about what flock it comes from.” (Could that be a market trend for the fur industry to consider as we implement traceability with the International Fur Federation’s FurMark?)
At the other extreme, Kwasny exposes the impact of global demand for cheap cashmere. Over the past 50 years, the domestic goat population of Inner Mongolia has soared from about 2.4 million to more than 25.6 million, resulting in overgrazing and, in some cases, desertification of fragile grasslands.
The chapter on silk production tells a fascinating story that will be new to most of us. “No one who has heard the sound will ever forget the low all-night roar created by the munching of thousands of voracious silk worms in a Japanese mountain farm-house!” In one interesting section, producers respond to critics concerned that the silkworms - which are actually caterpillars of the silk moth - must be killed to extract their silk. About 150 silkworm cocoons are needed to produce a silk scarf or tie – and up to 9,000 cocoons for a single traditional Japanese lady’s silk kimono and undergarment. But if all the pupae were allowed to hatch into moths, silk farmers explain, there would not be enough mulberry leaves in the world to feed the next generation. In fact, after so many centuries of cultivation, silkworms have lost their ability to find food on their own, while the moths can no longer mate without help. “The silkworm is a human invention now.” Furthermore, sericulture is environment-friendly, using little energy and a fraction of the water needed to grow cotton, while mulberry trees produce oxygen and nutrients for the soil. In contrast, cotton – a vegan clothing material of choice - accounts for 3% of global water consumption and 7% of US pesticide use, Kwasny reminds us.
A chapter on the evolving use of feathers and down is equally fascinating. Ostrich feathers, Kwasny recounts, became hugely popular when Eugénie de Montijo, the last Empress of France as the wife of Emperor Napoleon III, wore one on her hat, and were worth nearly as much as diamonds (by weight) by the beginning of the 20th century. At the market’s height, in the 1890s, South Africa was feeding and plucking a million ostriches a year. (In an interesting parallel with the fur trade, more than 90% of the South African feather merchants were Jewish immigrants fleeing pogroms in Russia.) Most of these feathers went to England, centre of the global millinery trade, and when the Titanic went down in 1912, en route to New York, some 20,000 pounds of ostrich feathers sank with it. Kwasny also provides an interesting overview of modern down production, mostly for pillows and quilts but also for the lightweight coats and parkas that often include fur-trimmed hoods.
The chapter on pearls includes a short history of the industry and its current evolution, including concerns for sustainability. Who knew that pearls were the most valuable resource the Spanish found in South America, until they began mining silver in Bolivia and Peru? Or that one of the world’s most famous pearls is named La Peregrina - The Wanderer. Pear-shaped and the size of a dove’s egg, this extraordinary pearl was bought by King Phillip II of Spain (1527-1598), who designated it an official Spanish Crown Jewel. It later "wandered" to France, so gaining its name, and then England, until in 1969 it was purchased at auction by Richard Burton, for $37,000, as a Valentine’s gift for Elizabeth Taylor. In 2011 it sold for $11 million.
Grappling with Fur
The final chapter is about fur, and it is here that Kwasny clearly has the most difficulty. The chapter begins with her visit to a Danish mink farm on the Jutland coast, where she sees for herself that the animals are well cared for. Nonetheless, while perusing fashion photos, Kwasny reflects that fur seems somehow too ostentatious; no one she knows wears fur. “Conspicuous consumption seems less relevant to our lives,” she observes. To her credit, however, she wonders “how much of my attitude has been conditioned by the advertising budgets of PETA.”
What constitutes an ethical relationship with animals? she wonders. "Do I sincerely wish that there were no more mink farmers like the Kvist Jensens? Am I ready to demand the extinguishing of all such rural knowledge, of this husbandry, passed between generations, of this culture of seasons, weather, tools, the farmers’ ‘gear and tackle and trim,’ and instead offer my homage to the chemists who make each day anew our pleather and polyester and faux fur?”
Kwasny is an honest investigator, but the fur cause is not helped when a fur farmer and then an auction employee – while admitting they know nothing about it - tell her they think trapping is cruel. And while Kwasny does quote biologists, the International Fur Federation, and even my own writings to explain the environmental credentials of fur as a sustainably produced natural material, her section on trapping is perhaps the weakest. Unlike the other sections, this one is based solely on secondary sources – including claims by anti-fur groups that are left unanswered. To her credit, Kwasny does clearly report the serious environmental problems of synthetics, including fake furs.
Kwasny acknowledges that when she began her book, she knew fur would be the most difficult chapter for her to write. Though we eat meat, and wear leather, wool and silk, “fur alone brings us face to face with the fact that we need to kill for it. Fur is the least transformed of all animal products.”
Interestingly, Kwasny ends her book with a call for moderation. Everything we use comes from nature, and, contrary to PETA’s claims, she recognizes that it is not possible to live on this Earth without using resources and harming other beings. The only ethical response to this dilemma, she proposes, is to consume less. Buy less but better-quality clothing, especially from natural sources – plants and animals – and care for them so they last as long as possible. Sounds like a great sales pitch for fur!
In summary, while parts of the fur section will cause people who know the industry – especially trappers - to squirm with frustration, Melissa Kwasny has produced an interesting and worthwhile read. She reminds us of the fascinating range of skills and knowledge maintained by people who work with animals, and the materials those animals provide. I only hope that a good trapper will invite her out onto the land to more fully understand that experience before she writes the second edition of Putting on the Dog.
To learn more about donating to Truth About Fur, click here.
Recent proposals to ban the sale of fur in several US cities and states are based on a fiction –… Read More
Recent proposals to ban the sale of fur in several US cities and states are based on a fiction – a dangerous fiction – the origins of which can be traced back more than 30,000 years. That’s when, as Yuval Noah Harari recounts in his popular book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, a remarkable mutation occurred in the brains of one of the six human-like species that then existed. That mutation, scientists speculate, allowed our ancestors to do something no animal had ever done: live in an imaginary world.
To understand the importance of this breakthrough, consider money, nations, and human rights, to name just a few vital elements of our civilization. Unlike rocks, trees and other things we see around us, these important concepts exist only because we believe in them and act accordingly. Money, for example, has value only because we all agree that it does -- so people will give us stuff for it.
