A Contagious Curse

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The Plague of Fur Fashion and its Cure


Since the dawn of civilization, human beings have been mesmerized by the rugged hides and soft furs of every creature besides their own. In this quest for perfectionism, hunters stole the backs of animals to drape over their insecurity. Many humans of early societies believed in the “contagious magic” of animal fur, a belief that fur could transfer the powers and strengths of animals to people. However, in the wake of the 21st century, as factories cage thousands of small, innocent creatures in filthy, cramped cages for their precious skins, the magic seems to have darkened. As the walls of these warehouses echo with the painful cries of these creatures tied to tables as their fur is mercilessly ripped from their tender, now bleeding skin, this contagious magic has become a viral curse. If only beneath these posh fur coats and scarves, we could feel the spasming muscles of animals writhing in pain and listen to their agonizing moans and sighs at death’s door–we would no longer feel their strength, only their suffering.

Presently, over 80% of all fur comes from fur farms. However, a step into a fur farm is a step into a medieval age. Animals are kept in vile wire cages thickly coated in blood and waste. Due to the lack of regulations that govern fur farms in most countries, farmers often use the cheapest method of killing that only exacerbate the creature’s pain, such as suffocation or electrocution. In the United States, over half of the fur supplied to the nation’s fashion industry comes from China. Within Chinese fur farms, there are no penalties for animal abuse as well as no standard regulation for the treatment of animals. This can be shown by the routine cruelty of angora rabbits, who spend every three months having their fur pulled from their skin for five years until their throats are slit, and their carcasses are sold on the market.

Source: ww.gettyimages.com

With the birth of 19th-century industry which brought machines that transformed animal pelts into beautiful furs at a much cheaper cost, the fur industry has only grown in numbers and in suffering. In contrast to civilizations from as early as the twelfth century, where fur was mainly worn by the ruling classes, fur has become more accessible to the middle and lower classes because of the Industrial Revolution. Though animal rights activists have exposed the horrors of the fur industry since the 1980s, most consumers, coddled in their cozy nests of cruelty, have remained indifferent or even aggressive towards them. Many consumers argue that faux fur is equally detrimental as real fur because faux fur is a plastic product made from petroleum, encouraging pollution.

While many defiant readers may be ready to exit out of this article in a huff or have already done so, they may be surprised to read that their fellow narrator does not condemn fur in the fashion industry. In her humble opinion, real fur trumps faux fur–as long as it is done ethically.

British fur farmers William and Elizabeth Sichel of the Orkney Angora have proved to the masses that fur can be produced justly and sustainably. The Sichels currently have a farm that houses over 100 angora rabbits. Rather than ripping the fur from their backs, the Sichels use  electric clippers and remove the rabbit’s wool in 30 minutes. As these free-range rabbits munch on crisp vegetation in bliss, they are able to produce 1kg of wool per year. Mixed with lambswool, the Sichels are able to weave around 300 sweaters per year, creating a  lucrative business for themselves. Once the rabbit has reached a certain age where fur is not produced so readily, they are able to retire in the Sichel’s angora retirement home.

Though there is the capacity for cruelty in every business, there is also the capacity for compassion. With a more conscientious mindset, the fashion industry can become a leader in ethics just like any charity. All it takes is a big heart and a little research.