PEOPLE WHO… are FOR or AGAINST fur
It all started the day my grandma gave me one of her beautiful fur coats. I was going to live in Canada, and she couldn’t stand the thought of me spending the winter in a mere raincoat. At first she offered me her long coat, the one that went down to the ankles and made me look a touch over 70. In the end, everyone thought it was more reasonable to give me the “jacket version”, which was more adapted and, when taken in a little on the shoulders, just perfect.
At that moment in time, I was over the moon. Really. I looked at myself in the mirror: buried and half-visible under the long, light-brown hairs; caressing the enormous, round, slightly pearled buttons, telling myself I was lucky to have a grandma who loved me so much (even though, in all seriousness, I looked like Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl).
Not once, and I repeat, not once did I think that I had draped upon myself the skinned remains of some poor animal someone had killed just for its fur.
I was wearing grandma’s coat! The one I’d always known! The one in all the family photos! The one that was brought out every winter and for each marriage… The one that had her initials on the inner-lining…
I packed the coat in my suitcase. I dragged it across the Atlantic Ocean. I hung it in my wardrobe.
Winter arrived, -20°C. The coat stayed in the wardrobe.
Winter ended. Still in the wardrobe.
Back to France. Coat in the hold luggage. New flat, new wardrobe.
I never had the chance to wear that coat… I once tried to take it to be repaired, out of principle, but no. I couldn’t even do that. Accidently on purpose?
The coat is still sitting in my flat. When I touch it, every now and then, I feel like I’m stroking a big, lovable doggy I’ve had for years, and who is always a good boy.
I LOVE ANIMALS
It was torture: I love animals too much to think that we kill them just to make our clothes. I should point out that when I say “we”, I mean “western countries which have no respect and certainly no need for fur to face the cold”. I don’t mean Eskimos or Siberians, for example. By the same token, I would like to wear my grandma’s fur, feel like I was at her house again, pay homage to her and have the impression a bit of her lives on.
I don’t eat much meat. I understood Brigitte Bardot when she said she preferred animals to humans. I understand my dad, who is only happy in the company of his cats. And I understand the French rapper Booba when he says that the more he gets to know men, the more he loves his dog. I support India’s decision to classify dolphins as “non-human people”. When a wasp falls into the pool in summer, I dive in to save it, and I will never, EVER understand how animal documentary directors can film dying animals “to not influence the course of nature”.
Good God, you are part of nature! SO SAVE THAT BABY PENGUIN!!!
I really am pro-animals, I’m not messing around. But be that as it may, I have this dilemma, this desire, this disease.
Did Cruella d’Evil love Dalmatians so much she went mad, despite herself, and wanted to skin them all, dreaming of wearing them to “become them”, possessing them in the most extreme way? Is this how we become cannibals, by loving too much? Anyway, I’m getting off the point…
Are there just a few conditions which mean my love will allow me to wear a fox pelt around my shoulders?
I’ve tried to find an answer to this question: would I really like to be able to snuggle up in a Hudson Bay duvet (supposing that one day I would have the means to buy one)?
I make myself sick.
This question confuses me entirely. After a ghastly nightmare in which I was giving birth to kittens all wearing snakeskin three-piece suites, I turned to my friends. My girlfriends. What did they think? What was their stand on fur?
I questioned them on Facebook, and my question was direct:
“Do you wear fur?”
ON FACEBOOK, 12 GIRLS OUT OF 16 ARE AGAINST IT.
They all got back to me spitting teeth: “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!!”
The mere question enraged them, but there are many who won’t go further than: “I don’t see the point”.
Some will say: “We don’t have the right to mistreat animals for our own pleasure”, while others will go a little further, with: “It’s disgusting, I’d rather wear leper skin underwear” (which, as it happens, is rank, we all agree). The second reason for this collective freak-out is of the more aesthetic variety. Fur has quite obviously become terribly has-been. It has an air of “old granny”, it smells like “aging, high-class whore”, reminiscent of “half-street-walker-half-nutcase” (I’m just reporting other people’s quotes, by the by…)
In a word, it’s old-fashioned and a little vulgar.
Reason number three is disgusted purely by the financial aspect: “No, it’s too expensive.”
End of story.
