Fur Trim or Fur Coat: Same Cruelty
by Ardeth Baxter
Times change. When I was growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, fur represented glamour, success, power. My mother owned a mink stole that she treasured and wore on special occasions. There was a furrier on the main street of our small town. I never thought much about the fact that fur at one time covered a live animal’s body. But as I later discovered, the fur industry is anything but glamorous.
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, animal rights groups aggressively campaigned against wearing fur. For the first time, the public was made aware of the agony that goes into a fur coat. The fur industry lost money. But in the‘90s and into the 21st century, the fur industry has become aggressive and is fighting back with a vengeance. Many fashion designers use fur in their collections. In every mall department store, you can find fur trim on coats and jackets, or fur-lined gloves. And the illegal skin trade is back and threatens endangered species.
The statistics can numb you with their grimness. Some 10 million animals are killed annually in fur trapping, mostly in the US, Canada and Russia. Thirty percent of US fur comes from wild animals. Along with the trapped fur-bearing animals, “trash kills,” or animals of no economic value, are accidentally trapped and then dumped (squirrels, opossums, dogs, cats, endangered species, raptors); if they survive, they may die later from their injuries. The traps themselves are the definition of cruelty. The steel jaw leghold trap is the most common trap. The wire snare and the Conibear body-crushing trap are also used. Seventy-four percent of Americans favor banning of the leghold trap, but thanks to heavy lobbying by the trapping industry, it’s still legal in this country.
Animals can spend as long as three days in a trap, while they slowly die from starvation, hypothermia, dehydration, or predation. Underwater traps cause drowning of beavers and muskrats. Sometimes animals are so desperate to escape they chew off their own limbs. If they are unfortunate enough to be alive when the trapper finds them, they are shot, stomped or clubbed to death.
Fur farming, a euphemism for animal incarceration and torture, provides the other method of obtaining fur. There are approximately 400 mink farms in the US representing 10% of world fur production. Scandinavia contributes 80% of the world’s fox production and 54% of mink production.
Fur farmers kill about 31 million animals each year—mostly minks, followed by chinchillas, raccoon dogs, fitch (ferrets) and sable. These animals’ lives are filled with self-mutilation, circling and pacing, cannibalism, stress and boredom. They are often crammed into tiny, filthy cages with other animals. They are exposed to extreme heat in summer and precipitation and freezing temperatures in winter. These conditions can cause these highly territorial animals—about 17% of minks and 20% of foxes—to perish. They may be the lucky ones.
Unbelievably, there is no federal law that mandates the humane killing of fur animals, although the fur lobby would have the public believe that barbiturate injections are commonly used and cause a fast and painless death. In reality, fur-farmed animals are usually killed by gassing, neck breaking (death takes two minutes), poison injections (including insecticides into the heart, which causes prolonged convulsions), or anal and genital electrocution (which results in pain like that of a massive heart attack for up to two minutes). Other methods are suffocation or stunning and skinning alive. And it takes the slow, agonizing deaths of 100 chinchillas to make just one full-length fur coat.
But fur is eco-friendly, right? Although the fur lobby is currently promoting that myth, it’s simply untrue. Furs are impregnated with dangerous chemicals to retard decomposition. Fur production is polluting. It uses more than 60 times as much energy as the manufacture of fake furs does. The waste from fur-farmed animals poisons waterways. The corpses of fur-farmed animals are often dumped in landfills. The planet is better off and you’re just as warm if you wear synthetics such as Gore-Tex, or faux fur.
What about the argument that groups such as PETA are taking livelihoods away from Native American traditional trappers and hunters, as the fur industry claims? The truth is that indigenous people historically have trapped animals for practical reasons—sustenance and subsistence—not fashion. The Native/Animal Brotherhood alleges that the fur industry actually helped subjugate native peoples. Only 3% of fur in North America comes from native trapping, and aboriginal trappers are paid very little for their pelts.
Thanks to pressure from animal advocates, there are no fur stores in Albuquerque. But in Santa Fe, every year on Fur Free Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) animal advocates picket in front of the Overland Sheepskin Company on the Plaza, which continues to promote animal cruelty by selling fur coats and accessories. (To register a complaint about the fur sold at their twelve branches, call 1-800-OVERLAND, or fill out their feedback form at www.overland.com).
What can you do as a consumer? Don’t buy magazines that glamorize fur in ads and fashion layouts, and write to the editors expressing your concerns. Anna Wintour, Vogue editor, is notoriously anti-animal and pro-fur. Let the managers of department stores, clothing and tourist shops know that selling fur-trimmed jackets, trinkets or fur-lined gloves is no less cruel than selling fur coats, and you’ll take your business elsewhere. Tell your friends and relatives who wear fur about the fur industry. And if you own a fur coat or jacket and don’t want to just throw it out, find out about PETA’s giveaway program to needy people here and abroad.
Not wearing fur reflects a very basic animal right, one that any rational and compassionate person can agree with: the right of an animal to keep its own skin.
For information about PETA’s “Gloves Are Off!” campaign,, go to Furisdead.com. Other excellent web sites for fur information are furfreefriday.com and www.friendsofanimals.org.
Ardeth Baxter is the guardian of four furry dogs and five furry cats and thinks fur is beautiful--but only on its original owner. For more of her writing, visit: Associated Content
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