Animals are and have been utilised in clothing for centuries, whether for inspiration, or actually killing the animal and using its body. In regard to ethics, many of us believe they are a natural source provided to us by God for food and whatever we see fit. It’s hard to argue with evolution and biology, but is this now an outdated view with the progression of veganism and science for alternative materials? Or is there an innate desire to wear that fur coat?
A Brief History of Animals in Fashion
Centuries ago, animal skin was used by cavemen for protection. A time where there was no alternative and no screaming worry of the planet’s scarce resources. Through history animals have been our food, clothing, and our best friends. Drawings can be found in caves representing this relationship showing domesticated pets living among early humans and drawings of wild animals.
Obviously, this was a time where there was no other option but to use animals. Nowadays we have so many alternatives such as cotton and polyester which are naturally derived from plants and make up for 85% of all clothing. However, they also have their cons when it comes to environmental waste. It takes 5,300 gallons of water to make a cotton t-shirt and jeans. So it seems the only ethical routes are to go naked, wear leaves, or choose the lesser evil.
A Little Psychology
We live in a society where we are fortunate enough to not have to think twice about how to naturally obtain anything from an avocado to a fur coat. This physical and psychological proximity has led to demand increasing by the day. In fact this is simply the case for most resources.
Western society moulds us into desiring the same superficial things in life, in order of precedence: power and beauty. Slipping into a fur coat can make one feel they almost dominate animals and nature, wearing its fragility with pride and almost like a high. It is also a natural beauty, one that no matter how ugly will still be desired because power is valued by society. In the past, there have been legislations on who can and cannot wear certain types of fur to represent power based on class. Enforcing this even involved the death penalty and you could argue that these archaic methods are a gateway to justifying human cruelty, by providing a false sense of superiority.
Fur is also a very sensual and sexual material in all that it represents. You may even feel ‘sexy’ from wearing an item of fur. It may be worn by people with a submissive personality to embody an exotic prey or a trophy to take. The mere possession of fur is powerful as most animals don’t allow human touch unless they are captured or killed. Many hunters write about the sexually charged experience they have using mating calls, waiting, touching forbidden bodies and even eating the animal. An adventure most of us will never embark on yet we still desire to flaunt the rewards. Makes you wonder... is the acquisition of fur a biologically ingrained desire or are humans just too superficial?
In today's society animal rights issues are a wider spread conversation with many opinions out there. The most important and influential one being that of our friends, especially for teenagers who relate to the cause in an aspect of being pro-life.
How is it Obtained?
Some of the animals used in the fashion industry include: rabbits, minks, goats, foxes, crocodiles, alpacas, llamas, cats and dogs. Faux fur is an increasingly popular trend as fast fashion brands try to replicate more luxury and haute couture at high demand. However, Misguided was found to be selling mislabelled real fur as faux, so can we really trust our sources in a world where cutting financial costs is the most important goal?
Obtaining fur can be a horrific experience for the animal. Many are bred on ‘fur farms’, overfed to increase materials and confined to a very small cage with little to no movement space. 85% of the fur industry is sourced from fur farms. China is the biggest provider of fur as there are no legislations on the treatment of animals. It has also been known that cat and dog hair is frequently mislabelled in China and shipped off worldwide.
Some argue that if an animal is caught in the wild it is natural and considered ‘ethical’ as the animal gets to live a normal, happy, and free life.
Of course, animal skin is still skin and will rot if you don’t apply toxic chemicals to keep it from decomposing. This process makes the fur industry one of top five contributors to toxic metal production.
What can we do?
Alternatives to fur are always a great option like faux fur or purchasing vintage/second-hand fur goods. Many brands including but not limited to Versace, Michael Kors and Gucci have moved to being fur-free and it is becoming an industry trend. Another thing currently trending (also in the beauty industry) is vegan and cruelty-free with even Kylie Jenner getting involved! Many of us have shifted our mindsets to understand there is power in conservation and maintenance of our land. Unfortunately, fur has settled comfortably within the industry with justifications from historical bonds and lazy human nature; the lesser evil is the option that requires more effort.
Our desire to own and wear fur is very much based on human psychology - whether it be through the natural and Western desire for dominance/power to obtain other objects or a self-constituted psychological proximity from the exploitation of animals. I guess the next question would be is a humans' livelihood more important than an animal's life?