Fashionably Savage: Fur

In the bitter cold of last week, someone entered one of my classes with an admittedly stylish white hat. I reached out to touch it and, recognizing the smooth glossy texture, asked her if it was real fur. She assured me that it was rabbit fur, but after a few moments began apologizing profusely. Apparently my political viewpoints on fur are relatively easy to guess. In any case, I discussed the hat incident with several of my friends and discovered that even the friends who consumed meat and wore leather considered fur unusually cruel. Indeed, the fur industry is notorious for its blatant disregard for animal life. Eighty-five percent of fur animals are raised on fur “factory farms”; species farmed include minks, chinchillas, lynxes, hamsters, rabbits, and even cats and dogs. Squeezed into very small cages, the animals are often unable to move more than a few steps back and forth or turn around. Sometimes, the extreme overcrowding can lead to self-mutilation or even cannibalism, most likely because constant confinement and lack of exercise suppress the animals’ natural instincts. The cages provide little or no protection against harsh weather or the spread of disease and infection. If an animal does not die before it is sent to the slaughterhouse, it suffers for the sake of keeping the pelt intact. Smaller animals are crammed into boxes and poisoned with engine exhaust from a truck, while larger animals are killed using electrocution by inserting a metal rod into the mouth and anus of the animal. However, because both of these methods are not completely effective, animals often survive and wake up while being skinned. No federal humane slaughter law exists to protect animals on factory farms, and thus the factory farms rely on the most cost-efficient and profitable ways to raise and slaughter animals. About 15 percent of animals used for fur are trapped in the wild, including raccoons, coyotes, wolves, bobcats, opossums, beavers, and otters. Several different traps exist, but the leghold trap is the most common. A simple but exceedingly inhumane device, the leghold trap has been banned in 88 countries and in a large number of states across the U.S. (including Massachusetts). If an animal steps on the trap spring, the jaws cut into the animal’s limb, often down to the bone. Desperate to escape, many animals have resorted to chewing or twisting off their trapped appendage. Eventually, however, most animals die from blood loss, infection or gangrene, or are killed by predators or hunters. If the animal is still alive when the trapper returns, it is often beaten or stomped to death to avoid damaging the pelt. Dogs, cats and even endangered species, known as “trash kills,” within the trapping industry, are crippled or killed every year. It seems that many people do not realize the extraordinary number of animals trapped to make one fur coat. In an average lynx 40” coat, 18 target animals are killed; as many as 54 “trash” animals are trapped in the process. In a 40” coat made with red fox fur, 42 foxes are caught and skinned, while 126 “trash” animals may be trapped. A 40” mink coat requires the death of 60 minks and the accidental capture of 180 “trash” animals. While I may hold my own beliefs about the consumption of meat or other animal products, I understand that food is a necessity in all of our lives. For many people, adopting a vegan or vegetarian diet is not feasible because of dietary or financial constraints. However, fur is entirely superfluous. Since most animals are bred in fur farms, the fur industry does not help alleviate the problem of animal overpopulation; in fact, because so many “trash” animals are caught every year in traps, including endangered animals, I assume that the fur industry augments the decreasing animal biodiversity on our planet. In addition, synthetic alternatives such as Thinsulate eliminate the need for fur or any animal-based product to stay warm in the winter. A decision to buy fur is thus based simply on fashion. Since much cheaper alternatives to fur coats exist, the choice to buy any item composed of fur directly only supports the fur industry and the methodical capture and murder of millions of animals. To buy fur is to support the pain and suffering of millions of animals and to disregard all the alternatives today’s market provide. Thus, since I can see no possible reason or excuse for the purchase of fur, I condemn it as a vain and despicably inhumane action.