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July 12, 2013 8:30 PM   Subscribe

Should You Feel Guilty About Wearing Vintage Fur?

The Vintage Fur Debate: Glamour Without The Guilt?
Ethical Fur? We're Kidding Ourselves
WSPA: Does 'ethical' or 'green' fur exist? No.

The main article mentions Rachel Poliquin, who has written about taxidermy and whose book The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy And Cultures Of Longing was reviewed in the LARB
The power of these material traces and the desire to preserve and touch them animates the lifeless menageries of Rachel Poliquin’s beautiful new study, The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing. The book tracks the history of whole animal and animal specimen preservation, particularly taxidermy, which refers to the stretching and mounting of the skins of vertebrates, from the seventeenth-century European explorers to the present, with a heavy focus on Victorian practitioners and collectors. From a technical perspective alone, this history is fascinating; it begins with piles of feathers preserved in spirits, smoke-dried in ovens, and inexpertly stuck together in approximations of natural forms, and ends with slowly freezedried “perpetual pets,” lifelike inhabitants of a particularly uncanny valley. A fascinating section describes the innovation of wet clay placed under skins of animals for precision molding and a feeling of fullness, vibrancy, and weight.
Coats for Cubs is a program to repurpose fur products to create environments for injured and orphaned animals.
posted by the man of twists and turns (121 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I bought two vintage furs last year and don't feel guilty, other than I wish I could have hypothetically eaten the animals that died to make me so glamorously warm. I wouldn't buy a new fur and I am very careful about the animals I eat.
posted by padraigin at 8:51 PM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Any fur purchase, any wearing of fur, fuels the demand for more, just like wearing any diamond, whether it's lab grown or passed down through generations of your family, fuels the demand for diamonds. If you wear fur, you are participating in the industry.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:01 PM on July 12, 2013 [32 favorites]


Thirteen years ago or so, my great-aunt offered me the use of her full-length beaver coat. She lived in a hot climate and was in poor health, so I knew she would basically be giving it to me. I was sure that there would be no more beavers killed on my account if I took it, but I declined as kindly as possible. I didn't know what people would think of me, and I was afraid that I would be assaulted with some kind of liquid if I wore it on my little liberal college campus.

She's since passed away. Now I wish that I had more things to remind me of her. I still can't decide whether I regret declining the coat, though. What would I do with it? Where could I wear it without appearing to be making the statement: "I consider myself to be better than the entirety of nature, and also you"?
posted by Countess Elena at 9:01 PM on July 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have absolutely no opposition to fur/leather/etc but I was totally surprised to learn recently that the area of NJ where I live (just minutes from NYC) was once a hotbed of Muskrat trapping. And although there was a boom in trapping until the mid-1980s, there's a resurgence in it today with over 1000 licensed trappers operating in my area, which is quite small.
Having lived in the deep south for many years, I associate this sort of thing with that area so it was quite odd to learn its something happening in my backyard, literally.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:08 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Substitute "ivory" for "fur" and then see how you feel. Personally if I were to, for example, inherit such a thing I would take care of it but not make a point of showing it, wearing it or giving it any particular pride of place. In other words, treat it as a thing of value without promoting it as a thing of value. If that makes any sense.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:13 PM on July 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't understand how we condemn fur while continuing to use leather without much thought.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:13 PM on July 12, 2013 [26 favorites]


I've no problem wearing leather given that I eat the critter that walked around in it. It doesn't make that much sense to separate the two. But hunting and raising animals for their fur alone sort of bothers me.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:15 PM on July 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


The logic that suggests that killing animals for their fur before 1960 was somehow "ok" because it was before the animus against such practices were a part of the collective consciousness seems like the same logic that suggests that owning slaves in the 1810's was "ok".

So that'd be a no.
posted by katyggls at 9:16 PM on July 12, 2013


Flagged as fantastic. The Collectors Weekly piece is a great find.
posted by mlis at 9:28 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't understand how we condemn fur while continuing to use leather without much thought.

Because our laws and customs generally result in humane treatment of cattle and goats... such cannot be said for trapping wild animals or fur farms.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:38 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't think I could do so without guilt. And how would passersby know it was vintage, anyway? They would probably assume I was a-ok with fur-wearing period. And that would matter to me.

I don't have a problem with people before the last few decades wearing fur, in principle, for warmth. Before we invented good synthetics, you could probably justify a fur or fur-lined coat, at least in extreme environments, as the warmest thing you could wear. I can't imagine more than a vanishingly few people need them in that way now.

I kind of feel like fur and taxidermied animals and ivory should be buried, really, whenever I see them. They are viscerally troubling in a way I can't explain, especially since I do wear leather and eat meat.
posted by emjaybee at 9:41 PM on July 12, 2013


I've trouble getting outraged about fur, or anything at all these days, for that matter. vintage fur, like vintage ivory, exists. Would be a shame to discard an item whose production killed a living creature. I definitely understand padraigin's perspective though.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:42 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


George_Spiggott, I'm not sure I follow you -- if you inherited an Ivory ruler or piece of Scrimshaw, you would not display them in your home or give them pride of place?

I inherited a piece of Scrimshaw and it is one of the most beautiful things. I am not conflicted, at all, displaying it.

Things are getting out of hand and not just with Ivory. I hope 50 years from now or whenever I die my relatives display my Rosewood and Lignum Vitae tools without any shame.
posted by mlis at 9:47 PM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Collectors Weekly story mentions that we don't necessarily eat all animals whose skins become leather.

Interesting links. Thanks to them, I just realized that leopard coats used to be actually made of leopard pelts. Whoa.
posted by purpleclover at 9:48 PM on July 12, 2013


And I meant mrmoonpie's perspective, not padraigin's.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:49 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm firmly on the even-vintage-is-problematic side, though that's probably unsurprising since I am also a vegetarian who shuns leather (even vintage leather). I want my voice to be consistent in requesting personally ethical versions of all of these goods from manufacturers.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:50 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, it's kinda like the used-car scenario. Your money is going to fund new cars, at least a little, as far as buying used fur.

Now inheriting it or finding it, that's a different matter. I too am vegetarian, but I'd sooner eat meat than let it rot or throw it away. I can't imagine ever wearing any fur though. I've never thought of it that way before, but the Countess' perception of the wearer ("I consider myself to be better than the entirety of nature, and also you") seems apt.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:57 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, way back in the day, which is to say in the mid-1970s, I lived in Minneapolis, which, in the winter, is really goddamned cold. I was young and really goddamned broke. And I found, at a secondhand store, a really capacious, ankle-length, mid-50's vintage muskrat coat.

I tried it on, felt its weight and bulk, felt how I started to sweat inside in within just a few minutes, and I bought it for $25. The skins were starting to dry out and were easily ripped, so I spent many evenings carefully sewing them back together. I wore that coat pretty much every day from mid-December into March, for quite a few years, until it finally wore out completely.

All in all I spent over fifty years in Minneapolis, and the fact is that that was the warmest coat I ever owned in all my years there. I could stand out on the corner waiting for a bus (as I regularly did in my younger days, not having a car), in the fifty-below windchill, and that coat would turn that windchill aside like it was nothing.

I always felt conflicted and uneasy about wearing a fur coat--I sure wasn't wearing it for vintage-fashion reasons--and I felt bad for the animals who had died so it could be made. But I also felt incredibly grateful to them, on those many way-below-zero mornings of standing out in the pre-dawn dark waiting for the bus to come.

