(ANIMAL CRUELTY) Although anti-fur campaigns have helped shed light on the cruelty of the fur trade, there has been a recent surge in fur sales. Because high fashion labels are incorporating more fur in their designs and many celebrities are shown wearing it, the global sale of fur has increased by “70 percent to around $15 billion in the past decade,” according to Mark Oaten, the CEO of the International Fur Trade Federation. The truth behind this unfortunate trend is very disturbing as animals on fur farms are forced to live in cramped conditions—often resulting in insanity—and are brutally killed by being bludgeoned, electrocuted, or skinned alive. Fortunately, many great designers like Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, and Calvin Klein are choosing to stay fur–free with compassionate couture. Read on to find out why fur sales are on the rise and how animal activists are responding. — Global Animal
Daily Mail, Ruth Styles
Not so long ago, it was more acceptable to smoke next to a baby than it was to sport a coat made from fox, mink or chinchilla. Such was public disgust, those who did venture out in a pelt were likely to find themselves deluged with red paint.
But how times have changed. Once taboo, fur is now a regular sight on the catwalk, with labels such as Armani, Temperley and Vionnet using it in their collections.
At the Cheltenham Festival last week, race-goers turned up swathed in expensive mink and raccoon coats, while on the red carpet, A-listers such as Kate Moss and Rihanna are as happy to strike a pose in a fur as they are in lace. So what does that mean for the rest of us? Is fur now OK to wear?
No, say PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals], who point to a recent Times News Service poll which found that 95 per cent of British women say they wouldn’t wear fur.
‘We may see more fur on the catwalk but that doesn’t translate into what real people are wearing, unless they are the sort of people who would elbow aside a starving child on their way to kicking a stray dog,’ said PETA founder, Ingrid Newkirk.
In a jibe at fashionable fur wearers, she added: ‘Fur is now so cheap that streetwalkers wear it and wage labourers in China can have fur slippers.’
But Newkirk’s view doesn’t match up with figures released by the British Fur Trade Association, which show that domestic fur sales increased by a healthy 30 per cent between 2010 and 2011.
Globally, sales are just as buoyant and have almost tripled since 2000. ‘Fur sales are at a record high, with global sales of all types of fur increasing by 70 per cent to around $15 billion in the past decade, ‘ says Mark Oaten, CEO of the International Fur Trade Federation.
‘The boom is thanks to high demand from the Far East and Russia but also due to designers reinventing fur as a material.’
None of this comes as a surprise to Torben Nielsen, CEO of Kopenhagen Fur, the Danish body that manages sales for the country’s fur farmers.
For Nielsen, quality and longevity are the main reasons for fur’s continuing appeal, but he is keen to point out that fur is an eco-friendly material too.
‘Real fur is a green choice,’ he explains. ‘Fashion is the most polluting industry in the world and it’s really not very green.
‘Cotton demands lots of pesticides and pollutes a lot but lasts for only half a year as a piece of clothing. Fur is expensive so you won’t just throw it away. It can last for ever – perhaps 10, 15, 20 years or more.’
Controversial though Nielsen’s views might seem, they aren’t unusual. Writing in Grazia, fashion author and curator, Bronwyn Cosgrove revealed: ‘I wear leather, I eat meat. I don’t feel there is much difference ethically. Unless you are wearing a hemp sack, you run the risk of flaunting something unethical in your wardrobe.
‘Synthetic fibres are potentially controversial, given the raw materials and processes used in production, while cheap, fast fashion often has questionable labour conditions and encourages waste.’
‘We don’t have a problem with fur coming back into fashion,’ add PPQ designers, Amy Molyneaux and Percy Parker. ‘We don’t think for a lot of people it ever went away.
‘We eat meat and use and wear leather which essentially is skin with hair removed, so it would be contradictory to say otherwise.’
Nielsen, meanwhile, is also keen to address the issue of fur farming, which is legal in Denmark, but is the main bone of contention for British consumers.
‘Fur farming banned in some countries, including your own [UK] but it isn’t because of welfare: it is because of public morality,’ he says. ‘If the [UK] Government looked at reports that compared animal welfare on fur farms to pig farming or something like that, they’d find they wouldn’t want to ban it.
‘In Denmark, the conclusion is that welfare on fur farms is better than welfare on regular farms.’
Trends too have played a part, with many designers fed up with the poor quality of faux fur, while outside of the fashion industry, a new generation have discovered real fur through purchasing vintage coats and trims.