The ability to act as if such “fictions” really exist is central to what makes us human. It gives sense to our lives and allows us to work together in large groups for common purposes. But our fictions can also lead us seriously astray: think of Nazism or Communism. Both promised a better life but delivered only misery, not least because they were based on erroneous ideas about humanity: Aryans are not a superior race, and central planning is not efficient. A similar disconnect with reality lies at the heart of recent proposals to ban the sale of fur products in certain US cities and states. Let’s take a closer look.
Justifications for Banning Fur
There are only two possible justifications for banning fur. The first would be if fur were not produced responsibly. Most of us believe that it is morally acceptable to use animals for food and other purposes so long as species are not depleted (sustainability) and the animals are raised and killed with as little suffering as possible (animal welfare). As documented throughout the TruthAboutFur website, the modern fur trade satisfies these moral requirements: both wild and farmed furs are now produced at least as responsibly and sustainably as other animals we use for food, leather and other purposes. *
But if fur is produced responsibly, the only remaining rationale for banning it would be to claim that any killing of animals is wrong. This idea has been elaborated over the past forty years by Peter Singer, Tom Regan and other “animal rights” philosophers. Simply put, they argue that the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of “non-human animals” deserve the same respect as those of humans. Just as discrimination against people of colour is now denounced as Racism, and discrimination against women is rejected as Sexism, Animal Rights philosophers propose that using animals for food, clothing or other purposes should be condemned as “Speciesism”. As PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk famously charged: “There's no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights. A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” **
At first glance, this proposal can seem compelling. Just as the idea of extending rights to all races, classes and genders (Human Rights) was once scoffed at, Animal Rights philosophers argue that it is time to extend our moral circle to include all animals. But all social and moral constructs are not created equal. Human Rights is a highly functional “fiction” because human society is clearly strengthened when each member feels that their personal rights and needs are secured. Animal Rights offers no such benefits.
Animal Rights is, in fact, completely out of synch with how the natural world really works. Like it or not, life eats life. Animals only survive by eating other living organisms, plants or other animals. But animals do not usually eat members of their own species. Contrary to the claims of animal rightists, there’s nothing arbitrary or hypocritical about humans eating other animals but not (usually) each other.
The evolutionary logic for not killing members of your own species is evident, especially for humans. If you kill me, my kids come for you, then your kids come for my family, and on it goes – not very conducive to social cooperation or stability. Killing and eating other species provokes no such complications.
Problems with Animal Rights Logic
Most worrisome, the logic of Animal Rights may actually threaten human (and animal) welfare. Activists argue that no one needs real fur anymore because fake fur provides a “cruelty-free” alternative. But fake furs (and most other synthetics) are made from petrochemicals that are not renewable or biodegradable. New research reveals that these materials also leach micro-particles of plastic into our waterways and marine life each time they are washed. Cruelty-free indeed!
By contrast, using fur in a well-regulated fashion is fully compatible with an ecological (i.e., ethical) relationship with nature. Farmed fur animals are fed left-overs from our own food production, the parts of pigs, chickens and fish that we don’t eat and would otherwise clog landfills. Fur farm wastes – manure, soiled straw bedding and carcasses – are composted to produce organic fertilizers, renewing the fertility of the soil and completing the agricultural nutrient cycle. There is no natural farming system that does not include animals.
The production of wild furs is also based on ecological principles: most wildlife species produce more young each year than their habitat can support to adulthood. The sustainable use of this natural surplus is promoted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other conservation authorities. In fact, many wildlife populations would have to be culled even if we didn’t use fur, e.g., to prevent damage to property (flooding caused by beaver dams), to protect livestock (coyote predation), and to control the spread of dangerous diseases (rabies in overpopulated raccoons).
Living Outside Natural Reality
All this was clear so long as most North Americans still had family on the land who understood the realities of nature. But now, for the first time in human history, most people live in cities. When your food comes from supermarkets, while animals dance and sing on your TV screen, and the live animals you know are surrogate children that sleep in your bed, it is easy to believe the killing of animals is as morally reprehensible as abusing human rights.
Due to our highly developed brains, we all live to a certain extent outside the biological-natural reality. All legislation is a human construct, and different societal “fictions” constantly compete for public acceptance. Animal Rights activists have been very adept at using sensationalist tactics to convey their stories through both traditional and powerful new social media. As PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk says: “We’re complete media sluts; we didn’t invent the game but we learned to play it!” But stories that win mass appeal do not always end well if they are not grounded in reality.
Animal Rights seems to some to represent a more gentle relationship with nature at a time when pollution and the spectre of global warming are exposing the dangers of rampant consumerism. But as this brief analysis suggests, basing public policy on the ideas promoted by Animal Rights advocates can have unexpected consequences. The Nazis’ fascination with Animal Rights will be the subject of a future essay. For now, suffice to say that encouraging the use of petroleum-based synthetics is not the way to protect our planet for future generations. Using natural, renewable, long-lasting and biodegradable materials like fur makes environmental sense. Politicians take note.
* In addition to sustainability and animal welfare, two further requirements for ethical animal use could be proposed: animals should not be killed for frivolous purposes, and most of the animal should be used (no waste). For a fuller discussion, see The Ethics of Fur, TruthAboutFur.
** While the Animal Rights philosophy opposes any use of animals, fur is often seen as an easy target; no city or state is proposing to ban the sale of meat or dairy products. Note, however, that Peter Singer, the intellectual godfather of the Animal Rights movement, wrote in his 1975 landmark book Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals, that it is hypocritical to criticize fur-wearing while most people are still eating meat, which requires the killing of far greater numbers of animals.
To learn more about donating to Truth About Fur, click here.
In part one of The Truth About Fashion, we explored and compared sourcing issues and supply chains of both fast-fashion… Read More
In part one of The Truth About Fashion, we explored and compared sourcing issues and supply chains of both fast-fashion and luxury fashion brands. And while many brands do what they can to instil trust and confidence in consumers through ever-growing transparent supply chains and ethical and sustainable sourcing, is it all too late?
As the public moves towards environmentally conscious consumerism, attitudes towards shopping are changing. More so today than ever before, shopping for pre-loved clothing is fashionable. However, growing in parallel is the deeply ingrained wear-once-and-throwaway culture that has been created. In part two of The Truth About Fashion, we investigate people’s attitudes towards shopping and the challenges that face brands to entice today's growing number of reluctant shoppers.