I would never wear a fur coat now, because even if I still lived in such an unreasonable climate, I could afford to log onto llbean.com and order up a fine toasty full-length down coat. (I ordered up one of those in my last few years in Minneapolis, before I moved away. It was very nice, and really quite warm; but not as warm as my old muskrat coat of long ago.) But back then, when I didn't have that option, that fur coat was a lifesaver for me. I guess I feel some guilt about it, but really mostly I feel gratitude.
posted by Kat Allison at 10:06 PM on July 12, 2013 [44 favorites]


I have a bomber cap with ear and neck flaps lined with rabbit fur. None of it is vintage, all of it looks awesome. Should I feel bad?
posted by hippybear at 10:09 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


i'm not much for agreein' with PETA on just about anything, but i've seen how mink die, and damn us all for that. no. don't buy a fur coat. we orbit the goddamn planet in space for (what effectively amounts to) fun. we don't need animal fur to stay warm anymore.
posted by gorestainedrunes at 10:23 PM on July 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


I had a chinchilla and he was the best and a friend called him Glovesy and I got really mad and I miss the chinchilla a lot
posted by Brainy at 10:25 PM on July 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


If you spend $100,000 on a brand new sable coat, you’re going to be lucky if you can sell it for $15,000 two years later.

I don't think I'm the intended audience of the first link.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:28 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would never wear a fur coat now, because even if I still lived in such an unreasonable climate, I could afford to log onto llbean.com and order up a fine toasty full-length down coat.

*facepalm*
posted by Authorized User at 10:29 PM on July 12, 2013 [22 favorites]


I mean the fur industry is bad, but if there is some type of industrial animal exploitation that is worse, surely the poultry industry is that.
posted by Authorized User at 10:32 PM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Vintage fur? No. Every vintage fur out there satisfying fur demand is reducing demand for new fur. Its the most obvious thing on earth.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:23 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


If I was a trapper, or a frontiersman in the 1800's; no problem.

2013? Go buy some Goretex or polarfleece.

Sorry. ERA killed teh fashion. Live with it; if 'live' is the right word for some dead animals hide is the word for it. .
posted by buzzman at 11:34 PM on July 12, 2013


Was vegetarianism, or the desire to lead a life that involved less killing, the driving force behind the emergence of agriculture out of hunter-gatherer societies? Or was it a meme started to slander the 'barbarians' who live beyond the city gates?

I'm looking forward to the day when I can print out some vat-grown fatty tuna without even traces of heavy metals.
posted by b1tr0t at 11:37 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Does 'ethical' or 'green' fur meat exist? No.

Why is it so vital to be perfectly ethical? Is it even possible to be green, short of snuffing yourself?!

Case in point... one of the worst, least ethical things you can do for this planet is to own a pet.

But if you want to offset the greenhouse impact of owning a pet... why not bludgeon some harp seals?
posted by markkraft at 11:40 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


The height of fashion is to wear vintage fur but to shave your armpits and your pubic hair.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:41 PM on July 12, 2013


The height of fashion is to wear vintage fur but to shave your armpits and your pubic hair.



That's, um, a pretty sexy image right there.
posted by codswallop at 11:56 PM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


So if activists catch you in vintage fur, do they throw stale flour on you?
posted by tservo at 11:59 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


We've been growing tilapia in a sustainable manner and harvesting their skins for the fashion industry. Our new line of fish scale lingerie hasn't met with complete success, but once people understand the ecological benefit, I believe that all the beautiful women will want to wear fish skins when they feel sexy.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:06 AM on July 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


A few years ago I worked for a small company that rented space in an office building. Our next door neighbor was a lone employee of the US Fish and Wildlife Dept. His job, as he described it, was to be on the lookout for transactions involving products made from currently endangered species, as the trade of these is illegal. As mentioned in the article, that includes vintage items. The rationale is that the existence of any market at all for these products will inevitably lead to poaching.

To illustrate, he showed us a particular find that he had recently confiscated. It was a 60's vintage leopard fur coat. Apparently somebody had been trying to hock it on Craigslist. Quite a startling piece, both beautiful and horrifying to consider. I presume they destroyed it.
posted by rouftop at 12:15 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The beauty of things made out of ivory was really in large part a function of the craftsmanship. I can still appreciate those things because, among other things, people who engage in those sorts of crafts continue to be able to do so with other materials.

The point of fur is that it looks like you're wearing a dead animal. I'm not even vaguely a vegetarian and I still find that weird and uncomfortable. Vintage, fake--the whole point is still to look like you're wearing a dead animal. And yeah, they're warm, but so is good wool with appropriate layering. Fur's not something I've really ever thought of as attractive.
posted by Sequence at 12:35 AM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Markkraft, the article you cite has been about as thoroughly debunked as one might ask.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:47 AM on July 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


All you people are out of touch with your cave man roots. Many of my ancestors wore fur, just to stay warm. It's not necessarily a fashion statement. It's about choosing an outergarment that satisfies the needs of both fashion and comfort and warmth.

Have you ever really felt the soft fur of the chinchilla? It's so soft. Baby alpaca wool caresses your skin in a way that no synthetic ever will.

What's the point of being at the top of the food chain if you can't enjoy the subtle scintillation of lower species?
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:49 AM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I may be out of touch with my caveman roots, but I'm just one very large incubator away from a mink bed spread without seams.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:59 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


a mink bed spread without seams

Absolutely. I need that. It's so comfortable!

You can order a standard mink bed spread from Hammacher Schlemmer, but I recommend paying a few dollars more for the mink bed spread with finely threaded puppy dog hairs made in Turkey, because the thread count for the puppy dog hairs is much higher there. They don't have to pay the employees as much, so it's actually quite affordable.

It's all about comfort. Soft soft puppy dog comfort.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:08 AM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


One day I'll work out what to do with the furs I have in the spare bedroom - beautiful furs my grandfather bought my grandmother 40 or 50 years ago. Sadly, whenever I ask people for suggestions they recommend giving them to animal shelters.

While there are still people out there looking for real fur, taking one of them out of the market just means another load of small and squeekies end up dying...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 1:14 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Should I feel bad?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:14 AM on July 13, 2013 [27 favorites]


Is this the joke thread?

A seal walks into a club....
posted by Kerasia at 1:32 AM on July 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Breathless Zoo looks really interesting.

I inherited my great-grandmother's mink stole recently, and I'm hugely conflicted about it. It's in beautiful condition, extremely warm, really elegant, and the cruelty happened 100 years ago, but it's really obvious that it's real fur and I can't figure out how or whether to make peace with that. Poor minks, so far only worn at my desk on cold, late nights.
posted by carbide at 2:12 AM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't understand how we condemn fur while continuing to use leather without much thought.

Because our laws and customs generally result in humane treatment of cattle and goats... such cannot be said for trapping wild animals or fur farms.


Our "laws and customs" allow millions of factory farmed animals (including cattle, but especially chickens) to be confined in horrifically painful conditions would be likened to torture or animal abuse if inflicted on a cat or dog.

The enormous scale of suffering inflicted on animals on US factory farms far outweighs the relatively tiny number of wild animals caught in traps or raised on fur farms (as evil and disgusting as the latter is).
posted by dontjumplarry at 2:38 AM on July 13, 2013 [15 favorites]


"Rachel Poliquin, the author of The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing, says she’s always wondered why the fur fashion has always garnered so much more hatred than other uses of animals like eating meat or making leather clothes, bags, belts, or shoes."
Seriously, this has nothing to do with animals. Its just yet another thing for women to be enticed into by mass media and then be judged for doing wrong.