‘Fur coats are the lightest, warmest, wind-blocking garment you can own,’ adds Cosgrove. ‘Completely insulating without being bulky or heavy.’
Fur is becoming an increasingly common sight in the celebrity world too. Tellingly, of the five supermodels who posed for PETA’s ‘I’d rather go naked than wear fur’ campaign of the 90s, only Christy Turlington still avoids fur. The others, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss and Elle Macpherson, all wear it.
Even animal rights activists aren’t having the same impact that they once did.
‘The growth figures of the fur trade just show pretty clearly that consumers are growing increasingly cold to the animal rights debate,’ says Oaten.
‘Animal rights activists are still shouting as loud as before, but people are choosing not to listen.
‘Pop stars and actresses, such as Lady Gaga, Madonna, Kanye West and Sharon Stone, wear their fur proudly and brave the onslaught of ferocious attacks from animal welfare organisations like PETA.
‘There will always be vegetarians, people opposed to nuclear weapons: that’s fine, that’s what healthy democracy is about.’
PETA, however, has no plans to give up on its fight against fur and recently recruited actress Olivia Munn to voice its new campaign video.
‘Stylish celebrities, including Eva Mendes, Natalie Portman, Kelly Osborne, Penélope Cruz, abhor the cruelty of the fur trade,’ ripostes Newkirk.
And it isn’t just celebrities who’ve sworn off the textile. Although fur is popping up increasingly regularly on the catwalk, most recently at Louis Vuitton, for some, the material will never be acceptable.
Stella McCartney is one designer for whom pelts just don’t pay, telling Grazia that ‘everything in my store and every single garment and accessory that you see is cruelty free in the sense that no animal has died to make anything in here.’
And she’s not alone. Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, which includes Topshop, Miss Selfridge and Dorothy Perkins, All Saints, Vivienne Westwood, Calvin Klein, H&M, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Liberty have all pledged not to sell fur.
Meanwhile, Danish designer Henrik Vibskov has also sworn off the material, despite hailing from a culture in which fur is generally regarded as just another fabric.
‘Nowadays you can get material that has the same structure and feel as real fur,’ he explains. ‘There’s no need for us to use real fur. For me, fake [fur] is a better choice.’
Another fashionista who won’t touch fur is fashion writer Melanie Rickey, partner of High Street Tsar, Mary Portas, who says: ‘I don’t believe an animal existing in a tiny cage for its lifespan purely to be made into a coat or used as trimming is morally acceptable for me.’
For PETA, however, the fashion institution that really isn’t pulling its weight is Burberry, which recently ran into trouble over the use of peacock feathers on its £22,000 show stopper of a coat first seen during the label’s London Fashion Week show.
‘The Burberry brand may be known for its plaids but what it should be known for is a long track record of promoting cruelty to animals, including drowning, strangling and electrocuting animals on factory fur farms and now paying to have feathers ripped out of peacocks’ sensitive skin by the fistful,’ thunders Newkirk.
‘The rising demand for peacock feathers, fuelled by heartless designers, translates to the trapping and slaughter of India’s prized national bird.
‘Anyone with an ounce of compassion should steer clear of these products of cruelty and instead opt for any of the many fashionable options that doesn’t cost animals the skin (or feathers) off their backs.’
Burberry has responded by pointing out that the peacock feathers come from China, not India, and are sustainably sourced.
What’s more they say, fur accounts for less than one per cent of their business.
Burberry’s ethical policy reads: ‘As a luxury brand there will be limited occasions when fur is considered important to the overall design but we insist that as with any animal product, it must be sourced without inflicting cruelty.
‘Specifically, our policy prescribes the sourcing of fur from suppliers that are governed by high animal welfare standards, which limits the types and origins of furs used in our collection.
‘In addition, Burberry believes in the accurate labelling of all garments containing fur, to clearly inform consumers about the product prior to their purchase. As a result, Burberry is a signatory to the US government’s Truth In Fur Labelling Act.’
Oaten and Nielsen’s take on sourcing fur mirrors Burberry’s, with both pointing out that the fabric is often a by-product of the meat industry.
Oaten is also keen to mention that fur from endangered species is outlawed under the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) regulation and says that the industry would never use fur from domestic cats and dogs.
The big question for consumers is who to believe. Are we to listen to PETA or to Oaten? Ultimately, it’s a matter of choice. But whether you do decide to wear fur or not, it’s worth thinking carefully before you splash out on that luxe mink coat.