PETA’s Unfair Attack on the Fur Industry

The fur industry is often targeted unfairly by members of groups like PETA. While PETA is technically against using animals in any way (including keeping them as pets!), they never seem to be as aggressive towards the meat eating populace as they are to fur wearers. In the past, PETA has gone out of their way to interrupt fashion shows, attack designers outside of their stores, and stage gruesome public displays against fur. They usually make the claim that no one should wear fur because it is an excessive luxury and the fur industry is wasteful, capturing the animals only for their fur and not using any other parts.

Donna Karan, Protest, Fur, PETA

PETA hard at work annoying shoppers.

The argument that the fur indsutry is “wasteful” is completely unfounded. While we may not think of animals like beaver, muskrat, raccoon and rabbit as conventional food, many people do consume these animals as a part of their diet. What isn’t consumed by humans is used in other ways. Mink oil is used in cosmetics, the carcasses are composted to make organic fertilizer. (In Europe, mink is sometimes now used to make biofuels!) Much of the wild-caught animal carcasses are left in the wilderness, to complete the cycle and become food for hungry birds, mice and other animals through the long cold winter. Fur Is Green has a great video on their site about the mink farms in Denmark. You can view it here, and see for yourself how the animals are treated from life to death, as well as how the rest of the mink is used.

Why would PETA waste so much time on such a small industry? The number of animals harvested annually for the fur industry barely makes a dent in our animal consumption as a whole. Of the animals slaughtered every year in North America, almost 10 billion animals are used for food, 6 million farmed-raised mink and foxes are killed for their fur, and about 6 millions wild animals are trapped. So the animals used for fur represent less than 0.1% (0.0012) of the number consumed for food. Add the millions of abandonned animals euthanized in humane shelters, millions more killes on our highways, others used for medical research, etc., and we quickly put the real impact of the fur trade into fair perspective. Put even more simply: most of us eat animals at least once a day; how often do you buy a fur coat?!

Rosa Mori, Furs, Fur Coats,

Not as often as we'd like to! Beautiful fur coats from Rosa Mori Furs.

Perhaps PETA attacks the fur industry in such a disproportionate fashion because they know that most people eat meat and aren’t going to give it up any time soon (barely 3% of the Canada’s population practices vegetarianism, with an even smaller percentage of that number living a vegan lifestyle). Why pick a fight you know you can’t win when it is so easy to prey (excuse the pun) upon a tiny, artisanal, family-run sector that lacks the financial clout to fight back? Come to think of it: if the PETA-folks had any real ethical conviction, instead of harassing women wearing fur, maybe they should be picketing motorcycle gangs for their use of leather!

The USDA has the numbers on the animals slaughtered for food every year.

The US Fur Commission has some great information on the mink industry and its by products.

Donna Karan protest image from Trendhunter
Fur coat images from Rosa Mori.

This article has been updated  July 12, 2011

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How Green is Fur? Synthetics Are Not a Green Alternative

There are a lot of misconceptions about the fur industry, and it’s no secret that we love fur here at A Touch of Luxe. This is the first of many posts that will shed some light on why fur is green.

A pile of Fox pelts, sorted and ready to be made into a coat or other garment.

To start us off,  one of the first fur myths that come to mind is the claim that synthetic fur is a much more sustainable choice. The answer to this depends on what you define as “sustainable”.  Now, we all know where fur comes from and how we obtain it. Some people may not consider killing 30-50 million animals a year (a loose approximation of how many animals are used by the fur industry) sustainable. For one mink coat, about 30-60 mink pelts are used. That sounds like alot, but when you take into account that a mink takes one year to reach age of maturity, and a female mink produces a litter of 4-6 pups, that’s a quickly renewed resource. Can you think of very many other resources that renew in a year? Certainly not petroleum, or even wood.

Image Courtesy of eoearth.org

The petroleum used to make synthetic fur is a non-renewable resource: once we use it all up, that’s it for the next 40 million years. The petroleum doesn’t come out of the ground ready to be spun into faux fur, either. It must undergo many chemical treatments and use large amounts of energy to convert this oil byproduct into a wearable fibre.

A close up of faux fur. Image Courtesy of sharonsews.blogspot.com

Fur, on the other hand, does not require much treatment. Native Americans and Inuit people have been “processing” fur and leather long before the invention of faux fur. Surprisingly, fur treatment, aside from special colour treatment, hasn’t changed much. And fur is going to be around forever, as long as we take care of the environment that these animals can thrive in, and that the animals aren’t over hunted. Organizations like the International Fur Trade Federation, and the Government of Canada, have strict regulations in place to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Michael Kors, classic, relevant fur coats. Image from runwaypicks.com

Another way to interpret sustainability is the longevity of a fur coat vs. a faux fur or other synthetic coat. Fur coats, due to the cost, are usually cut in classic styles that are relevant for years and years. Faux fur, however, can be found in “styles” like this:

Image from etsy.com

No one is going to wear a coat like that for more than a season. And even with a flattering, classic cut, over a few short seasons the faux fur is going to mat and become unwearable (sadly, my knock-off Kate Hudson a la “Almost Famous” coat is a testament to this). However, fur coats have consistently proven to be long lasting, heirloom pieces that get passed down from family member to family member.

Even vegetarians have a hard time turning down a vintage mink coat. Image from the TV series "Friends".

Fur can be worn for generations, and even if the coat becomes un-stylish, it can be taken apart by a skilled furrier and reworked into a new design completely. A fur coat can even be made into a smaller fur piece if portions of the coat are no longer usable.

Let us know what you think about this new addition, and if you have any questions about fur, or maybe your own myths you’ll like to see dispelled, let us know in the comments!

Some great resources to learn even more about the sustainability of fur:

Slate.com Article on the sustainability of fur vs. faux.
A PDF from the government of Tennessee outlining how to treat fur.
Furisgreen.com