There is a strange asymmetricallity to this and all the campaigns like it I've ever seen. They're always about cruelty in fashion, furs, cosmetics, feathers, and even ladies leather gloves; but you never see any that encourage us to judge men for their choices in leather jackets, or wool shirts, rabbit foot tchotchkes, decapitated wall ornaments, tooth necklaces, or car interiors. No one ever dumps red paint on fully decked out bikers in leather everything, or businessman wearing leather shoes, leather belts, and silk ties, only women who just seem so much more natural to judge.

Its like reflexive; no matter what a woman's choice in sexual interests or partners, or their choice of clothes, or their choice in food, or even just the natural shape of their bodies its always something better analyzed and and preached on by their male interrogators for whom these things are assumed to exist.
"Because our laws and customs generally result in humane treatment of cattle and goats... such cannot be said for trapping wild animals or fur farms.
I've been to CAFOs for sample collections and I can tell you personally that this is a fantasy not at all born out by the reality for American meat producing animals.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:55 AM on July 13, 2013 [70 favorites]


It does genuinely bug me as a vegetarian that so many people are anti-wearing fur but pro eating meat. But then again, I'm pro-eating cheese, which is in many ways just as bad. I do think its uniquely odd to get super mad at fur wearers and not people in kentucky fried chicken.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 4:13 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand how we condemn fur while continuing to use leather without much thought.

I've always assumed that cow leather came from animals already killed for meat. Although now that I say that out loud, I bet I'm wrong.

But if we are going to do something about fur and leather, why not meat too? Even ignoring any humane-ness issues, it's a super inefficient way to get calories.
posted by DU at 4:14 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have lots of furs and never got to the conflict about the animals because every fur I own was given to me by a man that believed it made up for his bad behavior.....and I wear the coats when it gets cold enough and think...hmmmm kept the coats, ditched the man, love how the coats make me feel warm and cozy...and thus, my conclusion that really we still wear furs because it makes us feel good about ourselves.
posted by OhSusannah at 4:21 AM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Being anti-fur but pro-meat is hypocrisy of the most obvious order(*). You don't need to eat meat. Essentially, eating meat is something that you do for fun, as a hobby. How doing something because it tastes nice is in any way less objectionable to doing it because it looks nice is beyond me.

Plus - a vegetarian diet's better for the planet and better for you. Get to it anti-fur people. I know you really love bacon, but you need to stop eating meat.

(*) I'm obviously excluding here that small yet surprisingly vocal group of people who are genetically incapable of getting enough sustenance from a vegetarian diet. If you're one of those poor, poor people, my heart goes out to you, and let it be known that you don't need to explain the terrible nature of your disability to me again. I understand.
posted by zoo at 4:33 AM on July 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


At least part of the reason people oppose fur, but give leather a pass is sexism. Fur is women's clothes (at least in 2013), whereas men wear plenty of leather. There's a corollary to this where leather clothes are also seen as rugged and practical, rather than as frivolous fashion. That's obviously but totally true since fur is as good at keeping people warm as my leather shoes are at being shoes.

I'm not someone who cares about the use of animal products. I don't think not eating meat or wearing leather is more "ethical." I do find it interesting that I can walking out of the house wearing a leather belt and shoes, wool suit, and silk tie (and do at least one day a week), and no one thinks twice about it, but my wife couldn't wear a fur trimmed coat once a year without hearing about it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 4:46 AM on July 13, 2013 [21 favorites]


[I get the meat connection, but we can maybe try not to derail this entirely into an meat/anti-meat thing, or if that's impossible, at least refrain from being as sarcastic and contemptuous as possible.]
posted by taz at 4:59 AM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


[I get the meat connection, but we can maybe try not to derail this entirely into an meat/anti-meat thing

I don't think it's a derail at all; in a thread about the ethical treatment of animals in satisfying human desires, discussing vegetarianism versus omnivory strikes me as absolutely relevant, and I'm rather surprised more of the thread isn't already about factory-farming animal flesh.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:17 AM on July 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


I've always assumed that cow leather came from animals already killed for meat.

What difference does it make?
posted by spaltavian at 5:26 AM on July 13, 2013


Fur is women's clothes (at least in 2013), whereas men wear plenty of leather. There's a corollary to this where leather clothes are also seen as rugged and practical, rather than as frivolous fashion.

Yes, thank you. I have and wear a full length fur coat. It was bought for me at small, independent store in the US; it was purchased 2nd hand, but you can call it "vintage" if you prefer. It was purchased for less money than some of the high-tech, high fashion ski wear being sold in the shop next door.

Every couple of years it goes up to the last dedicated furriers in Ireland, which has been a family business since 1812, to be cleaned, have the hooks replaced, any tears mended, and shoulder pads taken in or out as the ladies instruct me fashion dictates. The women who do the mending and tailoring at this store are about 90 years old and pretty much the last bastion of a very skilled trade. (They are also terrifying.)

I have had it for 15 years and fully expect to wear it for another 30 or until there are no more ladies to look after it. It is the only winter coat I own. It is wind proof, water proof, spill proof and stain proof. It is voluminous and has seen me though weight gain and loss cycles of more than 60lbs. It is immensely warm, extraordinarily practical for travel, and basically the smartest thing I think I own.

Would I buy a new fur? No. But I have no issues wearing this coat.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:28 AM on July 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


Leather generally comes from sheep, deer, cows and goats, none of which are factory farmed or trapped.

If you live in a binary vegan mindset, where killing any animal is murder, it's all evil. If you're not vegan, the argument is tedious propagandizing that gets in the way of actual reform of the fur industry.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:30 AM on July 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


If I'm going to eat meat (and I am), I'm much happier knowing that the whole animal is being used, not just being stripped of one particular part and the rest discarded. With some exceptions, fur coats are made from only the pelt of the animal and the rest is discarded. That's what I find unacceptable.
posted by h00py at 5:31 AM on July 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Leather generally comes from sheep, deer, cows and goats, none of which are factory farmed

I think that cows ARE factory farmed, actually.
posted by hippybear at 5:33 AM on July 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


I do find it interesting that I can walking out of the house wearing a leather belt and shoes, wool suit, and silk tie (and do at least one day a week), and no one thinks twice about it, but my wife couldn't wear a fur trimmed coat once a year without hearing about it.

I think this has a lot to do with some quiet and enduring American cultural assumption about women being the keepers of fashionable domestic ethics. If women do most of the clothing buying, then it becomes their responsibility to see that their purchases are reflective of an ever-shifting set of values: Is it patriotic and thrifty? [Rationed sugar, WWII, or, later, a good cloth coat.] Is it modern and futuristic? [The '50s kitchen.] Is it ethically-raised, fairly-traded, organic, humanely-slaughtered, etc.? And compromise -- that grey area represented by vintage purchases, in this case -- gets squeezed out as an acceptable answer. Guilt takes precedence in the way the question is framed, guilt over whether women are doing enough, making the only set of morally-correct choices, and participating in the right kind of economies. The visible desire to dress without guilt (more: without appearing to consider the social, ethical, environmental, and practical costs of fur) is what's being punished.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:43 AM on July 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, I don't know if this will ease your mind at all, but fur animal carcasses are industrially processed into rendered fat, fertilizer and animal feed.
posted by Authorized User at 5:44 AM on July 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think that cows ARE factory farmed, actually.

