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That question fired up my brain when an acquaintance mentioned an item in her new “luxury” product line – a sleeping bag lined with the coat of a silver fox. I stepped away from the conversation quickly, before my grief and dismay could move from my mind and escape my mouth. This was the socially acceptable thing to do at the time, but the sorrow of that moment has refused to leave me. Take a look at just one reason why.
This is a silver fox. He’s beautiful, isn’t he? And smart. And conscious, sharing many of the sensations we humans experience, including pleasure, fear and pain. And yet the silver fox and dozens of other animals graced with what should be their own personal furry protection are made to suffer horrendous fates in order that we might usurp their skins.
The fur trade is a ghastly, grisly business. I will not be too graphic here (the links are more explicit), because if you care one iota about animals, the reality of it is terribly difficult to stomach. But – the weather is turning chilly and we’re reaching for warm garments, fashion continues to include fur, and new “luxury” lines are being launched that may increase the number of animals currently being skinned in the name of human indulgence. I want you to know about it. I want you to be able to make a conscious decision on whether you will participate.
And it is a choice: we do not need fur. We are not cavemen headed out with our clubs to try and score a pelt in which to survive the winter. We have a plethora of stylish synthetic fabrics available to keep us warm – I wear them in winter temperatures that sometimes reach 30 below. Yet an estimated 50 million animals die each year solely for their skins. These animals include dogs and cats. Some of them – and this is one of the most horrible things to think about – are skinned alive. Most of them are bred, born, and butchered on fur farms. The housing here is commonly a stack of barren wire cages. Their captives may be housed individually or crammed together. Conditions can be so horrendous that many of the animals go insane before they meet their ends. And their ends are brutal – humans don’t want to damage their “product.” So slaughter methods that leave the animals’ pelts intact are used, such as electrocution via a rod in the anus, and gas chambers. (And remember, these are the more fortunate ones. They are dead before their skins are sliced off.) Sometimes, if it’s not deemed too costly for the eventual bottom line, lethal injection is used. The animal may be paralyzed but still conscious when the skinning starts.
Furry animals in the wild don’t fare much better when it comes to the end of their lives. Traps range from the purely terrifying to the exquisitely torturous. You’ve probably heard stories about animals who will do almost anything to escape, including chewing off their own legs. And then there is the annual wholesale slaughter of baby seals in Canada; this is done pretty much caveman style.
Heard enough? There is faux or fake fur on the market, for people who want to make a more ethical or even a less expensive choice. But beware: not all the fur is actually fake. Sometimes the labeling is simply false. There are ways that you can discern the truth before you decide whether to purchase. And if you want to steer completely clear of the issue, you can patronize fur-free retailers.
We humans enjoy many luxuries. Among them is the ability to make considered, conscientious decisions about what we will and will not indulge in for the sake of fashion (and food, and fun, and so forth). The ultimate luxury may be living in a place and time (Here! Now!) where we are free to make the compassionate choice. I hope you will. I hope you do. Because I promise you: a clear conscience feels a whole lot better than fur.
“You can judge the morality of a nation by the way the society treats its animals” –Mahatma Gandhi
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