But does this mean “it’s too expensive so I don’t own any” or “it’s too expensive, so I don’t want any”… I didn’t ask them to explain.
HOWEVER, what piqued my curiosity is that three quarters of this horrified panel of hysterical women quite naturally told me they had “a rabbit fur coat collar”, “a rabbit fur deerstalker”, or “rabbit fur glove lining”. They justified it by saying “but those are just small accessories, not coats!” as if it were nothing, or rather, as if it were different:
1/ They’re just small pieces
2/ It’s just rabbit
It seems that rabbit doesn’t have the same status as other species when it comes to ripping it apart.
“After all, we eat rabbit”, said one girl. Another added “it’s like sheep – everyone has something made of sheepskin, and we don’t find it particularly horrific”, hoping to convince me.
Because yes, of course we don’t eat much wolf or fox around these parts. But what’s the message?
If it’s mink, baby seal, chinchilla or ermine, sound the alarm! It’s a crime! But for rabbits, who cares? They’re already used to being eaten! This compartmentalised view bothers me, and as it happens, I can’t see how we can culturally rank this sort of cruelty. And is the “I wear what I eat” argument really that acceptable?
Many people think that animals raised to be skinned are then sent onto the conveyer belt of the food industry. Two in one, no waste. But is it true?
I asked Christophe Marie, spokesperson for the Brigitte Bardot Foundation:
Are animals raised for their fur then sold to the food industry?
Christophe Marie: No, it’s not linked. Other than rabbits in France, or cats and dogs in Asia, animals used for their fur are not eaten. In France, there are around 20 mink farms with the most awful conditions, and many fox farms across Europe. All of these animals are raised and killed solely for their fur. And the fur collars and hoods we see everywhere are often from coyotes and other canine species which are especially hunted for the Canada Goose brand.
Does the French rabbit lobby have much power?
C.M: I wouldn’t go that far. The investigations into French farms are subject to censuring by the rabbit farming sector, which is supported by national authorities… This is hardly surprising when you know that the “Orylag” rabbit fur was developed by the INRA, an organisation governed by the ministries of Research and Agriculture. Rabbit farms are terrifying. It’s like battery farming for caged chickens. Just bars, and nothing else. The same goes for mink farms. The agricultural code imposes “conditions in line with the species’ biological requirements”, which are not respected in fur farms. Where are the rabbit holes? Where are the ponds for the semi-aquatic mink?
Thank you, Mr Marie. I’ll come back to you later with more questions.
A long time ago I watched a shocking TV report on how foie gras is made. Keeping with the two-in-one philosophy, the geese are force-fed, before being plucked alive to keep their feathers in the best condition before being sold. I was young, and have no idea where it took place, but it was probably in France. I just remember the little goose fixed by the camera. Plucked alive, bruised, in pain, ashamed, it staggered off into a corner of the enclosure…and began to cry.
Je me souviens avoir vu, il y a très longtemps à la télévision, un reportage bouleversant sur la façon dont était fait le foie gras d’oie. Toujours dans l’esprit 2 en 1, les oies étaient gavées puis déplumées vivantes afin que leurs plumes restent de meilleure qualité et puissent être vendues. J’étais jeune, je ne sais plus du tout où cela se passait, et probablement pas en France, d’ailleurs. Je me souviens juste de cette petite oie que l’objectif de la caméra avait prise en amour. Déplumée vivante, meurtrie de douleur et de honte, elle partait s’isoler dans un coin de l’enclos et… se mettait à pleurer.
GEESE CAN CRY, OH YES! And believe me, it’s unbearable.
How can this still be happening? How can we skin animals alive? And why? For their fur, which we are now able to produce synthetically? Even some Zulu tribes have accepted that certain human traditions can cause the extinction of animal species over the long term, and have decided to wear fake animal skins for their traditional ceremonies, as reported by the French magazine Sciences et Avenir.
Would luxury synthetics (which are rare, as they’re non-polluting, and so finely worked, and therefore expensive) be enough to satisfy the arrogant wallets of those who want to constantly increase their spending, short-circuiting the animal fur industry in the process?
“You can tell the elegance of a woman by how many animals were needed to dress her.”