Today, second-hand no longer means cheap. In fact, with an explosion of fashion-rental sites, luxury outlets, and online buyers snapping up pre-loved garments, second-hand has become synonymous with mindfulness. In fact, according to a UK-based study by French e-tailer Patatam, one in five British women admit to feelings of guilt when purchasing new clothes, resulting in them turning to pre-owned garments as sustainable alternatives. This finding was followed up with almost two in three (68%) of participants interviewed confessing they’d happily buy preowned items. It appears the undeniable issues that choke the fashion industry, such as water waste and landfills, are resulting in consumers selling, donating and buying second-hand clothing, giving all garments a second lease of life.
While we can all agree shopping second-hand items brings great benefits, from extending the lifecycle of garments to reducing waste, there needs to be a whole separate discussion about what constitutes a worthy second-hand purchase, and more importantly, what doesn’t.
Recycling, upcycling, reusing or donating clothing highlights how conscious consumers are finally putting their money where their mouths are. However, not all clothing is of high-enough quality to justify repair or recycling services. When it comes to expensive fabrics like leather and fur, designers tend to specialize in remodelling garments, meaning these fabrics are routinely remade into other forms or accessories. However, 95% of recycled clothing derives from the fast-fashion industry which is created with synthetic materials like polyester, meaning that when the time comes to remodel or reuse them, they are merely industrial rags not fit for re-purpose.
According to Fashion United, nearly half of the world’s clothing is made of polyethylene terephthalate (commonly known as polyester), which today is the most used plastic in the world. As if that statistic isn’t daunting enough, Greenpeace says polyester clothing is forecast to nearly double by 2030. This is especially alarming given the 11-year deadline – 2030, ironically enough – that the world has to reduce its carbon emissions output, of which the fashion industry is the second largest contributor after the fossil fuel industry, if we are to prevent Earth from crossing an irreversible climate tipping point (a rise of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels).
We stated in part one of this series that, at best, only a small fraction of synthetic materials can ever be indefinitely recyclable, but the simple fact is, most widely-used synthetic materials like polyester, or any fashion textile deriving from crude oil, are not recyclable and do not make worthy second-hand purchases. The poor quality of synthetic materials means they last two to three years (maximum) before they are no longer fit for use – but more importantly, the lack of recyclable qualities of these materials means they are environmentally unsustainable.
Since 2016, shoppers’ consumption of pre-owned items is up 45%, signalling a social appetite for a sustainable wardrobe. This means we need to reconnect the dots between who is producing and using the garment and where the garment comes from and where it ends up. Answering such questions isn’t easy, but if you start with natural materials, the answers are clear. Natural materials are a part of fashion's circular economy. What does this mean? Fabrics which are a part of fashion's circular economy are mainly natural, meaning they come from nature and return back to nature when they are discarded.
As discussed in part one, as soon as big conglomerates saw the profit margins explode with outsourcing and the introduction of cheap fabrics in the 1980s and ’90s, little thought was given to fashion's circular economy. But while the fashion industry seems to have forgotten its own circular economy over the last 30 to 40 years, the fur industry continues to be a staple of it. But how? Well, attached to fur is a string of services, from maintenance, restoring and repairing to recycling, upcycling and remodelling - an advantage of fur that no other material can match.
This means that, in regard to the investigation into social attitudes towards fashion materials and consumerism, fur is on the same side of the debate of fashion with longevity and sustainability at its core. And brands would do well to pay attention to using responsible natural resources like fur as public attitudes shift towards these sustainable natural materials.
With the start of a new school year, many of us think about bringing accurate information about the sustainability of… Read More
With the start of a new school year, many of us think about bringing accurate information about the sustainability of fur into our children’s classrooms. This can be a difficult challenge. The first problem is that school curriculums have become so demanding that teachers now have little time for guest presentations. And if you do gain access to a classroom, what information should you share with students, assuming you have the communications skills to capture their attention at all? Luckily, help is available to overcome all these obstacles. Sound interesting? Read on!
The Fur Council of Canada has produced a school program that has now been thoroughly tested in hundreds of classrooms with an overwhelmingly positive response from both teachers and students. Called Furbearing Animals: A Renewable Natural Resource, the program includes a 14-minute video, a teachers’ activity guide, and amusing educational materials for students. The core program was originally developed by educational experts at the Quebec Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks in collaboration with Quebec trappers (Fédération des Trappeurs Gestionnaires de Québec). After funding (and refining) in-class presentations in the Montreal region for many years, the Fur Council produced the video and other tools to allow this extraordinarily successful program to be shared across North America and beyond.
Curriculum-Based Program Assures Teacher Buy-in
One of the most important features of the program is that it is built around key ecology concepts that teachers are already obliged to teach. In Quebec and most other jurisdictions, these concepts are part of the natural science curriculum for Grade 6. This is the main reason the program has been so well-received in schools; rather than taking time away from teachers’ busy schedules, Furbearing Animals actually helps them do their jobs. And rather than promote the fur trade – which would be self-serving and controversial – the program provides a science-based understanding of animals, nature, and sustainable use.
The video begins by explaining in simple language that “natural resources” are materials produced by nature that can be used to satisfy human needs. Water can be used for drinking or transportation. Plants and animals can be eaten or used to make clothing. Petroleum powers our vehicles but can also be used to make a wide range of plastic products, including clothing.
The video then explores the difference between “renewable” and “non-renewable” natural resources. With lively animation, students are shown that snowshoe hares, for example, are a renewable resource: even if you eat some hares for dinner, there may be as many or even more hares next year. Petroleum, however, takes so long for nature to produce that when we use it, it’s gone.
Using foxes and beavers as examples, the video then shows how animals are adapted to different habitats. The beaver’s round body and dense underfur allows it to thrive in water, a semi-aquatic habitat, while the fox’s longer, sleek body allows swift movement on land, a terrestrial habitat.
Similarly, the beaver is a herbivore, with self-sharpening
teeth and other adaptations that allow it to cut trees and chew bark, while the
fox is a carnivore, with the speed and pointy teeth needed to capture and
devour its prey.
A well-illustrated explanation of why some habitats can support more animals than others (“rich” and “poor” habitats) leads to an understanding of “carrying capacity”. Students learn that nature is all about balance: depleting wildlife populations will deprive future generations of important resources, but overpopulated wildlife can be equally problematic, resulting in disease, fighting for territory and starvation. Overpopulated beavers flood property and may “eat out” local vegetation to the point where a habitat may support no beavers at all for many years. Students can now understand why part of the surplus produced by nature can be used by humans without depleting wildlife populations. This is called "sustainable use", a core principle of modern conservation policy – and an important element of the ethical justification for the responsible and well-regulated use of animals, for food, clothing and other purposes.
