According to Julie

Fur issues part 2: Attempting to make sense

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A response to comments on:

  • Part 1, in which an ethical dilemma turns up literally on my doorstep, in the form of a white rabbit fur vest.

Eva writes that last week’s post about fur didn’t address the issue of animal cruelty in the fur industry enough. I actually barely addressed it at all.

That fur is wrong because it hurts animals is the foundation for the whole fur debate. It’s the basic assumption underlying all the confusion in my head (which Martine called "witty" in her comment).

However there is the difference between "Fur is wrong because animals die" and "Fur is wrong because the fur industry mistreats animals and then they die".

The first sentence makes logical sense, but I disagree with it. I happen to think that killing animals for food is ok. (I had a tuna sandwich today.) So I have to think that killing animals for clothing is ok. (I wore leather boots while I ate the sandwich.)

The second sentence does not make sense. Animal cruelty is wrong. Fur in itself is not automatically wrong because of this.

I don’t know that much about the issue of animal cruelty in the fur industry. Also (and this is actually the important part): I don’t know that much about animal cruelty in the meat/fish/egg/dairy industries either, not to mention all the other industries I support each day. And that’s why I’ve worn fur a handful of times. Because being anti-fur would be hypocritical. It would mean arbitrarily "boycotting" something that I have never bought anyway, while continuing to support industries that may or may not be just as bad.

My conclusion in part 1 was that, given that fur is one of the many reasons human beings kills other species, and given my insufficient knowledge of the amount of harm I was inflicting on other living creatures, to be against fur I should also be against meat, fish and leather (definitely, because animals have to die for me to have this), plus silk, eggs, dairy and probably a lot of fruits and vegetables (probably, because animals are very likely to die so that I can have these things). And I don’t want to be naked and hungry.

I’m not saying "I simply don’t want to care about animals." I’m saying that as long as I’m not a vegan, I have no reason to be against fur in itself. It would be like saying "Minks deserve to live, but fish don’t."

Being ok with fur doesn’t mean I can’t be against specific animal cruelty. And yes, the idea that the fur industry does a lot of cruel things is one of the reasons I have never particularly wanted fur. In part one, I wrote: "I had never seriously considered buying a fur coat in the same way I’ve never seriously considered buying a pair of Prada pumps or a Burberry trench coat: I don’t have that kind of money." However, I have wanted Prada pumps and a Burberry trench coat.

Full disclosure: I have never bought any real fur. I have worn (daily for two seasons) a coat with a fur collar, which my grandmother had worn decades earlier. The collar was supposedly wolf, but I honestly don’t know. That coat had a rabbit fur lining, which I removed and never wore. I have also borrowed mink scarves and collars for specific occasions, including a costume party, from family members. The other women in my family wear fur. I was given a rabbit fur vest, which I returned after wearing twice.

Related links:

  • Here’s a video (Norwegian news clip) about cruelty to chickens. (Norwegian)
  • My journalism classmate Jorunn Gaarder wrote a very balanced feature article about the fur debate. It was adapted into a news story and published in the Norwegian newspaper VG, but not online. If you have access to the archive Atekst, you can read the VG article here. (Norwegian)
  • Anne Viken, a Norwegian free-lance journalist and veterinarian, has written articles about marketing products as "ethical" and what’s really behind labels like "local food" and "organic food". Here’s one of them. There are more articles about food on her blog. (Norwegian)
  • IFTF is the international organization for fur trade, both farmed and wild fur. Pelsinform is the Norwegian equivalent.

This is Part 2, in which I make a more serious attempt to discuss fashion as if it were a topic in ethics class. Continue to:

  • Part 3, in which I give the fur industry some marketing advice.

(Images by The Sartorialist)

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