For centuries animal fur has been used by mankind as a method to “protect their bodies from climatic conditions and harm.”However, over the years the use of animal pelt has altered from a true necessity to a selfish desire that reflects upon societal status, wealth and power. It was not until the 1980s where people began to question fur as a fashion statement and for years animal rights groups have been fighting to change the laws and regulations over the trade. Over these periods technology has allowed the invention of synthetic animal fur however, “fur is a trade with a rich heritage” therefore making it more difficult to diffuse ultimately. But to what extent does wearing faux fur actually begin to promote real fur as a fashion statement?
Where we once had to rely on animal pelt for survival, now, circumstances have changed and technological advances mean we no longer have to abuse and kill animals in order to gain fur as a necessity. In the 1950’s the improvement of the quality of faux fur made the statement more accessible. The popularity grew during the 1990s when “many consumers felt it was politically incorrect to wear fur”. Faux fur was still promoting the idea that fur is a fashion statement and now it was also affordable.
However, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) state that “the best choice is to avoid it altogether.” In 2018, Hannah Weiland launched Shrimps, a quirky fashion brand that uses “carefully sourced fabrics” and faux fur for her eccentric designs. Weiland states how faux fur allows for far more creativity. Faux fur is more profitable and the trend can still be fashionable without harming animals in the process.
On the other hand, fur is an economic force and a $40 billion industry that dates back centuries and is a major trade for North America and Europe. Fur is historically significant in North America supporting thousands of jobs. Despite, the ongoing backlash against the use of animal fur, the industry is said to be “the most regulated animal use industry in Europe”. Although these farms may be regulated, it comes down to a difference in how distinguishable these regulations are. Animals such as minks who are bred for their fur spend their entire lives in tiny cages before being slaughtered. However, this industry is not going anywhere but FCUSA have recognised that criteria has to be put in place for mink farmers. It is debatable how well regulations such as; attention to nutritional needs, clean, safe and appropriate housing and prompt veterinary care are ultimately managed.
In the 1980s fewer than 50 fashion designers included fur in their ready-to-wear collections. This varies as popularity of mink farming and certain brands such as Fendi increase this factor. Whilst, the fur industry presents itself as responsible, it doesn’t defer from the fact that fur is a luxury item and not essential to human health or well-being as stated by Andrew Linzey. Despite the mink farming industry being banned by the Fur Farming Prohibition Act in 2000, in the UK, the outrageous practices still go on internationally.
Minks are confined to small wire cages with little enrichment and their behaviours are reflective of boredom and stress, such as fur chewing, and gnawing on the cage. This is common even with ‘regulated’ farms, however, this is even worse in China where their 35 million pelts accounted for around 40% of the market in 2014. The same industry that has no penalties for abusing animals on fur farms, which is what makes fur in the fashion industry so disturbing.
On the contrary, the materials used in producing faux fur are particularly detrimental for the environment. Nylon, acrylic, and polyester are made from nonrenewable petroleum whereas animal pelt is biodegradable. Fur had the worst environmental impact of nine fibres studied in a 2014 report by the European Commission, meaning that it is a juxtaposition between the ethics of animal cruelty with real fur and the ethics of the environmental impact regarding faux fur. However, the European Commission have never included fur in sustainability reports concerning acrylic and other fibres used to make the garments. The argument is, sustainability is profound as the issue is incredibly current and is just reasoning for many debates. It has been suggested that the fur industry use fish by-products and waste from the food industry to feed the farmed animals, despite this, it does not defer from the cruelty that these animals experience whether it is ‘environmentally-friendly’.
The debate between real fur and faux fur will be interminable and the ethics and reasoning on both sides will always contradict one another. Fashion designers such as Karl Lagerfeld have no intention of cutting out fur from their designs, demonstrating that fur will always be a statement of wealth and have a place in the industry therefore, so will faux fur. The trend may be ongoing but so will the fight for animal justice. Hopefully, more sustainable textiles are used to replace animal pelts and that people make the connection between animal brutality and an unjustifiable fashion statement.
What are your thoughts?
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