The Fur Council of Canada has also produced a Teachers’ Guide to accompany the video, available in downloadable PDF format in English and French. The Guide includes follow-up activities, handouts, and in-class quizzes to reinforce key concepts presented in the video.
Also available on the Fur Council's website are a number of other educational publications that can be distributed to students during classroom presentations. One of the best is EcoNews, a cartoon-format brochure that illustrates key fur messages in an entertaining and easily-understood way. An accompanying activity booklet for teachers provides question-and-answer teaching tools and subjects for in-class debates, based on information presented in the EcoNews cartoons. Printed copies of EcoNews are available in English and French from the Fur Council.
Bringing the Program into the Classroom
Once you have reviewed the video and other program materials, you are ready to contact your local school. You can inform your child’s teacher or the school principal or science coordinator that you would like to present a program that explains important ecology principles from the curriculum, i.e., renewable and non-renewable resources; adaptation of animals to their habitats; carrying capacity of different habitats; and the sustainable use of renewable natural resources. (Check with school authorities to verify the grade when these principles are taught in your jurisdiction.)
The 14-minute video is designed to be shown to the class before inviting questions and interactive discussion. If possible, bring beaver and fox pelts – and other furs – to illustrate the differences between terrestrial and semi-aquatic animals, as explained in the video. Passing these furs around the classroom is always a hit with students.
Even better, bring beaver and fox skulls too, to show the different dentition of herbivores and carnivores. Ask your fur association to purchase a few professionally-prepared skulls that members can borrow for school presentations.
You can also bring sample fur products to show how fur is
used, and any other props that may illustrate your own involvement in the fur
Before leaving, you can circulate copies of EcoNews or other materials to the students, and leave the Teachers’ Guide and EcoNews quiz with the class teacher. You should also leave your contact information, in case the teacher has follow-up questions. The Fur Council of Canada and the Fur Institute of Canada both have excellent educational materials that you can order for classroom presentations.
The Fur Council of Canada’s school program has been successfully tested in hundreds of classrooms to help you deliver the fur trade’s responsible-use messages. Feel free to contact the Fur Council for more information about using this effective program in your region. And if you have school presentation ideas or resources to share, please leave a comment at the end of this article. Together we can help to ensure that the next generation has a better understanding of the sustainable-use principles which underpin the modern fur trade’s environmental ethic.
To learn more about donating to Truth About Fur, click here.
The most important rule for fashion brands is to stay relevant, so it comes as no surprise that fashion brands… Read More
The most important rule for fashion brands is to stay relevant, so it comes as no surprise that fashion brands are often in the eye of many social and political media storms. From questions surrounding traceability, sustainability and animal welfare, to issues about environmental impact, exploitation, consumerism and waste, the fashion industry isn’t in short supply of concerns. In fact, a surplus of issues, predominantly surrounding production and waste, fronted by the fast-fashion industry which produces 1 billion garments and 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent each year, has caused some of the biggest earthquakes in the fashion industry.
These issues that plague the fashion industry are complex and interlinking, all of which necessitates their exploration. This mini-investigatory series will get to the heart of the fashion industry, asking questions like:
• What is the reality behind natural and synthetic materials?
• Are fast fashion brands profiting at the expense of the environment and the world’s most vulnerable people?
• And as we set sail on this new fashion voyage, are we headed for a sustainable and responsible future in fashion, if one awaits?
These questions are tough and the answers are not easy, but in today’s world where transparency and trust are key, we must explore the truth about fashion.
Opening this three-part series with an exploration into the reality of natural materials, and the difference between natural materials and synthetic alternatives, what better position to start than from the very beginning of fashion production with sourcing.
The sourcing of fashion materials, natural or synthetic, is a hotly contested subject with many burning consumer questions, including:
• Where have my clothes come from?
• Who made my clothes?
• And at what cost to the planet are my clothes?
Ethical and Sustainable?
Today, the sourcing of materials and their impact on the environment is important to consumers who want to feel confident that what they are wearing is both ethically and sustainably sourced. Ensuring clothing is ethically and sustainably sourced should be difficult for brands, as these two tropes - ethical and sustainable - are often in conflict. However, brands find it surprisingly easy to market themselves in this way.
The first reason why fashion brands marketing themselves as both ethical and sustainable is tricky is because there is no universal definition of either. What one person may deem ethical or sustainable may not mirror another person's definition.
For example, vegan consumers (who represent approximately 3% of the world’s population according to leading vegan researchers) may not deem animal-derived products - a fur coat, leather bag, cashmere sweater or meat – as ethical or sustainable. They would rather consume faux-leather and faux-fur products which are made from plastics, a derivative of petroleum – an oil-based product which is by nature unsustainable and unethical to other consumers.
Ensuring clothing is ethically and sustainably sourced should be difficult ... However, brands find it surprisingly easy to market themselves in this way.
Let’s take another example. An argument on one hand may be that plastic fashion has not caused harm to animals through production - hence the popular term “vegan and cruelty-free”. However, the counter argument is that plastic is not biodegradable, and at best can only ever be indefinitely recycled. It will need constant transformation through the use of more harmful chemicals, damaging the environment and affecting wildlife later down the line during its short life-cycle.
These two rather simple examples demonstrate how debates surrounding ethics and sustainability, while often used in the same sentence, are complex and not always working in parallel.
In fact, ethics and sustainability present an ironic paradox in fashion. Since fashion is about creating new things, with each new season high fashion, high street and online brands releasing one new collection minimum, it’s actually impossible for fashion brands to be completely sustainable or even environmentally neutral. Which begs the question: are brands using these fashionable terms for good PR?
Unpicking this dichotomy further, while ethical and sustainable sourcing has been a focus point for brands for decades, it has only entered the zeitgeist in recent years due to household names being exposed for sourcing malpractice, questionable supply chains, and contributions to global exploitation and climate issues.
A well-known example of this is sportswear manufacturing giant Nike. Since the 1970s, Nike has been attacked for its use of sweatshops, the term used to describe long-hours and low-wages factories in developing countries used by big conglomerates to produce cheap products, ultimately creating greater profits. Nike experienced rapid growth after moving production overseas with record-breaking profit margins. But as this was at the expense of a vulnerable labour force, notably young women in southeast Asia, Nike began to face waves of consumer backlash. Following this, in the 1990s, Nike was forced to introduce a more transparent and ethical supply chain. This is an example of brands adopting consumer concerns not necessarily because they want to, but because they have to in order to survive.
