I once found one of life’s great ironies in a most unexpected place: my aunt’s closet. Slipped in between the cotton shirts and polyester pants was a fox fur coat, hanging limply on a wire hanger and joined by a mink-skin stole and a fur-lined jacket. But this by itself isn’t unusual; many people own fur or fur-lined clothing. So if owning fur is such a widely accepted tradition, what exactly is ironic about this situation?
My aunt has a cat.
At first glance this doesn’t seem so strange. But take a closer look. Picture it in your head: a fur-clad woman holding a kitten in her arms. See the problem? Maybe you do, but maybe you don’t. So let’s dig even deeper.
In America, we find animal products to be commonplace and acceptable. Leather is a popular choice for accessories, rabbits feet are considered lucky, and fur is associated with wealth. Many high-end stores carry fur items, usually made of mink, chinchilla or rabbit. Now consider this: minks, chinchillas, and rabbits are popular pets. And while cat and dog fur is generally frowned upon in the United States, most Asian countries have no problem skinning and wearing our favorite domestic animals; if you wouldn’t wear your best friend, why would you wear any type of fur? All over the world, fur farms are known for their crowded conditions, underfed and abused animals, and inhumane methods of killing. In at least five American states, one method consists of attaching clamps to an animal’s genitals and ears and flipping a switch, sending a high-voltage electric current through its body in order to stop its heart—but this only paralyzes the animal, and can take up to five minutes to actually kill it. In Asia, some skinners don’t even bother killing their subjects, and elect to skin them alive by beating them, cutting off their feet, pulling off their skin, and throwing them into a pile of their ill-fated brethren to die a slow, painful, and bloody death.
But if fur has been used for thousands of years, then what’s wrong with wearing it now? The difference lies in the situation. My own ancestors, the American Indians, killed animals out of necessity, and used every part of the animal. The fur was used for clothing and shelter, the meat for food, and the bones for weapons. Nothing was wasted, and the animals did not suffer unnecessary cruelty. Today pelt-bound animals are raised in inhumane conditions and killed in unimaginable ways. Their meat often goes to waste, simply thrown away with the trash. Finally, their skins aren’t necessary for human warmth and survival, but are rather a cruel way of showing wealth. Faux fur is cheaper and infinitely more humane than real fur, and just as soft and warm.
I believe that the time to stop the cruelty of the fur industry is upon us. Animals need their fur more than we do.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.