Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Stripping Down the Controversy of the Fur Industry

*NOTE: There are pictures in this article of caged animals but none are gruesome.*

Centuries ago it was very common to wear fur, especially in cold climates because of its excellent insulation properties. In the 19th century European men ventured into the North American wilderness in hunt of the fur of animals such as beaver, wolf, marten, mink, fox and lynx. The men went up the Saint Lawrence, over the Great Lakes, through the Canadian Plains and north to the Yukon in search of these animals. The first fur farms in North America appeared in the 1860s. A fur farm is the practice of breeding or raising certain types of animals for their fur. Some economic historians and anthropologists say that fur farms and the fur trade played an important economic role for many countries. Fur was in great demand especially back in Europe and fortunes were made in the fur trade industry.

Back then it was acceptable to kill animals and use their fur because they didn’t have a lot of fibres and fabrics we have now. They had to use what was available to them. However, now there are more fibres (natural and synthetic) that are available for us to use so we can keep warm. The demand of fur has gone down because of these newer fibres. Starting in the later half of the 20th century, producers and wearers of fur have been criticized because of the perceived cruelty involved in animal farming and trapping.

So the debate is: Is it humane in this day and age to kill innocent animals to wear fur? Yes, some find it fashionable but is there a price to be paid, that has nothing to do with money, for this fashion statement? Let’s look at where these fur clothing items come from and what goes on in the fur industry.

The manufacturing of fur clothing involves obtaining animal pelts where the hair is left on. Fur processing involves an array of chemicals from soaking and degreasing agents, to enzymes, oils and greases, bleaches, dyes, reinforcing agents, toners, tanning and finishing chemicals. To kill the animals without damaging their fur, trappers usually strangle, beat, or stomp them to death. Animals on fur farms may be gassed, electrocuted, poisoned, or have their necks snapped. According to the International Fur Trade Federation in “Fur Farming” 2006, eighty-five percent of the fur industry’s skins come from animals living captive in fur factory farms. The animals—who are housed in very small cages— are known to develop physical and psychological problems. Zoologists at Oxford University who studied captive minks found that, despite generations of being bred for fur, minks have not been domesticated and suffer greatly in captivity, especially if they are not given the opportunity to swim. Life in a cage leads minks to self-mutilate — biting at their skin, tails, and feet — and frantically pace and circle endlessly. Foxes and other animals suffer equally and have been found to cannibalize each other as a reaction to their crowded confinement. According to the International Fur Trade Federation, seventy-three percent of fur farms are in Europe, 12 percent are in North America, and the rest are dispersed throughout the world, in countries such as Argentina, China, and Russia.

The animals most commonly killed for fur trim are foxes. 90% percent of the foxes raised on fur farms are killed for the fur-trim market. Arctic or blue foxes are the primary type used, followed by the silver or red foxes. As of 2000, the total number of foxes killed on fur farms worldwide was 4.3 million.

In the countries like the United States and China there are no federal laws governing the care, treatment, or killing of animals on fur farms. There are countries that have banned fur farming or made laws on how to run a fur farm. Fur farming was banned in England and Wales by the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000 and in Scotland by the Fur Farming (Prohibition) (Scotland) Act 2002. Fur farming is banned in Austria and in Croatia starting January 1, 2007, with a 10 year phase out period.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are known for going after celebrities who wear fur.

PETA has recently dubbed the Olsen twins Hairy-Kate and Trashley Trollsen.

Ultimately it is your decision to wear fur or not. If you have no problem with it and want to wear clothing that has fur there is nothing stopping you. If you want to find out more feel free to search and find out more about the fur trade or fur industry. PETA’s website is http://www.peta.org/

This article stated facts in an unbiased way.

1 comment:

Henry Cowit said...

A good book on this topic is The Cultural Politics of Fur by Julia Emberley. She talks about the history and meaning of fur and fashion, especially New York furriers. It's a controversial topic, but so is New York fashion!