However, it’s not only fast-fashion retailers like Nike who have had to answer questions regarding sourcing and revise their position. The luxury fashion sector has also had to face growing consumer demands head on, with the fur industry facing its biggest attack yet.
In a bid to answer consumer concerns, sustainability strategies have become commonplace in the fashion industry, with luxury umbrella juggernauts LVMH and Kering among those adopting them. However, while the term "sustainability" is this season's must-have, according to the Global Fashion Agenda around half of the fashion industry have not yet taken any action on sustainability whatsoever. Instead, the term has been, and is being, used as a self-serving marketing tool to drive sales and good PR.
But, while this may be the motivation for most, this has not been the approach of the fur trade.
For decades, the fur trade has been at the centre of media attention regarding the sourcing of natural fur, in particular the methods by which fur farms are managed and fur is harvested for fashion. Yet while high animal welfare is the reality of fur farming, even when compared to other animal-based industries including the food and dairy industries, the reality is not always accurately reported. But why?
The media have a large role in shaping public consciousness, often backed by sensationalist and extremist "animal rights" groups, and bear huge responsibility for the spread of misinformation. Nonetheless, the fur industry has responded to sourcing concerns in a huge way, wanting to reassure and instill confidence in consumers of fur products with its high levels of standards and welfare. It’s for this reason that the fur industry, which is already regulated at government, independent scientific and auction house levels, including the European WelFur program, is introducing the world’s first industry-wide certification and traceability program in 2020, called FurMark.
FurMark, which has the backing of luxury conglomerates like LVMH and Kering, will give consumers of natural fur products confidence that the fur they are purchasing comes from a certified supplier with the highest level of animal welfare. This will include certified farms across Europe and North America and wild fur deriving from government-regulated North American conservation programs. This means, unlike plastic fashion brands, FurMark will present consumers with a clear step-by-step supply chain including where the fur was farmed, dressed and dyed, auctioned, manufactured, and retailed. This level of transparency is unrivalled not only at company level, but industry too.
The narrative when it comes to material sourcing within the fashion industry is a clear one.
Since the 1980s and '90s, when a large number of major fashion and sportswear brands outsourced their production to developing countries, questions surrounding the production of fashion grew in parallel with supply chains becoming more complex and foggy. It’s this which ultimately led to a spike in consumers demanding to know the origin of the goods they consume, something that is now standard practice.
However, while supply chains have become clearer than ever before, the materials and their effects on the environment have remained the same, with natural materials being a staple of the circular economy and plastic materials helping destroy the planet.
Yet, this isn’t the narrative of vegans, animal rights campaigners, or the media at large. In fact, according to vegans, the world's consumption of animal-based products (food, clothing, cosmetics, fuels) is redundant and archaic.
However, across all cultures, from millennials in China to the world’s Jewish community and the black communities of the US, fur is not outdated, nor is it only an economic signifier of wealth, but it is a material with heritage and deep social and religious meaning.
Fur is entrenched in many people’s beliefs and everyday lives. With the growing standards of fur sourcing, and the implementation of FurMark in 2020, the fur industry can pride itself on being ethical and sustainable – something many brands promise but ultimately do not deliver.
When New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who represents the Garment District, announced a proposal back in March to… Read More
When New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who
represents the Garment District, announced a proposal back in March to ban
future sales of fur in the city, many viewed it as another case of politicians
blindly following a trend. After all, the animal rights industry has made a
national business out of vilifying the animal consumption world - regardless of
what’s fact or fiction.
But what animal rights activists and political sponsors assumed would be an easy steam-roll over “rich white women” and “redneck trappers and farmers” who support fur usage, has proven shakier than imagined. Perhaps the large majority of Americans who recognize the regulated usage of animal by-products as both sustainable and practical, wasn’t quite anticipated.
We sure do live in interesting times in American culture! If I sound punchier than usual, it's with good reason.
When the public just won’t pay attention to self-righteous anti-fur diatribes, it's become a national trend to politically force legal bans upon the masses of your fellow citizenry instead.
It doesn’t take a business strategist to see what’s going on. Clearly, in the eyes of the animal rights industry, the “east coast” was in need of a dust-up with some good ol’ frivolous (and completely egregious) hunting and garment restrictions. Hopes were quickly imposed to ensure New York City becomes the next “fur-free” urban mecca.
The only difference from the antics playing out on the west coast: the Big Apple isn’t going down without swingin’… hard!
According to trade group FurNYC, the city still has the largest retail fur market in the country, stating the 150 remaining fur businesses in New York create 1,100 jobs and produce $400 million in revenue per year.
And it's not just backwoods fur trappers supporting the industry. As the NYC fur ban really started to heat up this May, folks from all walks of American life came out to fight the proposal.
African-American and Jewish faith leaders added to the
protests in opposition, stating that the ban discriminates against their
cultural heritage. Outspoken immigrants weighed in regarding the potential loss
of skills and careers. Celebrities jumped into the mix to criticize government
who thinks it can tell its people how to dress. Anyone who recognized fur as a
sustainable material made sure to join the vocal movement against the ban.
"People feel complete when they put on something that they worked hard for, they have sacrificed for," said the Rev. Phil Craig, who was among 75 clergy and other advocates who turned out at one protest against the ban.
Apparently, the pushback from a ban on fur in NYC was more
than the city’s politicians expected.
“Maybe I should have thought more about this before I introduced it because I didn’t realize the amount of pushback there would be,” Johnson told reporters at City Hall. “I was actually moved by some of the furriers and their testimony,” he said.
Animal rights proponents, on the other hand, still desperately contend the usage of fur is trending downward. (All the more reason to force a ban I guess, right? These folks clearly aren’t famous for their rationale.)
On the contrary, a national locavore movement seems to be fueling a revival in sustainable materials, like fur, which is probably why industry leaders like PETA and the Humane Society of the US are scrambling to support restrictions on fur usage and regulated hunting of fur across the country.
In the case of wild fur especially, the regulated seasonal trapping and usage of fur pelts from abundant wild species such as raccoons, skunks, and beaver is nationally considered wise use of resources that are otherwise destined for the landfill when they’re struck by vehicles, lose habitat due to urbanization, succumb to disease, or cause conflict for landowners and municipalities.
Environmental and wildlife management aspects aside, an underlying theme heard from citizens in the NYC fur ban debates is clear - freedom of choice.
