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Is Fur Green? The Truth is Grey

Words by Leon Kaye

The idea of wearing fur is so hard for many of us to accept that it is hard to get past the intellectual argument of why wearing fur is not necessarily evil. While one business group promotes fur as "green," another respected animal rights organization insists that fur is environmentally wrong.  Both sides, however, have much work to do in making their cases.

At Christmastime, a Canadian member of Parliament ruffled feathers when he sent out a holiday card with his family decked in fur lined coats.  What anyone chooses to wear in his Christmas card is no one’s business but his or own business, but animal rights groups attacked Justin Trudeau and his family quicker than they could wolf down veggie burgers.

Advocating for fur amongst the sustainability mafia is about as wise as preaching universal health care at a tea party rally.  Fur coats smack of excess and ostentatious wealth, and in most climates are just not practical.  I admit I felt nauseous as a student in Washington DC during Bill Clinton’s 1993 Inauguration: the official uniform of the Democratic Party--at least for women visiting that cold January--appeared to be fur coats that looked out of place from the National Museum of Natural History to the DC Metro.  Nevertheless, in Russia and other countries that have obnoxiously cold winters, nothing warms the body better than a fur coat, and nothing prevents heat escaping from your head more effectively than a fur cap.  In the end, what someone wants to wear is one’s own business:  let divas be divas, or at least pretend to be divas.  The animal rights debate will always rage, so let us ask another question: is the wearing of fur green?

According to the Fur Council of Canada (FCC) the answer is a resounding yes.  Not wanting to miss out on the fun that comes from a declaration that an organization is “sustainable,” “socially responsible,” or “green,” the Montreal-based group launched FurIsGreen.com.  The group brings up some fur for thought:

  • Animals are a renewable resource, and the group ensures that endangered animal skins drape human bodies.  Synthetic materials, on the other hand, are made of petroleum, and the FCC claims that minimal chemicals are used in the processing of fur.

  • Fur farming is sustainable in that the entire animal is used, not just the pelts.  Everything from nose to tail ends up in oil, fertilizer, and “other products.”

  • Up to 70,000 Canadians, many of them aboriginal peoples for whom animal trapping is their sole source of income, work within the fur industry in Canada.

The huge issue with FurIsGreen.com, however, is that the portal is a marketing tool, not an effective educational site effective enough to counter hysteria that rises up at the mention or sight of a full-length mink.  The industry professes to be “fair trade,” but gives no examples or stories about the folks who harvest these pelts.  How is the industry fair trade, and now much money from that 4- or 5-figure mink coat goes to the blokes who work at the source?  Are animals really treated humanely, or are they raised in factory farms, as the US Humane Society claims?  Perhaps the most ridiculous claim is that a fur coat can be composted, as if that fact would be behind any consumer’s decision to buy that sable coat--especially if at the same time that fox coat is durable and recyclable.

If FurIsGreen.com lacks persuasiveness, arguments against fur cause the eyes to roll up northward as well.  The US Humane Society (USHS) posits many of the leading arguments against the fur industry, but most of their points make it transparent that its advocates just do not like fur.

  • Pollution from fur is the big no-no, and that could be valid point from factory farms.  But while the USHS clearly studied their chemistry and listed an impressive array of pollutants that the fur industry spews into the atmosphere (CO, NOx, SO2, HCI, VOC, WTF, IMHO, and LOL), just about every industrial activity causes pollution. Furthermore while I do not doubt that the US mink industry annually dumps 1,000 tons of phosphorus into the environment, let’s keep that number in context:  68,000 tons of phosphorus gets dumped into the St. Lawrence River alone each year. Add all the lakes and rivers that are inundated with pollution, and we are talking about a relatively tiny amount.

  • While I do not doubt that “a tremendous amount of gasoline is used by trappers to check their trap lines on a regular basis,” that probably does not compare to the emissions spouted out by SUV limousine drivers that go from fur store to fur store in making the final purchases (why did the USHS leave that out?) . . . nor the greenhouse gases emitted by trucks moving organic produce from farms to wholesalers to supermarkets.

  • “After animals have been killed by gassing, neck-breaking, or anal or genital electrocution on fur confinement operations, or after crushing, drowning, shooting or strangulation on trap lines, (animals) skin is removed . . .” Well, while that certainly deserves an Oprah episode--so she can send Lisa Ling to do the dirty undercover work, again the USHS distracts us with this imagery ,when their argument purports to demonstrate the environmental evils of the fur industry.  Such tactics, if indeed used up North, are indeed vile, but that has nothing to do with the whether or not fur is “green.”

Just as there are many ways to skin a rabbit, there are plenty of points and counterpoints that fur lovers and haters can discuss without both sides reaching any sort of agreement.  The animal rights issue is separate from the sustainability question, so let Temple Grandin step in and sort that out--though in fairness the FCC claims that many animals are gassed with carbon monoxide, a process admittedly a tad creepy.

FurIsGreen.com’s attempt to “educate” does little to mollify the anti-fur crowd, and co-opting trendy buzzwords like “eco-friendly” does not make their messages true or convincing.  Any “green” message, unfortunately for the FCC, rings hallow. Meanwhile, many of us who love animals and are horrified at the thought of sables for sale have to remember that if we drive, use disposable plastic products, fly, eat meat, and yes, nosh on cash crops like wheat or soy, we all have a direct impact on our furry friends one way or another.  Fur may be gauche, but there are causes far more worthy of a fight.

Leon Kaye owns two leather jackets and a fur lined parka, eats grass fed beef and veggie burgers, bikes across LA, gardens yet insists the best raspberries are from Serbia, and flies abroad whenever he has the chance; charges of hypocrisy do not bother him one bit. He is Editor of GreenGoPost.com; you can follow him on Twitter.

Leon Kaye headshotLeon Kaye

Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's worked and lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.

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