I really don’t know who said that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was our national treasure, Coco Chanel. It’s up to you to interpret the meaning of the word “animals”…
The other day I was visiting a young lady, who during our conversation took out a pair of ravishing boots. “These are Chanel”, she said. They looked so soft, and at the time I couldn’t stop myself stroking the rounded edges, and asking, with a natural air which still bothers me today:
“It’s foal”, she replied.
I let out a tiny scream. A tiny scream that came from my guts, and which I tried to swallow so as to not offend my host, who was staring at me with wide eyes and looking a little put out:
“I’d never really realised….until I heard you scream”, she admitted.
Isn’t that the problem?
Does our brain try and protect us by ignoring certain things almost willingly?
Do we actually realise what the universe represents?
Do we actually realise what is means to be a carnivore?
Do we actually realise what it means to reproduce?
Do we actually realise that we wear fox skin just to look good?
Do we actually realise what life means?
I tried to find an answer to this question (the fourth one, at least), by talking to my friend Arthur, a PhD student in neuroscience:
Arthur, I was wondering if the brain was able to “protect” itself from things it can’t deal with. Life, death, the universe, etc.
Among the young women I talked to about wearing fur, many of them replied saying they didn’t see it as dead animals. Or even worse, they had never really thought about it. So tell me, does wearing fur come under the heading of things the brain disregards in order to make them bearable, without asking too many questions? (In so many words…)
“I think you need to realise that above all, the brain is LAZY. Thinking consumes an enormous amount of energy, so much so that we often don’t think that much.
Basically, the general attitude is to not ask questions. If we have an immediate vision of the world that suits us, we don’t look any further. There really needs to be a large discord between the immediately observed facts and our own model of the world for us to review this model. And the purpose needs to be seen as fairly important. I think the young women you questioned have never realised they were wearing a dead animal because they never asked themselves the question. Even subconsciously.
Their brains aren’t lying to them, or protecting them, it’s just they never thought about it.”
It’s just a load of…of bullshit? Sorry, no, I didn’t mean to say it like that…
“IT’S JUST A LOAD OF BULLSHIT?”
My friend Eno had an excellent idea for making this realisation almost natural: “You’d need to genetically modify the fur of these animals, to make them release the disgust protein-hormone, so that everyone who touches them feels remorse, pity, aversion. But we’re kind of getting into science fiction.” It’s a shame, it was a pretty good idea actually.
I wanted to talk to the women who have completely realised they were wearing skinned animal, and seemingly don’t make much fuss about it.
TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY?
The FourrureClub is THE French community for fur lovers! Do you love fur for its sensuality, its softness or its erotic power? Fur fetishists, fans of fashions and trends, lovers of fox, mink, chinchilla, sable and lynx, you are not alone! The FourrureClub is here to help!
(God help me…)
Aurélie is in her thirties. She’s pretty, very friendly, funny, and you VERY quickly see she’s very intelligent on top of all that. She sees herself as a “fur addict”, although has nothing to do with the FourrureClub, and kindly posed wearing fake fur for the photo. And when I asked if she would answer a few questions, she was more than happy to help:
Do you buy your own fur clothes, or are they presents?
Aurélie: I buy them myself, unfortunately.
Do people try and make you feel guilty for wearing fur?
A: Very often, yes. Most of the time they’re actually people I don’t know. I started wearing fur seven years ago, when it wasn’t really in fashion. One day a sales assistant in Kookaï actually insulted me while I was in the shop. And a guy shouted “Murderer!” at me the other day when I was at the cinema. I’ve stopped counting the people who say “aren’t you ashamed?” when I meet them for the first time.
What do you say when people ask you: “Do you think about the dead animal you’ve got on your back?”
A: I tell all those people that they’re also wearing dead animals on their feet (leather shoes), on their hands (leather gloves), carried or hung over their shoulders (leather bags), in their pockets to keep their money (leather wallets, card holders and other leather items), and on their backs with their pretty little leather jackets. Because leather is just another dead animal.
Leather is a bit like bald fur, really.
My furs are also vintage (except one), and so a lot more “respectable” (I’m not even looking for respect, just a certain coherence in people’s judgements) than the clothes owned by people who insult me, which are all made by children under five in Bangladesh. And that’s without considering that 95% of people who are shocked are obviously not vegetarians, or even follow any sort of “involved” dietary code such as animals raised in the open, organic food, etc. I do, however!