The “my closet, my choice” meme seems to be resonating with a growing sector of the American population that has grown tired of hollow protests and frivolous government bans.
It appears as though the “freedom of choice crowd” carries the bigger stick - at least for the moment.
While some people are certainly foaming at the mouth to drive another nail in the coffin of rural culture, many more are lighting their torches and wielding their pitchforks against fur-supporters based on hearsay rather than tangible information.
“All-knowing” celebrities like fashion designer Tim Gunn have been outspoken supporters of the fur ban. Gunn told reporters that “Foxes, rabbits, chinchillas and even dogs and cats are anally electrocuted, gassed, bludgeoned and often skinned alive.”
Even Speaker Johnson, in explaining to reporters why he proposed the ban, said he “really just did it because I felt like it was the right thing to do in my heart.”
Apparently Johnson and Gunn, and also PETA representative Dan Matthews who echoed similar statements, did not do their homework before pushing for a city-wide ban. They also haven't been paying attention to the news lately.
In March, two Chinese workers came forward stating they’d been paid by animal rights activists to skin a dog alive on video. That video, which has been circulated around the internet, is the only crutch the animal rights industry has been able to rely upon for the out-of-left-field (and inherently false) statement that licensed trappers and fur farmers “skin animals alive for their fur”.
Of course, licensed fur trappers and fur farmers know full
well skinning animals alive isn’t part of the pelting process - but who asked
them, right? Not the mainstream media, not the government officials imposing
these bans from city to city, and certainly not the anti-hunting/anti-fur
While some may argue that fur pelts aren’t “needed” in the modern age, some could also argue that the detractions against regulated fur usage are also in dire need of some evolutionary creativity.
There’s nothing wrong with disagreements in opinion, the usage of animal byproducts, or even wildlife management fundamentals. A disagreement however, is far from shoving cult-like laws and legal bans down the throats of the American people.
No Such Thing As Bad Publicity
For the animal rights industry, I suspect the battles over
fur bans from coast to coast (and coat to coat) present themselves as a win/win
Even if the NYC fur ban caves to the pressure of citizens’ right to choose, the animal rights organizations spearheading the ban still walk away with profitable notoriety as a byproduct of their latest PR stunt.
Which is why, despite the lunacy of strong-arming a ban on the usage of a natural resource, the organizations, celebrities, and politicians involved in perpetuating the NYC fur ban will continue the circus act from city to city, state to state, country to country, and, inevitably, closet to closet.
Let's be real, if anyone supporting a ban on fur garments actually cared about animal welfare, they’d do their due diligence by researching all aspects of the debate, rather than selfishly hiding behind a protest sign or online petition. But alas, ignorance breeds ignorance; and a false sense of “moral superiority” just breeds more lackluster grandstanding - an obvious hot commodity surrounding the topic.
Perhaps it's time the (already heavily regulated) hunting, trapping, and fur-garment communities take a page out of the animal rights industry playbook and soak up a slice of the publicity pie themselves.
At the end of the day, groups like PETA don’t care if they
win or lose another media-fueled public cage match - I’m talking about them
aren’t I? And that’s what ultimately sells - whether the facts lean in favor of
their views or not.
Supporters of the regulated usage of natural fur materials would be hard-pressed to find a better microphone than the one they’ve been forced to fight against in New York City - and it's time for those invested parties to take full advantage of this circus while it's still in town!
Suffice to say, the animal activism industry has a PR problem: the men and women protesting the NYC ban on fur aren’t your run-of-the-mill rural fur trappers and mink farmers the American public has been conditioned to demonize. Collectively, the folks most outraged over the proposed fur ban represent a cross-section of modern America - all creeds, all races, all classes, all political affiliations.
Sometimes, a government-backed “ban” on a particular material or chemical makes sense to protect the health of its citizens (or the natural resources we all cherish and have been tasked with conserving). The NYC fur ban, clearly, is not one of those instances.
A ban on clothing choice? Especially from a material that is regulated, and has proven no modern negative impact on our environment (while the alternative product has proven to cause environmental harm) - well now, we all know that’s just silly.
At the end of the day, whether NYC moves forward with its ban on fur or not, one thing has been made painfully clear: the animal rights industry can’t claim the “moral majority” any longer.
Progressive politicians in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and now New York City are trying to ban the sale of fur… Read More
Progressive politicians in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and now New York City are trying to ban the sale of fur in their jurisdictions, claiming furbearers die for products we no longer need. New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson has proposed a ban "because I felt like it was the right thing to do in my heart." But is it the right thing to do?
“Progressives” pride themselves on supporting government action to promote social justice, equality, and, increasingly, protection of our natural environment. But the modern fur trade embodies many of the principles that progressive politicians claim to support.
Let’s look at some of the reasons why progressive politicians should be promoting fur, not seeking to ban it.
1. Fur Products Are Handmade by Skilled Artisans
In this age of industrialized mass-production, fur apparel and accessories are still cut and sewn by skilled artisans. These people maintain remarkable craft skills passed down from parents to their children through generations.
Because of the high value of the raw materials and the specialized skills required, fur products have never been made in the sweatshops that continue to plague parts of the apparel industry. Fur garments are one of the few things we buy that are still made individually, by hand. In fact, each fur piece is really wearable art, often involving 30 hours or more of skilled work to produce.
This remarkable heritage industry should be valued and protected by everyone who appreciates the cultural and human value of craft traditions.
More than half of the fur produced in the US (closer to 80% worldwide) is now produced on family-run farms. Fur farms are viable in regions where poor soil or harsh weather make other forms of farming difficult, and provide much-needed employment and income in many rural communities.
Industry standards (now being certified by third-party auditors) ensure that farmed mink receive excellent nutrition and care, in part because there is no other way to produce the high-quality fur for which North America is known. Farmed mink are fed left-overs from human food production - the parts of chickens, pigs and fish that we don’t eat, that otherwise might clog landfills. Mink manure, straw bedding and carcasses are composted to provide organic fertilizers to replenish the soil, completing the agricultural nutrient cycle.
Support for rural communities and sustainable agriculture are two important contributions of fur farming that progressive politicians should embrace, not scapegoat.
3. Trappers Maintain Land-Based Knowledge and Lifestyles
Trappers are, in a sense, the last of the Mohicans. They are among the last people on Earth who maintain the hunter/gatherer skills and knowledge that ensured human survival for 99% of our existence as a species. They are among the few who go into nature alone, continually studying animals and their environment.