They do spend a few months in a CAFO, but it's unlike the crates factory farmed pigs and chickens have to live in their whole lives.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:49 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have my great aunt Claire's mink jacket and I wear it occasionally - on Halloween. My son used to wear it in a similar vein when he was about 12. Which is to say, yes, I'm uncomfortable with that jacket, even knowing those mink died a decade or more before I was born and even though I am an omnivore with leather belts and shoes and even, for a while before the dogs ate it, an inherited and wildly uncomfortable leather chair. I would like to think we had gotten a bit more conscious and gone beyond the fur thing by the 21st century but like so much else that I thought was done and set - hello, abortion rights, etc. - guess not.

My mother had a full length seal coat. Seal. As in baby seals, clubbed on head, etc., subject of posters, marches and a century of horrifying stories. It was the softest, most beautiful thing and when I was a little girl I used to love to stroke it up and down and watch the fur change back and forth. She offered it to me not long before she died and I said no, thank you, it is beautiful but no, I frankly couldn't have it in the house. I don't regret that but neither do I regret Claire's mink, still hanging in my closet waiting for the next appropriate Halloween. I do, however, regret seeing an expanding market for new furs.
posted by mygothlaundry at 5:50 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I asked this same question of PETA, but in regards to leather (self-link).

I don't eat red meat. I've drawn the line there, but personally I don't have a problem with leather products. Leather is not what is driving the livestock industry. It's a by-product. I am not going to kid myself that my declining to partake it going to have much of an impact on the industry. I do think the greater sin at this point would be to allow this stuff to be discarded or to to go unused.

I do disagree with "whether it's lab grown or passed down through generations of your family, fuels the demand for diamonds. If you wear fur, you are participating in the industry." The second part of this statement is fine, the first is not. There's nothing ethically wrong with a synthetic diamond (unless you want to make a case for a waste of resources). A synthetic diamond is like fake fur in my mind. Do people really have a problem with fake fur?
posted by cjorgensen at 5:59 AM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I also don't believe in the laissez-faire slaughter of every other animal we can get our hands on. Greedy humans! You don't need to eat (or wear) everything!
posted by h00py at 6:17 AM on July 13, 2013


I really don't understand the fur issues or for that matter vegetarianism. Are you doing your part by sending in your $30 a month? Shouldn't you be hosting a carnivorous animal (cat, fox, beaver) in your house, and train the furry beast to only eat a vegetable diet?

Ivory is a significantly different issue as it's driving an extinction event.

Yes that's a bit snarky but we are all of us integral elements in an ecosystem. Just because a particular flower is a beautiful favorite should it become the only plant cultivated? Or prevented from harvesting? Are you upset because animals are dying? Do you have a cat is allowed out of the house? Is a mole or small bird less important than a cute Ermine or Silver Fox?

There are huge egregious wasteful abuses of our world, wearing an ostentatious fur perhaps is an indicator of the demographic that is indulging in the worst waste, but I don't think that anti-fur-ism occurs for rational reasons.

Think about the "ugly animals".
posted by sammyo at 6:24 AM on July 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Because our laws and customs generally result in humane treatment of cattle and goats... such cannot be said for trapping wild animals or fur farms.

Why is the issue so black and white for these activists? It seems like less crazy activist groups that are more interested in effectiveness than symbolism have made much more of a difference. Like HSUS (which is definitely an animal rights group) campaigning for regulation of meat operations. So fur comes from pretty unregulated source? Why are we focusing on guilting a tiny group of consumers, many of whom are pretty unlikely to care, and not on regulating that industry? It's this whole American attitude that the best way to solve problems is on the consumer side. Obviously, it doesn't work. Videos about the realities of factory farming are a Google search away and it hasn't affected consumption one bit. Policy is the most effective way to do things and you can't make policy changes easily while being a self-righteous zealot.
posted by melissam at 6:56 AM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]



I have hat I was given as a wedding gift that is lined with rabbit fur. It's handmade and the fur comes from a rabbit that was hunted. I know that the rabbit was eaten because the person hunts for food.

I also have two rabbit pelts (again hunted) that were again given as a wedding gift. The hand carved stone pipe that was used in my marriage ceremony sits rests on them on my mantle. Together they are all a symbol and representation of my marriage. At my wedding a rabbit was specially prepared for my husband and I.

Before coming in contact with the First Nations community from whom I received these gifts my ideas and feelings about fur and hunting were different then they are now. I would never have displayed or considered wearing a fur lined hat. I still have no desire to buy or wear a fur fashion item but my feelings about the overall idea of 'fur' and the use of animal skins have become more complex.

In many of these communities people hunt and use the animals for both food and the skins for various things with clothing being one of them. Though beyond things like hats and gloves the clothing tends towards more ceremonial use. It is not however uncommon to see people wearing coats made of fur in the winter. In one community they have yearly community moose hunt. The meat is shared among the families that attend the hunt and portion given to more elderly members who can no longer attend or who are in need. It's their main source of meat for the year.

In many communities where economics are an issue, meat and as a by products the furs and skins are still a main yearly food source. There is also the whole issue of keeping with cultural traditions and historical conflicts of assimilation.

I find it very difficult to condemn it in some sort of carte blanche way as being the 'same' as the what happens in the fashion industry and the idea of hunting and using animals in general.

I have no issue with wearing my hat or displaying my marriage pipe on the fur. Though I have had issue with people asking about my hat. On several occasions I've just lied and said it was fake fur because I couldn't be fussed with getting into a debate and explaining the reasons why I'm okay with it.
posted by Jalliah at 7:07 AM on July 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have absolutely no problem with killing animals for their skin. I feel uncomfortable with ivory because it is driving animals extinct to get it, but not with the concept of killing for a resource. It makes it hard to participate in these debates because I feel like my moral premise is off kilter from everyone.

But I suppose it doesn't hurt to share my perspective, since I feel in them minority with this one.
posted by Phalene at 7:40 AM on July 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


I inherited a blood diamond. I have no idea what to do with it. I'd hate to wear it. I'm content to let it sit in a safety deposit box, I guess. I could destroy it; I probably should, because I don't want to pass it on. Maybe I can repatriate it to a museum in S.A.

Furs, ivory, and factory meat fall into the same category for me: horrifying, even evil, production methods. I do my best to avoid them all.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:54 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


My friend works as a high school teacher in the Bronx. He grew up in Detroit. That's where most of his family lives. He has an uncle who runs an antique business, largely built from salvaged lighting and architectural elements from decaying neighborhoods, acquired after looters came through for the movables but before arsonists arrived for their thrills. "Nobody looks up," he says. "They'll break through all the walls for the copper pipes but leave a crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling."

Having family in the antique business means my friend has a pretty swell apartment, filled with gorgeous furniture and carpets. He also has a collection of vintage cameras and posters that his uncle picks up through business connections.

One Christmas my friend's uncle gave him a bearskin coat. It's about a hundred years old, pretty stiff in places but well kept, all things considered. I tried it on once, it's made for a smaller man than me, but it's still probably the heaviest article of clothing I've ever worn. Also the warmest.

He only wears it on the coldest days of winter. It's great for the motorcycle ride to work. His usual leathers would allow the icy wind down the collar to his neck and up the waist to his belly, but the bearskin covers him like a thick blanket.

One midwinter day as he walked up the steps to his school one of his more activist students saw him. "Hey mister," he shouted. "Do you know how many animals died to make that coat?"

My friend laughed and answered, "Yeah, I do. One."
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 7:59 AM on July 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


There are some communities in which raccoons are considered vermin. Raccoon coats were once in style. There's your end-member unless there is a species of long hair rat that has an exploitable fur.
posted by bukvich at 8:03 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I'm going to eat meat (and I am), I'm much happier knowing that the whole animal is being used, not just being stripped of one particular part and the rest discarded. With some exceptions, fur coats are made from only the pelt of the animal and the rest is discarded. That's what I find unacceptable.