I sometimes feel like fur is a tree of hair hiding a forest of complete hypocrisy.
I wouldn’t say I judge, nor that I follow all of my ideals to the letter. But I find many people’s positions and judgements very binary: wearing fur = bad, without stepping back and looking at their own habits.
Do you have any sort of real ethical rule about fur (refusing certain animals, nothing new, etc.)?
A: A part from vintage clothes, where I would accept animals such as mink, etc., I refuse to by new furs, or furs from animals in danger of extinction, rare or endangered species etc. I only wear rabbit fur, which is far from going extinct, and also because I’m not very rich…
How do you feel when you’re wrapped up in fur? Is it something you link directly to femininity, richness or seduction?
A: For me, wearing fur means happiness, bliss and joy! Since I discovered fur, I find it difficult to go without it in winter, I just feel so good. It find it has a functional aspect to it – you’re never cold wearing fur! And on the “style” side of things, it suits me as it goes well with my vintage look, and I struggle to find coats I like. Fur evokes many sides to femininity: the “naughty” girl, the right-wing battle axe, the older, classier lady. I enjoy playing with all of “these women”. I love reinterpreting the outdated look.
(Personal question, don’t feel like you have to answer…) Have you ever considered the relation between fur and female epilation? What’s your epilation routine?
A: I’ve never thought about that, and I epilate everything that’s “epilatable”! Well, seeing as I’m single at the moment, I’ve probably let it slip a bit, but otherwise, it all comes off ;).
And yes, it is a curious paradox. This desire to have skin smooth as marble, and then to cover ourselves in several kilos of hair just because winter is coming. “Curioser and curioser!”
I took Aurélie’s opinions to Mr Marie (the spokesperson for the Brigitte Bardot Foundation) and asked for his point of view:
What would you say to people who defend the wearing of fur by saying that almost everyone wears leather?
Christophe Marie: Leather comes from the food industry, although we could very well go without it. It doesn’t call for specific production, unlike farming mink or foxes, which other than undeniable animal suffering, leads to serious pollution, of the water table, for example.
What do you think about people who only wear vintage fur?
C.M: The problem is that it’s a fashion phenomenon, and like all fashion phenomena, the industry adapts. We are already seeing fake vintage items, just as you can find fake “worn-out” jeans. The labels are very fancy, even for “fake fur” clothing. The Parisian customs authority seized 4,000 jackets with collars and hoods labelled “fake fur”. But after checks and DNA tests, it turned out that these Chinese-made projects were made of cat and dog fur. Traceability is a trap, so we prefer to fight for a total boycott of fur, rather than accepting fur claiming to be “ethical”… It’s like commercialising old ivory. Experience tells us that it opens the door to all sorts of trafficking. We need to ban all ivory if we want to protect elephants. And we need to boycott all clothing and accessories that use fur if we want to protect mink, foxes, coyotes, etc.
VINTAGE = ETHICAL?
I have already encountered this opinion of vintage fur.
When I lived in Montreal, I discovered Harricana.
Launched by Mariouche Gagné in 1996, this rather luxurious brand only uses recycled furs, and has currently “saved” over 800,000 animals by “breathing new life” (no sarcasm intended) into 80,000 unwanted coats. Almost 90% of its stock comes from Quebec, thereby reducing the number of animals killed in a country which, let’s remember, can be forgiven for wanting to stave off the cold. When it’s -15°C and you can’t get a taxi home, it’s best to be covered up.
But in Europe, in France, where it’s 14°C until 27 November (and rarely below 0°C in the middle of winter), is it useful, reasonable, comprehensible or ACCEPTABLE to wear fur and actively participate in this massacre?
There was a time when I said to myself: “OK. I, alive and well, am against the farming or importation of “new fur”. This business should be completely banned. However, I’ll tolerate all furs dating from before 15 May 1981 (my date of birth, before which I obviously couldn’t do a thing).
Am I also lost in the forest of hypocrisy Aurélie was talking about?