We all care about nature, but most of us now live in cities; it is trappers who sound the alarm when wildlife and their habitat are threatened by poorly-planned industrial activity. Trappers report eagle nests so loggers can avoid disturbing them. Like canaries in the mine, changing fur harvests can signal problems like mercury pollution harming mink reproduction.
We would need trappers even if we didn’t use fur. Regulated trapping protects land from flooding by over-populated beavers. It also protects human health (e.g., from rabies spread by over-populated raccoons) and livestock (e.g., from predation by coyotes) and endangered species (e.g., sea turtle eggs from foxes, raccoons and coyotes); and the list goes on.
Trapping in North America is strictly regulated by state, provincial and territorial governments to ensure that only abundant furs are taken and that the most humane trapping methods are used.
Especially in Canada, trapping also provides food and income for many First Nations communities.
Protectors of our land-based heritage and our natural environment, trappers should be recognized as true guardians of nature. The furs they produce should be respected and treasured by progressives. They should be purchased and worn with pride to support these unique lifestyles - not boycotted.
4. Fur Is Sustainable, Durable, Recyclable and Biodegradable
The massive over-production of inexpensive but poor-quality clothing is becoming a serious environmental problem. “Fast fashion” unfortunately also means “fast disposal” of increasing quantities of clothing that is only worn briefly. And as much as 80% of it is made of petrochemical-based synthetics, basically another form of plastic bags.
In landfills, synthetics do not biodegrade like fur and other natural fibres. And each time they are washed, they leach millions of plastic micro-fibres into our waterways that are now turning up in marine life - including species we eat, like oysters - and even in our drinking water.
It is becoming clear that the only sustainable solution to this clothing crisis is to buy less of it, while ensuring the items we do buy are better quality and last longer with proper care. This sustainable future will include fur. Good-quality mink and other fur garments are often worn for 30 or more years, and unlike most clothing, can be taken apart and completely “remodelled” as fashions change. Fur is often passed down from mother to daughter, or granddaughter. Old furs can also be made into vests, pillows or other accessories.
And after many decades of use, fur can be tossed into the compost to return to the soil. Once again, we see that fur should be appreciated and promoted by environmentally-conscious progressive politicians, not banned!
Progressive politicians who are sincere about wanting to promote social justice, craft traditions, rural communities, and protection of our natural environment, should be asking how they can better protect and promote fur and our remarkable North American heritage industry. They certainly should not be seeking to ban it.
To learn more about donating to Truth About Fur, click here.
(Editor’s note: Wildlife management in Africa may seem far removed from managing beavers and coyotes in North America, but combatting… Read More
(Editor's note: Wildlife management in Africa may seem far removed from managing beavers and coyotes in North America, but combatting misinformation from animal rights groups is a challenge now being faced everywhere. Photo: The True Green Alliance.)
The scourge of animal rights-ism permeates the whole world. It is as rife in Africa as it is in North America and the rest of the world. I am an 80-year-old ex-game warden with 60 years of experience in the management of Africa’s national parks and big game animals. My particular interests concern maintaining the health and vigour of national park habitats, and the proper management of elephants and black rhinos; and I pull my hair out at the blatant lies that the animal rightists tell innocent nature lovers, the world over, about both species.
The most recent one is that the African elephant is facing extinction. We are told that unless the world stops the sale of ivory, stops the legal hunting of elephants, and stops their lethal management (culling), the elephant will slide down the slippery slope to extinction. This comes from people, remember, who live in the First World, who have never seen an elephant in their lives, and who have no accountability for whatever bad recommendations they make to "save" the African elephant. Meanwhile, the opinions of experienced elephant managers, like myself, are pushed aside as "contrived fabrications". And the whole world believes them, not the likes of me!
The elephants of Africa occur in 37 countries, or “range states”, and form 150 distinct populations. The habitats vary widely, including montane forests, deciduous forests of many kinds, savannah (treed grasslands), grasslands, thornveld, dry bushveld, teak forests, swamps, and true deserts. The rainfall in these different habitats varies from practically no rainfall at all to over 200 inches a year. Their interactions with humans are sometimes hostile - both ways - and sometimes docile. Some are poached, others are not poached. And the natural environmental pressures that each population has to endure due to variances in vegetation type, altitude, temperature and rainfall, are never the same. Consequently, the management needs of each of these populations have to be assessed on their own merits, and a management strategy, that is entirely focussed on one population at a time, has to be applied.
If this requirement is not complex enough, the management strategy that is applied to each population has to take cognizance of each population’s "safety status", which is determined by the elephant carrying capacity of the population’s habitat, measured against the number of animals in the population. Thus, if the sustainable carrying capacity of the habitat is 2,500 elephants and the population numbers 50,000 (as is the case with Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park today), the population is determined to be excessive (grossly excessive, in this case). If the sustainable carrying capacity is 10,000 and the population numbers 8,000 to 10,000, the population is deemed to be safe because it is "inside" (below) the carrying capacity limitation. And if the carrying capacity of a habitat is determined to be 10,000 and the population number is only 1,000 and falling, that population is deemed to be unsafe.
A Complex Science
Safe populations require conservation management (annual culling) to make sure they don't grow to the extent that they exceed the habitat’s carrying capacity. And unsafe populations need preservation management (protection from all harm), with the purpose of helping the population to return to a safe status. Excessive elephant populations require drastic and immediate population reduction. This is for the sake of the elephants themselves, for the health of their habitats (which excessive populations totally destroy), and for the maintenance of the biological diversities of our national parks. Indeed, the first action that needs to be taken on an excessive population is to reduce its numbers as quickly as possible, by no less than 50%.
All this will tell you that elephant management is a complex
It will also tell you that labelling the African elephant as an “endangered species” is simply a very stupid act. The very name “endangered species” implies that every single elephant population is unsafe, declining, and facing extinction, and that they thus all deserve to be managed according to the prescriptions of preservation management. But that is not the case at all.
Lots of elephants in West Africa are unsafe (due entirely to bad governance), many in East Africa are (now) safe, and every single elephant population in southern Africa (south of the Zambezi and Cunene Rivers) is grossly excessive. So, if an elephant population is declared to be endangered – and all its populations are subjected to preservation management - its excessive and safe populations will all be subject to total mismanagement. All the elephant populations of southern Africa exceed the carrying capacities of their habitats by between 10 and 20 times the numbers that they should be! For example, there could be as many as 200,000 too many elephants in the Botswana mega-elephant-population.