If the goal is to avoid the suffering of the animal, then what happens after it's dead is irrelevant. If I was being killed by a shark, I really wouldn't care if the shark was going to eat all of me or just part of me. Knowing I will be used in an efficient manner does not make me feel better about being eaten by a shark. And if I was a cow or a mink or whatever, I wouldn't have the cognitive ability to contemplate that, I'd just know that a predator got me.

Personally I don't think killing an animal is inherently more or less evil when we do it than when a lion or a wolf does it, and I'm not even sure it matters what we do with the animal after the fact. The imposition of some minimum level of "efficient use" that we seem to require is strange to me, because anywhere you set that line seems arbitrary.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:17 AM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


What if you stole the furs?
posted by snofoam at 8:17 AM on July 13, 2013


What if you stole the furs?

It's not like the animal handed it over freely....
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:21 AM on July 13, 2013


There is a strange asymmetricallity to this and all the campaigns like it I've ever seen. They're always about cruelty in fashion, furs, cosmetics, feathers, and even ladies leather gloves; but you never see any that encourage us to judge men for their choices in leather jackets, or wool shirts, rabbit foot tchotchkes, decapitated wall ornaments, tooth necklaces, or car interiors. No one ever dumps red paint on fully decked out bikers in leather everything, or businessman wearing leather shoes, leather belts, and silk ties, only women who just seem so much more natural to judge.

Oh, come the fuck on. That is some rank bullshit. The only reason the anti-fur activists seem to target women is that pretty much the only people who wear fur are women.

You seriously don't think there's an anti-hunting ("decapitated wall ornaments," "rabbit foot tchotchkes," "tooth necklaces" --- !? who the hell is wearing tooth necklaces?) movement? What fucking planet do you live on? Everything else you cite is also strongly opposed by PETA, but basically fine by most other people's standards because animals aren't killed for those products, with the exception of silk, though, come on, caterpillars? Leather is a byproduct of the meat industry, and sheep don't die when their wool is shorn off.

If you want to wear fur, you go right on ahead. But don't pretend you're making any kind of feminist statement in doing so.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:29 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK, more seriously:

I'm in the camp of "leather" animals are slaughtered for meat rather than the leather most of the time, so the leather is a byproduct. It's also durable if well-cared for, so it can replace other kinds of clothing material (the production of cotton, linen, and hi-tech cloth are not exactly environmentally neutral, after all). I'd rather see all that leather used than allowed to rot. I'm not a vegetarian, but I limit meat consumption, which I like to think is lowering the demand for the meat.

I'm of two minds about the vintage aspect. Yeah, those animals have been dead for a while, but buying it raises the demand for current fur production and normalizes (renormalizes?) wearing fur, so I am not sure. The same is true for vintage ivory, which maybe could be donated to museums so people could enjoy the craft and art while understanding the history and why you wouldn't want to keep it in your home.

I'm also really aware that these are the lines I am drawing, and that there are arguments to be made on either side, and people have situations (this has been in there family for generations, it was a gift from this person I want to remember, etc) that are valid. So, while I wouldn't wear vintage fur, I wouldn't judge anyone too harshly who did.

And I definitely agree that there is an element of shaming women, maybe because women have fewer ways to push back.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:33 AM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


pretty much the only people who wear fur are women

Make of it what you will, but I live in a Russian/Uzbek/Kazakh/Bukharan neighborhood in Queens where this is not at all true.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:34 AM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seriously, this has nothing to do with animals. Its just yet another thing for women to be enticed into by mass media and then be judged for doing wrong.

There is a strange asymmetricallity to this and all the campaigns like it I've ever seen.


Hmmm.... My sense has been that the campaigns -- and that is a notable word -- have been so oriented in at least some part because of the relative sizes of the audiences.

As something of an aside, are there campaigns against wearing wool?
posted by ambient2 at 8:37 AM on July 13, 2013


As something of an aside, are there campaigns against wearing wool?

Peta sort of has one. "Have a heart. Don't buy wool". They have a pledge and petition.
posted by Jalliah at 8:43 AM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Make of it what you will, but I live in a Russian/Uzbek/Kazakh/Bukharan neighborhood in Queens where this is not at all true.

And they're exempt from criticism, or...?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:44 AM on July 13, 2013


Quoted in the article “Not all leather comes from the meat industry, which is a common misconception,” Griffin says. “A lot of leather is brought into the United States from other countries such as India where they don’t even eat cows.” Christy Griffin (from In Defense of Animals)

I call bullshit shennanigans on this lady. Way to ignore the fact that there ARE actually people in India eating beef. (both covertly for caste reasons associated with the handling of dead cows, and among more well to do folks who can afford to buy beef, and who can be "above reproach" for subverting the taboo....it's complicated and this article really doesn't do much to actually address the complications.)

I get that she's trying to make an end run around those of us who say "feed me the steak, hand me the vintage fur" but she lost every shred of respect I might have conjured for her. They don't even eat cows. I am appalled at her ignorance, but not surprised by her willingness to flaunt it.
posted by bilabial at 9:25 AM on July 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


The point of fur is that it looks like you're wearing a dead animal. I'm not even vaguely a vegetarian and I still find that weird and uncomfortable. Vintage, fake--the whole point is still to look like you're wearing a dead animal. And yeah, they're warm, but so is good wool with appropriate layering. Fur's not something I've really ever thought of as attractive.

I understand that a lot of people have complicated feelings about this, and I'm not suggesting that their thoughts or beliefs are wrong. But as someone firmly, firmly, in the pro-fur camp, let me try to explain a little why someone might want furs other than "it looks like a dead animal."

As others have mentioned above: fur is the warmest thing you can wear, period. I have never found anything warmer than fur to put on my body. If I want to, I can wear thin, beautiful clothing in the dead of a New England winter, without being in discomfort in the slightest, because of fur. Layering is possible, but layering is unpleasant, complicated, and requires far too many garments. It can never compare to the feeling of lifting one coat and putting it on and instantly being toasty, or taking one off and feeling the frost on your bare skin.

It's also incredibly sensual. The touch of fur is one of the softest things out there. It can sooth the most angry, damaged skin, or tantalize the senses being dragged on (or off) a body. One of the most sexy images out there, for some people, is of a naked woman draped in fur, or on a fur rug. When you put it on, it can scream, "I am a sexual, desireable being. I wear clothes only for the pleasure of them." Unlike most clothing, it is pleasant rather than a burden.

It's also a romantic gift. When a lover or partner gives you fur, they are giving you something that will be touching your body, but something that you will always be conscious of touching your body. You can't wear it without thinking of them. It's a way of bringing them and their love with you throughout the day. When you touch it, you can be comforted when you're stressed out, both tactilely and mentally.

I have vintage fur and new fur. I would prefer to purchase vintage fur, for a lot of reasons, but there is not as much on the market - and when it is, it has often been taken care of poorly. They mention a lot of how faces of the animals were included in older furs, but they don't mention how that is the first thing to deteriorate. To be honest, I'd be willing to buy faux fur if it were exactly like real fur, but it's just not. Faux fur doesn't feel anything like real fur.
posted by corb at 9:30 AM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


And they're exempt from criticism, or...?

Well, I suggested you make of it what you will, but here's what I myself made of it. Specifically regarding your comment that "pretty much the only people who wear fur are women," I meant to point out that we don't live in a monoculture: singling out women for wearing fur as a fashion choice seems to ignore ethnic and cultural differences which, though they may not exist everywhere in the broader society, are common enough in some places as to be worthy of note. Beyond that observation, since this topic is fraught and since some of us were more assiduous high school debaters than others, I will not venture.

