I've long been an advocate of the anti-fur movement. Though increasingly I get the sense that concerns such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) are fighting a losing battle against fur-loving fashionistas. I was reassured that they haven't given up the fight today when the below email arrived from Mandy Carter of PETA. The video footage linked below is harrowing but neccessary viewing.
A deluded young sophisticate with her mink fur and a Babycham
I am writing on behalf of PETA UK – an affiliate of PETA US, the largest animal rights organisation in the world, which has more than 2 million members and supporters. As someone who reports on fashion, you play a vital role in keeping your readers informed about all aspects of the fashion trade, including the ethical implications. In an attempt to sell more of its products, the fur industry spreads a great deal of misinformation about conditions for animals raised and killed for their fur. With London Fashion Week approaching, we hope you will allow us to share some information that we believe will be useful in offering your readers a truly balanced account of the fur business.
Most people are aware of some of the suffering that animals endure at the hands of the fur industry, but the reality is often even crueller than the image they hold. The fur industry promotes the idea that European fur farms have higher welfare standards, but animals on these farms suffer fates just as terrifying and agonising as animals elsewhere in the world. Indeed, new video footage captured during an investigation into Swedish fur farms has exposed the horror inflicted on animals in Europe. Please note that this video was not taken on isolated, rogue farms; the footage from Sweden was filmed during visits to 20 per cent of that country's mink farms, while a similarly shocking video was shot at 30 separate farms across Finland.
For the last London Fashion Week, singer Natalie Imbruglia narrated a video for PETA about the fur trade, showing how animals killed for their fur are commonly skinned alive, how mother animals who become caught in traps in the wild often chew off their own limbs in a desperate attempt to return to their babies and how 2 million cats and dogs are killed for their fur every single year in China.
Although these videos are difficult to watch, I implore you to take a few moments to do so, as they will help you provide a more complete portrait of fur industry practices to your readers. As on other farms on which animals endure intensive confinement – often driven mad by isolation and frustration – fur factory farms are designed to maximise profits at the expense of animals' well-being. Because fur farmers care only about preserving the quality of the fur, they use slaughter methods that keep the pelts intact but can result in extreme suffering for the animals. Small animals may be crammed into boxes and poisoned with hot, unfiltered engine exhaust from a truck. Engine exhaust is not always lethal, and some animals wake up while they are being skinned. Larger animals have clamps attached to their bodies or rods forced into their mouths or their anuses, by which they are painfully electrocuted. Gassing and neck-breaking are other common slaughter methods on fur factory farms.
Public opinion polls consistently show that the vast majority of people are strongly opposed to wearing animal fur, and a 2010 survey by the RSPCA showed that 95 per cent of the public say that they would never wear it. The list of stylish women who shun fur include Hollywood A-listers such as Eva Mendes, Kate Winslet and Charlize Theron; first ladies Carla Sarkozy and Michelle Obama; the music industry's biggest stars, including Leona Lewis and Pink; and teen favourites Fearne Cotton and Kelly Osbourne.
Top fashion designers including Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger refuse to use real fur in their collections. And from large department stores such as Harvey Nichols and Selfridges to fashionable High Street retailers such as AllSaints and Topshop, more and more compassionate retailers are implementing fur-free policies.
I have taken the liberty of including some answers to commonly asked questions about fur,
Is vintage fur OK?
Some people have been misguided as to the ethics of vintage fur. All "vintage" means is that the animals were killed long ago, but whether animals suffered and died yesterday or 50 years ago, all fur sends the same unacceptable message: that it is OK to torment animals and rip the skin off their backs in the name of fashion.
Marlene Dietrich wearing the real deal.
Isn't real fur better for the environment?
Real fur is environmentally unfriendly. Toxic chemicals are used to preserve and process the skins, and waste from processing plants and fur farms poisons rivers and streams. It also takes 20 times as much energy to process a coat made from animal fur as it does one made from fake fur! And fur coats are not biodegradable – they are coated in chemicals to stop them from rotting.
Topshop do brilliant faux fur (£100)
Is rabbit fur a by-product of the meat industry?
The fur industry likes to tell the public that the rabbit fur used for outerwear, trim and accessories is a by-product of the rabbit-meat industry. The truth is that the rabbit-fur industry demands the thicker pelt of an older animal. Rabbits who are used for meat are usually killed at the tender age of between 10 and 12 weeks; this means the rabbits who are raised and killed for meat are not the same rabbits who are killed for their fur. Our undercover exposé shows how these gentle creatures scream during slaughter.
Isn't fur carrying the "Origin Assured" label OK?
The fur industry's "Origin Assured" (OA) label is a shameless attempt to make consumers feel good about buying an inherently cruel product. The labelling in no way translates into acceptable treatment of animals who are killed for their fur.
In the US, which is one of the countries included on the OA list, not a single humane-slaughter law protects animals on fur farms. This means that after spending their entire lives in tiny wire cages where they often go insane from confinement, animals on these fur farms can have their necks broken, be gassed or have rods forced into their anuses through which they are painfully electrocuted. Compassionate consumers know that the only truly ethical fur is faux.
Don't we have an excuse to wear fur in this cold weather?
This is one of the most ludicrous of all the fur industry's arguments. When mountaineers climb Mount Everest, they don't do it in mink coats! There are countless modern, human-made fibres which are warmer, lighter and more weather-proof than fur. The fact is, some people advocate the killing of millions of animals simply because they like the way it looks. With all the chic, cruelty-free options available, there's no reason to steal animals' skins in order to keep warm.
Woolrich: keeping Editors snug during cold fashion weeks
Very sincerely yours
Special Projects Coordinator
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Tel +44 (0) 20 7357 9229 ext #244