And yet the animal rightists continue to tell these lies in order to fraudulently make money out of a gullible public; the press continue to support them; and the governments of the world allow all this misrepresentation to happen. It is a crazy world that we live in – because we know that we are right and the animal rightists are wrong. All we can do is keep trying to create a properly informed public because they are the people who can make a difference.
Sustenance Through Wildlife, Not Livestock
There is a human population explosion in Africa, and the realities are as follows. There were 95.9 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa in the year 1900. By 2000, that number had increased to 622 million. And if the same rate of population increase continues throughout the 21st century, there will be over 4 billion people living in this same region by 2100. And they will all be trying to eke out a living from this finite continent, with its finite resources.
There will, by the year 2100, certainly be no wild land left unoccupied by humans. And in their never-ending search for a means to survive, Africa’s rural people will have, by then, extirpated all wildlife outside the national parks (and maybe inside the national parks, too). And they will be entirely dependent on domestic animals and cultivated crops for their survival.
By the year 2100, therefore, the only animals that are certain of survival will be domestic animals – cattle, sheep and goats. Why? Because the rural people of Africa cannot afford to have them become extinct.
Meanwhile, their wild equivalents – elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards, rhinos, etc. – are potentially far more valuable than livestock, and people could make infinitely more money out of their sustainable use than they could ever hope to make from cattle, sheep and goats.
People like me (and there are many of us) are therefore striving to get Africa’s rural people to convert their means of earning a living, from livestock to wildlife. Only in this way can we be sure that the elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards and rhinos of this continent will survive this century.
It is ironic, therefore, that the animal rightists, by insisting that man cannot and should not be able to “make money out of wildlife”, could be the very people who cause Africa’s wildlife to become extinct.
Recent proposals by Los Angeles, San Francisco, and now New York city councilors to ban fur sales should not only… Read More
Recent proposals by Los Angeles, San Francisco, and now New York city councilors to ban fur sales should not only worry furriers who risk losing their jobs and businesses. These proposals should be a matter of grave concern to anyone who values living in a free, fair and tolerant society.
There are so many things wrong about the proposed bans on fur sales that it is hard to know where to begin, but let’s look at six of the most important problems:
1. These proposals to ban fur sales are a flagrant example of arbitrary government infringement on fundamental human rights. No one is forced to wear fur, and animal activists are free to campaign against the fur trade, but this does not give them the right to impose their personal beliefs on others. After decades of anti-fur campaigning, many people still clearly want to buy fur. The activist response is to seek legislation that would take away our right to choose for ourselves. This should have alarm bells ringing on all sides of the political spectrum!
2. It is illogical and discriminatory to consider banning fur sales when 95% of Americans eat meat and wear leather. Of course, PETA and other “animal rights” groups that are lobbying to ban fur sales are equally opposed to any use of animals, even for food. But most North Americans do not accept this extreme view; most of us believe that humans do have a right to use animals for food, clothing and other purposes, so long as these animals are treated responsibly. There is no justification for banning fur sales while hundreds of millions of cows, pigs and sheep, and several billion chickens, are killed each year for food in North America. Even philosopher Peter Singer stated in his landmark Animal Liberation – the book that launched the animal-rights movement – that it is completely hypocritical to campaign against the fur trade while most Americans continue to eat meat, eggs, fish and dairy.
3. As a society we do, of course, sometimes restrict personal choice, but only for very important reasons. To ensure that animals will be there for us in the future, for example, we ban trade in endangered species. But endangered species are never used in the fur trade; all the furs we use today are raised on farms or culled from abundant wildlife populations. This is assured by state, national and international regulations. Animal welfare must also be respected -- and decades of scientific research and government regulations ensure that fur today is produced responsibly and humanely. Trapping in North America is regulated by state (in Canada, provincial) wildlife authorities, in accordance with ISO standards and the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards. Fur farms are being inspected and certified to ensure compliance with codes of practice developed by veterinarians and animal scientists. There is simply no credible evidence that fur animals are treated less respectfully than other animals we use for food or clothing.
4. Wildlife populations often must be culled to protect property and human (and animal) health, whether or not we use their fur. Overpopulated beavers flood homes, farms and roads; raccoons and foxes spread rabies and other diseases; coyotes are the main predators of lambs and calves – and now attack pets and even people in urban areas; predators must also be managed to protect sea turtle eggs and other endangered species; and the list goes on. But if we must cull some of these animals, surely it’s more ethical to use the fur than to throw it away.
5. The fur trade supports livelihoods and cultures, especially in rural and remote regions where alternate employment may be hard to find. We all care about nature, but most of us now live in cities; indigenous and other trappers are our eyes and ears on the land, the people who monitor wildlife on a daily basis and can sound the alarm when nature is threatened. Fur farms provide employment in regions where the soil is too poor for other agriculture, helping to support rural communities. Fur artisans maintain handicraft skills that have been passed down from generation to generation. In this age of mass-production, each fur garment and accessory is still made individually, by hand. The fur trade maintains a range of remarkable skills and knowledge, a part of our human heritage that should be respected and encouraged, not persecuted with bans based on hateful and misleading propaganda.
6. Finally – and certainly not least – fur apparel is a long-lasting, natural material that is recyclable and completely biodegradable. After many decades of use, your fur can be thrown into the garden compost where it returns to the Earth. By contrast, most clothing today is made from petroleum-based synthetics that do not biodegrade. Instead, these synthetics leach thousands of plastic micro-particles into our waterways every time they are washed – plastic that is now being found in oysters and other marine life. It is bizarre at a time when we are trying to reduce our use of plastic – for example, by banning the use of plastic bags and water bottles – that some cities would even consider banning a long-lasting, recyclable and biodegradable natural material like fur!
As this quick review shows, recent proposals to ban fur sales are anything but “progressive”. They would unjustifiably usurp our right to use a sustainably produced, natural and biodegradable clothing material. They are arbitrary and discriminatory, especially in a society where most people eat meat and wear leather. They are completely unjustified because the modern fur trade is extremely well-regulated to ensure environmental sustainability and the responsible treatment of animals. And they would unfairly attack the livelihoods and cultures of thousands of people who maintain heritage craft skills and a close relationship with the land.
Again: no one is forced to wear fur. But everyone should be concerned about these misguided proposals to take away our right to make up our own minds about very personal and complex ethical choices.