The truth is, nobody is exempt from criticism, if that's what you have in mind.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:35 AM on July 13, 2013


The people who are singled out by PETA seem to be women, and yeah, calling them on the sexism of that is completely fair. (If animal activism of that sort were my issue, I'd never work with PETA precisely because of their sexism, with their anti-fur ads being an example of why.) Ice Cream Socialist's comment about men who wear fur in NY does make me wonder whether they get the same treatment in the streets, so even if ICS won't answer, I'm curious to hear from others who live in that part of the world whether the paint-bombers and such go after men too, if anybody even does that any more.

Personally I'm glad I live in a part of the world where it's not so cold that I have to worry about the attractions of fur. The care required would make it impractical for me, but I've been so cold (when I lived in NJ) that it's caused me physical pain many times, and the warmth of fur would be tempting. And I'd rather have a vintage fur coat than buy something new. It seems less unethical.
posted by immlass at 9:47 AM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I agree, if you eat meat or wear leather, fur coats are only small ethical distance away from a material production perspective. I eat meat and wear leather shoes so in theory I wouldn't see an issue personally. What is repugnant about fur coats though is that they are a well known conspicuous display of luxury.

As for vintage fur, the dilemma is whether you want to be associated with those people. Rationalization about its marginally-better-properties-that-can't-be-found-elsewhere just sound like excuses to pretend you're not part of that group when you really know everyone will view you that way.

Of course people in rural Northern Canada and Siberia are exempt from this criticism.
posted by stp123 at 9:59 AM on July 13, 2013


People in northern Canada and Siberia rely on people buying fur to make a living. The protests against seal hunters didn't hurt big companies like farm meat in most of the first world, but small, independent and often relatively poor people.

I have absolutely no qualms about buying fur, including seal fur - which is from a species which is not endangered. Their population numbers are fine, and much better than the cod numbers in the same area. But I haven't seen anyone start a fish & chips boycott. Or are cod not cute enough to be important?
posted by jb at 10:12 AM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, I'm on my own personal cod boycott. Not because I don't like delicious, delicious cod, but because I feel guilty every time I eat it. Same with a lot of fish, actually.
posted by hippybear at 10:15 AM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


In fact, a couple years ago I heard about a protest by some Canadian Inuit against the production of jackets inspired by their traditional parkas, only with fake fur. They pointed out that they rely on fur sales to bring money into their region. One designer stopped selling any fake fur parkas, and instead used fur from northern Canada. (looked for links, but I don't remember any names).
posted by jb at 10:16 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


hippybear: I also will choose another, better-off fish. But the seal species hunted in northeast Canada is not at all endangered and the hunt is sustainable. (Some people get confused with species that live in California or the western Arctic, which are endangered.)
posted by jb at 10:17 AM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have a bomber cap with ear and neck flaps lined with rabbit fur. None of it is vintage, all of it looks awesome. Should I feel bad?
posted by hippybear


Definitely not. Also: great eating on a rabbit - if the farmers didn't sell the meat as well, they were crazy.

My mother-in-law, dyed in the wool cat lover, has a back pad made of cat fur - she adores it. I wouldn't eat cat because it's carnivorous, but they certainly aren't endangered.

I'm more worried about increasing demand for petroleum products like fake fur and other plastics than I am about increasing demand for fur. Also, after it's worn out, how long does it take fake fur to break down in a landfill versus real fur?
posted by jb at 10:23 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ice Cream Socialist's comment about men who wear fur in NY does make me wonder whether they get the same treatment in the streets

I don't get the sense that those brave activists who dump paint on old ladies outside Carnegie Hall would be as bold around the big guys in my neighborhood, emerging from their immaculate white late-model Mercedes sedans draped to the ankles in sable, quickly surrounded by younger men in less ostentatious black coats and neutral expressions who hold open the door of the donut shop for them and then stand outside smoking cigarettes and watching the cars go by.

Activists might also reap extremely negative publicity if they went after the other main group of male fur-wearers around here. It wouldn't do any cause much good to be seen spraying "blood" and shouting slogans at families on their way home from shabbat services.

Perhaps in other city neighborhoods it's different.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 10:28 AM on July 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I have a bomber cap with ear and neck flaps lined with rabbit fur. None of it is vintage, all of it looks awesome. Should I feel bad?
posted by hippybear


No, my criticism about displays of luxury don't necessarily apply to a bit of fur trim on a hat or jacket. Much like wearing leather shoes doesn't automatically associate you with people that weather full leather pants, shirt, jacket, etc. I'd link to the SNL Leather Man skit but all the copies seem to only be available in the US.
posted by stp123 at 10:35 AM on July 13, 2013


You know, the obvious solution to the waste of animal carcasses from fur harvests is to gather them and process them for contexts where they can be acceptable protien, ie petfood, since I don't think mink or beaver is offensive to dogs for eating.

I'm also in the camp that says my stole (garage sale, $5, came off a coat) is better for comfort than any other item of synthetics that's available to me. I wear it with my sheepskin lined brown leather boots (again better than any boot I've ever worn for warmth) and it makes a big difference in the winter.

Furthermore all the popular-in-Canada down parka with coyote fur trim generally have the latter come from coyote culls to keep the population down.
posted by Phalene at 10:53 AM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


For me, it comes down to the fact that not wearing fur is really, really easy. I'm not patting myself on the back much for making such an easy choice, and I'm not running around throwing paint on people who chose differently, but it seems like one small and simple thing I can do. Clothing purchases are full of ethical challenges. You want to be cruelty-free and sweatshop-free and environmentally friendly. You want to avoid giving money to CEOs who only want to clothe the skinny popular kids / harass women employees / support right-wing bigots. And on top of that, you want to look good. You're a professional adult and you need to look like one, and for women it's an even harder needle to thread, finding a workplace look that commands respect by being neither too sexy nor too frumpy. You read every AskMe thread about ethical clothing and check out the recommended stores and discover that all of them seem to sell nothing but t-shirts and hoodies and drawstring pants (and good for those of you who have workplaces where this is totally appropriate, but that's just not the case for everyone). Oh, and also the money thing - your budget is going to limit what you can buy too. Basically, clothes are legitimately pretty hard, and lot of the time it makes me want to throw up my hands and give up. But when it comes to "should I buy a fur, yes or no?" it's easy. I don't live in Siberia, so I don't need it for the warmth. I don't have the money for a fur anyway (even a vintage one if that Collector's Weekly article is accurate). No one will ever judge me for not wearing a fur.

Just like I think it's a positive step to say "I'm not going vegetarian, but I will reduce the amount of meat I eat," I think it's a positive step to say "I won't be perfect and sometimes it will feel hypocritical to be imperfect, but I will make ethical clothing choices when I can, and not buying fur is one way I know I can." Again, this doesn't give one much room for self-congratulation or for judging other people's lives; it's about giving yourself some agency and making life about a series of small individual choices where at least sometimes it's possible to do the right thing.
posted by naoko at 11:15 AM on July 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


The leather/fur distinction is much simpler, I think - it's just a matter of effort. It is hard to avoid leather shoes - possible, but it takes a conscious effort. There are speciality shops that sell only "vegetarian shoes", or you can just get plastic or canvas, though they are likely to fall apart faster... But if you're not thinking about it, and you just go on about your life buying shoes, you are pretty likely to end up with something leather. By most standards it is still the best material for the job, and its production is very widely considered a basic good.

