Published on November 22, 2012 | by Amy Tanikie-Montagnani

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Killing for Fur

A women sitting on a bed wearing a large fur shawl

No matter how good it looks, the fur industry has always been a controversial one. [Flickr]

As the days are getting colder and colder, an obvious clothing choice to keep us from freezing is fur.

The global trade in animal fur is now thought to be worth almost £10 billion per year, and vintage fur is also being a sought after by young people, looking for less expensive garments.

The luxurious skin is a piece of fashion, that makes women, and some men, feel fabulous and keeps them warm at the same time. However the backlash against the use of real fur is immense.

Animal rights groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) campaign alongside various anti-fur celebrities and members of the fashion industry in exposing the grisly reality of the fur industry in order to try and stop it once and for all.

Standing “for” fur

In March this year American it girl Kim Kardashian, who is a regular wearer of real fur was flour-bombed by animal rights protestor Christina Cho, who is a sympathiser of PETA

Despite the clear opposition to her controversial wardrobe choice by anti-fur campaigners, a defiant Kardashian clearly expressed that she had no intention of forsaking her furs, venting her belief that, “Everyone has the choice of what they want. It’s not illegal to buy fur.” She thinks it should be “a personal choice” and definitely had no intention of discarding furs inherited from her great-grandmother.

Pro fur sites argue that animal fur is a natural and sustainable product, delivering rare benefits in sustaining fragile habitats and communities. They claim real fur is a sustainable material, quite the opposite of the synthetic, which is considered as disposable fashion.

“Furbearing animals suffer unimaginably in the name of fashion. Many are still caught in cruel traps in which they can languish for days, starving and enduring excruciating pain.” PETA UK

Wild fur, rather than farmed fur, is often thought to be the more eco-friendly. Animal rights group PETA concurs that, rather than being eco-friendly fur farming can actually cause great harm to the environment. They reported that: “Each mink skinned by fur farmers produces about 44 pounds of faeces in his or her lifetime.”

That adds up to one million pounds of faeces produced annually by US mink farms alone. One dangerous component of this waste is nearly 1,000 tons of phosphorus, which wreaks havoc on rivers and streams. Furthermore, farming animals for their fur PETA claim also pollutes the air, In Denmark, where more than 2 million minks each year are killed for their fur, more than 8,000 pounds of ammonia is released into the atmosphere.

Unfortunately various fashion designers and labels still use real fur in their creations, including Karl Lagerfeld and Donna Karan. Prada paraded mink fur garments for their summer collection this year, whilst Fendi put on an objectionable fur-fest at 2012’s Milan Fashion Week, seemingly using every type of animal skin under the sun.

Although the UK Government made it illegal to farm animals solely or primarily for their fur from January 1, 2003, the fur trade carries on being a booming global industry. Ben Williamson, who works for animal rights charity PETA UK, comments: ”Furbearing animals suffer unimaginably in the name of fashion. Many are still caught in cruel traps in which they can languish for days, starving and enduring excruciating pain. Some, especially mothers with babies, chew through their limbs in a desperate attempt to escape and return to their young.”

The opposition

However people are fighting back against the fur trade. Burberry, for example, have gained such a reputation over their use of animal fur that the website bloodyburberry.com has been set up describing and damning their actions. Although celebrities may happily walk around being snapped in their expensive animal skins, many actively condemn the use of real fur, and members of the general public also show their support and disgust towards fur trade.

Facebook groups such as ‘Celebrities Who Wear Fur Suck’ and groups like ‘The International Anti-Fur Coalition’ have so far attracted over 15,000 fans on their Facebook pages.Countries like Austria, Croatia and Switzerland have passed laws, which completely prohibit fur farming. Ben Williamson, a speaker for PETA, says the charity and its global affiliates have had huge success in educating the public about the cruelty of the fur industry.

“They should all be looking over their shoulders because animal activists are escalating their campaign against designers who continue to do furs.” Dan Matthews

The campaign I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur become one of the most recognised anti-fur campaigns in the world.

“Fashion icons, including Michelle Obama, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Twiggy, Victoria Beckham, Penélope Cruz, Charlize Theron and countless more have all now publicly sworn off fur”, Williamson says. PETA’s work has also helped encourage designers like Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Vivienne Westwood to declare themselves fur-free.

Vivienne Westwood renounced fur in 2007, after learning from PETA that fur-bearing animals are often caught in bone-crushing steel-jaw traps. After having a change of heart, Westwood donated the remaining fur items in her line to PETA who then gave them to a wildlife charity to provide orphaned animals with bedding.

Encouragingly it is not just Westwood who has left real fur at the door. Many other top designers have also taken it out from their collections. In 1994 Calvin Klein released a statement that it was to discontinue the use of real fur in his clothing line. That happened due to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals invading Mr Klein’s offices on January 25 that year, despite the fact that the brand claimed it had already made the decision to stop using fur a few months earlier.

Dan Mathews, director of international campaigns for the group, said they were targeting a list of designers and that “They should all be looking over their shoulders because animal activists are escalating their campaign against designers who continue to do furs.”

Other designers to steer clear from real fur include Betsey Johnson, Stella McCartney and Ralph Lauren, who stopped using fur in 2006. Additionally major high street retailers such as Topshop and Marks & Spencer, and online clothing store ASOS, have all stopped selling it.

Even though there are many positive changes taking place, there is no doubt that the fur industry is far from being demolished, whilst there is still demand for real fur.

Hopefully some day fur will fall out of fashion but until then day the fight goes on.

 

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