Is wearing old fur just an incitement, a provocation, and just as violent a way of encouraging this business? A bit like guns. We know they’re bad. We’re against the sale and carrying of arms. BUT, do we censor violent television shows? And if someone offered us a gun, are we so sure we wouldn’t be tempted to fire it? Even at a can, on a shooting range or in your uncle’s garage?
“Oh come on! It’s just a rabbit fur collar, and it was probably made over 50 years ago…”
I needed answers (then, and now), so I asked Mrs Gagné, founder of the “eco-luxury” brand, what she thought about it all:
Is there a year after which Harricana decides that a fur cannot be vintage?
Mariouche Gagné: The word vintage means something of certain value (material and time period). We couldn’t say a rabbit fur coat made five years ago is vintage, but we could say that a dark brown mink fur from the 70s, which is reminiscent of the era, is.
Do Harricana customers come mainly for the ethical concept, or for the design that they love more than anything?
M.G: Customers come first and foremost for the design of our pieces, because if we offered ugly but ethical fashion, people wouldn’t buy it. So, they come for the design, and then for the ethical concept of clothing that encourages sustainable development.
In the same way you might want to start smoking again when seeing someone with a cigarette, do you think that fur calls for fur, and that even recycled, or vintage fur contributes (even indirectly) to the development of the market? (Just so you know, she doesn’t answer the question at all).
M.G: If the fur industry was more ethical in the first place, it would already be better and pollute less than the use of synthetic material. We need to be aware of the issues, and consume intelligently. The “eco-luxury” fashion we are putting in place is a good way of doing just that, as it recycles and reuses noble materials, while respecting animal and plant life. It all amounts to sustainable development.
Do you think that wanting to wear fur is a completely human act (need), beyond the fact that it has been enhanced by fashion?
M.G: In colder countries, fur becomes a need (one of our fundamental needs is clothing, in fact). Fur is a synonym of protection, and that is what it is used for: protecting people against bad weather.
In order to write this article, and find answers to my questions, I visited several websites, both pro-fur and for the protection of animals, and so totally anti-fur.
Visually, here is what I came up with:
BEFORE / AFTER – as we can see, it’s consumption that powers production.
(And believe me, I saved you from the worst. Sensitive souls should look away).
So how should we manage evil when evil is done? And when evil is so soft?
It’s not just about fur coats, hot or cold, or family heirlooms.
How far have we gone? Fur glasses? Really, Givenchy? Come on, Dior! What’s going on? Hey, Lady Gaga, I just wanted to say: “It’s not because you’ve done some crazy stuff in your life, like strutting about in a meat dress to get famous, that it’s too late! You’re a star now! It’s great! You can finally send out an intelligent message, congratulations! Now, tell your brain (because we know they’re lazy) to get into detox fitness mode, and open your eyes!”
I wrote an email to all the politicians who drew up a proposition for a law seeking to limit the use of animal fur in France. I wanted to ask a few questions.
Obviously, they never got back to me…
There will always be a way of doing things ethically, reaching a compromise and transforming the problem into a solution for sustainable development. But when it comes to fur, I get the impression that we’ve pushed it too far, and that unfortunately it’s now too late…
Do we need to go as far as banning not only the farming, production and sale, but also the wearing (!) of fur?
Should we tolerate vintage items, but require that each piece be classified, numbered and subject to incredibly strict checks? Should we consider that all fur farmers are guilty of crimes against nature (except certain farmers in the northern countries, who would be exempt)?
I can honestly tell you I finished writing this article in tears in front of my computer.
Be it vintage, or from grandma, recycled or “just on my hood”, it seems obvious that we can’t humanely authorise the massacre and torture of animals for the fashion of men and women. If these unbearable practices are the result of an unofficial industry, even if it claims to be ethical and regulated, surely said industry should make a groundbreking decision and stop its activities entirely to put an end to this trend.
There doesn’t seem to be a happy medium in this whole business: either we support the tragic fate of innocent animals and the accompanying human cruelty, in which case we wear real fur; or we categorically refuse (or just out of principle) the skinning of even one animal while it’s alive, and thereby condemn any industry responsible for these horrific acts. Each to their own.
Personally, and with full knowledge of the facts, I promise (as long as I live in France and not in Siberia) to never again wear real animal fur, and especially to never encourage anyone else to wear it.
(So yeah, I’ll probably never work for Vogue…oh well.)