Fur, on the other hand, is easy to avoid. It is very expensive, and it is warmer than necessary unless you live in maybe Alaska or Russia... Also it isn't easy to clean or care for, or even to wear in a lot of everyday circumstances. There's pretty much no reason someone would come into ownership of a fur coat just for utilitarian reasons. You have to make a special effort to attain and care for a luxury good, while knowing it causes cruelty.

Someone wearing leather is part of the system. Someone wearing fur is making an individual and intentional choice.
posted by mdn at 11:21 AM on July 13, 2013


yeah, what naoko said.
posted by mdn at 11:22 AM on July 13, 2013


Well, I'm on my own personal cod boycott.

I just had a conversation (with a smart fish guy) about the cod levels in the north east, I may try to do a fpp at some point but it sounds like the estimates that the schools of cod are currently low may be quite bad science. Certainly not clear cut.
posted by sammyo at 11:45 AM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now what we probably should do is going out during war games on the sea and sinking a lot of the football field sized Japanese factory fish ships that are likely destroying thousands of miles of sea floor before they move to another continent.
posted by sammyo at 11:48 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


sammyo: I had heard that there were some dodgy numbers about cod around - what happened was that the scientists put out the proper numbers, but an advocacy paper misinterpreted them. (More or Less did a show on it).

That said, this doesn't mean the numbers aren't bad - just that they aren't down to a couple hundred fish. The stocks have still been decimated over the last few centuries and will take a long time to recover, if they ever do. The region won't be the same again, not in my lifetime or my children's lifetime. (I have relatives in an ex-canning town in NS.)
posted by jb at 11:54 AM on July 13, 2013


I've wondered the same thing jb mentions above - whether the petrochemicals involved in making synthetic alternatives and imitations are doing more environmental harm than any good caused by not farming animals for fur and leather. I don't know where to even begin researching something like that, but if an expert feels like weighing in, I'm all ears.

I have an old second- or third-hand (or more, who knows) shearling coat I bought for the first time I went Up North, where It's Cold, because my Floridian wardrobe had nothing useful.

That thing is intensely warm, windproof, waterproof, and will probably last me the rest of my life. It is also obviously old as dirt and if I leave it lying around it sorta looks like it wants to eat small housepets.

My subtropical self was happy in rainy Manhattan wind tunnels in January with that over a t-shirt. I did not bring it to other trips to Cold Places, due to concerns about ethics, and regretted the lack every time.
posted by cmyk at 12:08 PM on July 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Clearly the question comes down to whether it would be acceptable for Ozzy Osborne to wear bat fur.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:25 PM on July 13, 2013


Or maybe it's whether fur sequesters an appreciable amount of carbon?
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:26 PM on July 13, 2013


That thing is intensely warm, windproof, waterproof, and will probably last me the rest of my life.

So what is more responsible, a fur coat that lasts for several generations of use or a new petrochemical based coat made at sweatshop rates that is very stylish and lasts for one or two seasons at the most?
posted by sammyo at 12:29 PM on July 13, 2013 [9 favorites]


I feel pretty meh about getting new fur or new diamonds, but I think I'd be happy to have vintage pieces. I feel like if the damage was already done, it's almost disrespectful to just let them go to waste. But I'd never thought of it increasing the demand. Can someone explain how that works? Am I so cool that if someone sees me with something, they'll want it too?
posted by chatongriffes at 3:16 PM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


But I'd never thought of it increasing the demand. Can someone explain how that works? Am I so cool that if someone sees me with something, they'll want it too?

Well, as noted, I am pretty pro-fur now, but I used to be anti-fur - until I actually touched fur for the first time. It just felt so damn good, and so comfortable. I started with cozy fur gloves, and then decided I wanted more. So in a very real sense, I wouldn't have wanted fur if I didn't (tactilely) know what it was I was to want. So that is a real thing, to some degree. But I think that's also not necessarily a bad thing, if someone would have wanted something if they knew about it, to bring exposure.

It's the same thing with diamonds, I guess - I didn't like them until I had one and enjoyed how beautiful and sparkling it was.

I think basically the thing is that it's hard to convey the appeal of things that are subtle in effect until you experience them. But that doesn't mean everyone who experiences them is going to go off and buy new, though.
posted by corb at 3:37 PM on July 13, 2013


I don't have the money for a fur anyway (even a vintage one if that Collector's Weekly article is accurate).

The price quoted in that article is $3,500 for a $25,000 Dior coat. You are paying a premium for the Dior name. Boutique resale coats are $1,000 to $1,500 but they are commonly found in secondhand stores and Etsy for anywhere from $50 to $200.

But I'd never thought of it increasing the demand. Can someone explain how that works?

I think the idea is that seeing fur worn normalises the wearing of fur. I don't actually have an issue with that, I just think that as with diamonds people have to make ethical decisions about whether they want to deal in the estate/ vintage market or buy new. But hell, I wear an estate diamond as well, so I've clearly made my moral determination here.

In terms of the numbers, I'm willing to be convinced but I'm not confident demand is increasing. The global US$ value of fur sales increased by 5% last year, but fur pelts used for clothing manufacture are going for record amounts, rising year on year. It is certainly possible that demand is actually holding steady or even decreasing, but the per unit cost of manufacture and retail is rising.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:46 PM on July 13, 2013


I don't feel guilty, but I do feel apprehensive—I have a beautiful black full-length vintage fake fur coat that I inherited, and while I wore it in the winter throughout college, I always worried that someone, someday was going to spring a bucket of red paint on me.
posted by limeonaire at 4:36 PM on July 13, 2013


Phalene: I have absolutely no problem with killing animals for their skin. I feel uncomfortable with ivory because it is driving animals extinct to get it, but not with the concept of killing for a resource. It makes it hard to participate in these debates because I feel like my moral premise is off kilter from everyone...I feel in [the] minority with this one.

I totally agree with you on this, though I don't think we're actually in the minority anywhere.

Zoo: You don't need to eat meat. Essentially, eating meat is something that you do for fun, as a hobby. How doing something because it tastes nice is in any way less objectionable to doing it because it looks nice is beyond me. Plus - a vegetarian diet's better for the planet and better for you. Get to it anti-fur people. I know you really love bacon, but you need to stop eating meat.
(*) I'm obviously excluding here that small yet surprisingly vocal group of people who are genetically incapable of getting enough sustenance from a vegetarian diet. If you're one of those poor, poor people, my heart goes out to you, and let it be known that you don't need to explain the terrible nature of your disability to me again. I understand.


I used to think vegetarians/vegans were huge assholes, mostly based on the encounters I had with them on the internet. Fortunately, in the last few years, I've met a few who are pretty awesome people and not pushy at all, which has changed my perception.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 5:57 PM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


>> pretty much the only people who wear fur are women
>
> Make of it what you will, but I live in a Russian/Uzbek/Kazakh/Bukharan neighborhood in
> Queens where this is not at all true.

Not just Queens Russians. Russian Russians too.

(N.b. it's reputed to be lynx.)
posted by jfuller at 6:01 PM on July 13, 2013


My family is in the fur business. My dad worked over 30 years buying and selling fur-skins, my mother was a furrier for 25 years. This all in a company now run by my cousins. They can even sell you that mink bed spread. I've helped around there, from setting up some computers to combing some hood liners. So I am definitely not impartial.

In terms of the numbers, I'm willing to be convinced but I'm not confident demand is increasing.

My father told me that there have been a lot of new buyers from China at the auctions at Finnish Fur Sales and they have been buying a lot of high-quality skins and this has driven up the price. Scandinavian fur is definitely a status symbol in China.

