The use of animals in fashion is a controversial topic among lots of debates. Fur is definitely the most infamous use of animal skin in fashion. However, the fashion industry also exploits crocodiles, geese, rabbits and mink.
Nowadays, catwalks and celebrities are where fur and animal skin is mostly visible. But, it's important to know where the use of fur as clothing came from as well as realising how society's attitude towards using animals in fashion has changed.
Original uses for animals and their skin
Lots of different cultures would use animals for their daily life and survival. They would use every single part of an animal, not only their skin.
Native Americans are one of the most well-known cultures to respect the animals that they hunt. Buffalo would be the main source for hunting for those like the Lakota tribes, before buffalo nearly became extinct after white settlers arrived. The skin and meat of buffalo had many uses for these tribes. And, so not to use up Mother Nature's resources, every single piece of the animal had a use.
Animal meat and bones made their food, broth and medicine. Animal furs and skin were important in creating traditional clothing for a ritual. As well as this, animal hides were fantastic coverings for shelter. Native tribes, like the Ojibwe, living further north in Canada made great use of animal fur to keep warm against sub-zero temperatures in their winter.
As well as Native American tribes in North America, native Aboriginal tribes in Australia use crocodiles in every day life. Like the buffalo, every single part of their meat and organs are eaten or boiled down. The rest of the animal would be used for medicines and clothing etc. However, these tribes also greatly respect the animals that they hunt, and only hunt them when necessary.
Modern exploitation of animal skins
Unfortunately, the use of animals has become commodified. Nowadays they are mainly caught and killed for the look of their skins and fur. This practice goes against what these native tribes respect animals for. Their skins are used but the rest of the animal is most likely thrown away.
Large designer brands using animal skins in their products has only increased this demand. Consumers focus on buying the product because it is a certain brand, rather than thinking of the product it's using. More types of animals are being exploited because of the increase in demand. Foxes, mink, rabbits and raccoons are just some of many animals used for their fur. And it is these types of animals that are kept in inhabitable and inhumane farms. In the United States there is nearly 245 mink farms across 22 states, according to the Fur Commission. And per year, these farms create 3.1 million pelts.
It's unfair and completely wasteful. Our treatment and consumption of animals today is nothing like the respectful attitude given by native tribes. In these industrial farms, instead of honour, the animals are treated with cruelty. Instead of every aspect of their body being used, they are skinned and most is thrown away.
But, those using animal products do not really need them. We don't need to wear real goose feathers or animal fur for our British climate. It gets cold, but not Antarctic cold. So faux fur and padding will be just fine!
A better future
The future, however, looks brighter. Versace, Calvin Klein and Gucci are some of many well-known designer brands that have stopped using fur completely. As have high street shops like Topshop, Zara and John Lewis. So, this is great news for the industry because less animals will need to be farmed for their fur and skin.
Hopefully, as a society we will realise the unnecessary cruelty directed towards animals because of our demand for their skin. And if more fashion companies follow the same path as the ones above, the need for awful animal farms will disappear. So, let's create a better future for our animals and make sure we buy ethical and sustainable clothing!
If you want some ideas on the types of ethical alternatives out there, click here.