So what is more responsible, a fur coat that lasts for several generations of use or a new petrochemical based coat made at sweatshop rates that is very stylish and lasts for one or two seasons at the most?

MTT Agrifood research estimates the carbon footprint of mink coats to be ~640 kg of co2-eqv. and fox coats to be ~330 kg. The carbon footprint of similar faux fur products is considerably less at 13-27 kg. Page 24 on this report (in Finnish). So this gives some idea about how long fur products would have to last to be more responsible.

I don't feel guilty, but I do feel apprehensive—I have a beautiful black full-length vintage fake fur coat that I inherited, and while I wore it in the winter throughout college, I always worried that someone, someday was going to spring a bucket of red paint on me.

It is a bit worrying that you have to worry about violence due to the clothing you wear. When I was a child, direct action animal rights activism was ascendant here in Finland. My father's workplace was vandalized often and two arson attempts were made. Someone also made the effort to find out where we live and regularly drop off a copy of an animal torture outrage magazine into our mailbox. However in Finland, the activists didn't really resort to violence so we weren't really afraid at any point. I can only imagine how it would have felt in a country like the UK where activist violence actually happened.
posted by Authorized User at 6:42 PM on July 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have absolutely no problem with killing animals for their skin. I feel uncomfortable with ivory because it is driving animals extinct to get it, but not with the concept of killing for a resource. It makes it hard to participate in these debates because I feel like my moral premise is off kilter from everyone.

I'm in a similar position, but even more politically incorrect than yourself in that I'm judgemental rather than apologetic - I feel anyone other than Vegans quibbling about the harvest and use of fur utterly hypocritical.
posted by Nibiru at 6:48 PM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, I think we shouldn't really be wasteful of resources. Killing an animal solely for it's fur seems wasteful to me. I also think you're making some kind of artificial line that is a bit weird. Everyone draws the line somewhere. Everyone has different lines. Eaten any kangaroo, or horse, snake, or emu, or puppy lately? Octopus or sushi? Pig brains or feet? My guess is you do have a line, so to pretend that people who draw it in a different place that you are hypocrites seems a bit disingenuous to me.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:07 PM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


You're entitled to your opinion, cjorgensen, but if one is comfortable rendering the flesh of one animal with their teeth and swallowing it, I really find it quite incomprehensible that same person could then perceive wearing the skin of another morally repugnant.
posted by Nibiru at 7:14 PM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


cjorgensen -

We all have lines, but unless we're standing in a position of absolutely unquestionable moral superiority (as per our current societal *norms, *mores, and *laws), we're most certainly not entitled to attempt to draw the lines of others for them.

*subject to change at any moment
posted by Nibiru at 7:30 PM on July 13, 2013


Being from cold northern Ontario, where -40 is de rigeur in the winter, my family has a number of fur pieces, traditional parkas, etc that have been handed down, or found second-hand at local thrift stores. I've really appreciated them in the very cold winter walks to school, etc. We do patch and re-line the coats we have as needed, to make them last as long as possible. My mom has a regular use fur that dates back to the early 80s, that she got second-hand. Gets sent for regular maintenance, as it is starting to fall apart. My parka is from the early 70s.

I have spent time at the local fur harvesters association in the North Bay area, and have toured the facility often, complete with demonstrations of the new traps and snares used by trappers in the region. With regards to the the trapping styles, there are a number of regulations set by Ontario Fur Harvesters to make for quick death; all trap lines must be inspected at least once daily, and there are a number of specifics for setting traps to ensure the least pain and suffering to an animal. Everyone I spoke with there expressed strong commitment to humane dispatch, and were keeping up to date with improvements in trapping technology and techniques.
On the off-chance that I ever chose to purchase a new fur, I would go to the local trapping association or one of the nearby First Nations communities, and place an order there. The people involved in wild fur harvest, that I have met, genuinely care about the animals and the environment - it certainly isn't a job for someone interested in a quick buck. Takes a lot of work, and a lot of dedication to the trapline.

That being said, I don't think I could see myself supporting the fashion driven - fur industry by buying a new piece. I don't agree with the large, industrial fur farm approach; just a disrespectful life of stress and suffering. I tend to have a recycling philosophy as it is, and I'd rather repurpose a piece from the thrift shop than kill a currently-living, miserable critter for the same result. My dad thoughtfully purchased a beautiful rabbit vest for me (who has pet rabbits), and it squicks me out a bit - I can see using fur as a tool for weather, but not really as an indulgent casual fashion piece. I don't want to wear it publicly and tell people wearing fashionable fur is OK, but I don't want to disrespect the loss of the rabbits' lives by throwing it away. I will probably keep the vest for when I wind up with a young rescue bun, or need to patch another coat.

In terms of philosophy, if I am directly or indirectly responsible for the death of an animal, I think that the onus is on ME to use the flesh and fur to the best outcome, not let it rot away and waste the life given - which informs my perspective on leather and beef. Using animals in ways that cause their death is a tough spot, ethically.
posted by NorthernAutumn at 11:49 PM on July 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


(^^^ My dad bought the vest for me so that my rabbits would see me as a BIG rabbit, and want to cuddle up closer. Aw, dads can be so well-meaning and sweet...I love the idea in theory, but I can't get over the thought of my bunny kids looking at me in the rabbit fur vest, and going OMG, MOM IS A SERIAL KILLER!!! I wear cruelty-free cosmetics for the same reasons - can't bear to look at my pets and think, "Hmm, your cousin suffered for my snappy fashionable new eyeliner". )
posted by NorthernAutumn at 11:59 PM on July 13, 2013


No, and you shouldn't feel guilty about wearing new fur, or leather, or any other outfit that comes from an animal that isn't endangered. And I'm not sure why anyone would assume that we should feel 'guilty' about that either, as if we're Puritans looking for an excuse for self-flaggelation.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:42 PM on July 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


Its a demonstration, again, of how we have triumphed over nature, and should be embraced.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:44 PM on July 14, 2013


Gonna make an educated guess and say that humans are part of nature, and the idiot narrative of triumphing over it is why we seem to be fucking up everything around us including ourselves.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:58 PM on July 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


As has been pointed out to you inexplicably numerous times, not everyone sees nature as a neverending 2 MAY ENTER BUT ONLY 1 MAY LEAVE deathmatch. We are all well aware that you believe animals have neither sentience nor sapience and that killing them all is a worthy goal. Possibly these threads would therefore be okay for you to choose not to engage with.
posted by elizardbits at 9:00 PM on July 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


[CiS, this is a hobbyhorse you need to get off of. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 9:40 PM on July 14, 2013


a mink bed spread without seams

Absolutely. I need that. It's so comfortable!

You can order a standard mink bed spread from Hammacher Schlemmer, but I recommend paying a few dollars more for the mink bed spread with finely threaded puppy dog hairs made in Turkey....


You get that cell culture has been a thing for like 70 years, right? And that this is kind of a running gag for me? Kind of.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:44 PM on July 14, 2013


Both of my grandmothers have mink coats. I remember being a small child and touching a mink coat when giving someone a hug and thinking it felt exactly like a puppy or a kitten and being really, really creeped out.

I don't like the idea of wearing fur, and I don't wear fur myself, and I spent years being a little shit to my grandmothers as a small child asking them how they felt knowing they were walking around wearing the skin of so many cute fluffy animals.

But I also eat fish, and have a leather purse (even though I don't eat cows), and sometimes I eat gummy bears, and I don't feel that all fur, including vintage fur, is bad news absolutely all of the time.
posted by inertia at 11:11 AM on July 15, 2013


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