Fur trim trade exploits ambiguous attitudes

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2006:
LONDON–Fashion superstar Kate Moss
designs garments for Topshop, a firm with a
policy against using fur–but as a model, the
role that propelled her to fame, Moss wears furs
for Burberry. Her paradoxical alignments reflect
the ambiuity of a fashion market in which
traditional highpriced fur coats have been “out”
for nearly 20 years, yet cheap imported fur trim
is selling as never before.
The London Independent in a series of
November and early December 2006 features
reported “a growing backlash against soaring
sales of fur,” which has yet to show much sign
of reversing the fur trim boom.
British fur sales are up 30% in two
years, The Independent said, “with £41 million
of new fur products,” about 1,000 tons’ worth,
“imported every year into a U.K. market now worth
an estimated £500 million.”

“As real fur continues to be bought and
sold,” The Independent continued, “imports of
fake fur have dropped from £3 million in 2002 to
£1million in 2006. In contrast, 88,000
kilograms of mink worth £16 million came into the
U.K. last year. Customs figures show that seal
pelt imports rose from 3.6 tons in 2004 to 4.1
tons last year,” wrote Independent reporters
Jonathan Owen and Marie Woolf.
“In 2004, the U.K. imported almost a
third of the value of all Canadian seal skins
into the European Union. Such is the scale of
alarm at the rise in fur use that the government
is moving to ban all imports of harp and hooded
seal products into the U.K.,” Owen and Woolf
“Global fur sales reached a record £6.6bn
in 2005, according to the International Fur
Trade Federation,” said Owen and Woolf.
Observed Liz Jones of The Daily Mail, “In the
Prada store on Old Bond Street, almost every
garment was bedecked with fur–on pockets, on
sweaters, on skirts, on belts, on helmets. I
rummaged for something to wear that hadn’t been
strangled, or drowned in a bucket, or hung by
its hind legs and skinned alive, or electrocuted
anally. When I asked the shop assistant to help,
she shrugged her bony shoulders and went off to
help someone else, who I noticed was wearing a
black fur-trimmed jacket.
“Jane Bruton, the editor of Grazia
magazine, told me that the other day a young
member of her staff had turned up to work in a
fur coat,” Jones continued, “and when berated
for doing so, wailed: ‘But it’s vintage.’ When
Jane asked her if she would wear something with
new fur trim, she replied that she would– that
she ‘wouldn’t even think about it’. Sixteen
years from the first ‘I Would Rather Go Naked
Than Wear Fur’ billboards,” asked Jones, “how
on earth did British women become so cruel?”
Observed Alison Hardie of The Scotsman,
“High Street is less gung-ho” than either the
upper or lower ends of the price range.
“Topshop, Hennes, Gap, and Marks & Spencer all
have an anti-fur policy,” Hardie noted. “Joseph
is one of the few U.K. retailers to stock fur.
It sold a rabbit fur coat to Cherie Blair
recently, to the disgust of animal rights
groups. However, that ‘sin’ by the Prime
Minister’s wife appears to have made little
impact on fur sales, which have been boosted by
photographs of celebrities including Elizabeth
Hurley, Beyoncé Knowles and Jennifer Lopez
wearing fur.”
Hardie appeared somewhat skeptical about
a British Fur Trade Association claim that some
400 top designers now use fur, since in her
experience, “Finding anyone in fashion to go on
the record about being pro-fur is almost
Hardie then debated both sides of the fur
issue with herself, reciting the arguments pro
and con as they might be perceived by many
well-informed non-activists.
“I do not own a fur coat,” she wrote,
“but I do own a cashmere coat with a fox collar
and a wool cape trimmed with mink. I have been
working hard ever since I left school at 16, and
I consider that I deserve these modest fur
accessories. Fur is exquisitely warm, and
extraordinarily comforting next to the skin,”
Hardie claimed. “It is also natural. I abhor
deliberate cruelty to animals,” Hardie asserted,
“but I eat animals and animal products. I wear
leather. I cannot see any moral difference in
eating a piece of lamb and wearing a piece of
fur,” Hardie said.
“As the anti-hunt lobby is partly fueled
by class hatred, so some anti-fur campaigns are
driven by a Puritanical hatred of adornment,”
Hardie alleged. “If fur wearers decided to put
on a coat of rats’ tails instead of foxes’ tails,
would there be the same objection? I think not,”
she said, disregarding that defense of
laboratory rats and mice is among the most
enduring causes in animal advocacy.
Hardie responded to herself by
acknowledging that, “Every year, more than 50
million animals are killed worldwide so that
their fur can be used by the fashion industry.
More than 30 million animals are bred and killed
on fur farms, kept in barren wire cages scarcely
bigger than the animals. Constant stress and
deprivation can lead to self-mutilation. The
animals are usually killed by gassing, anal
electrocution or lethal injection. Others are
clubbed or have their necks broken.
“The fur industry goes to great lengths
to hide the horrendous suffering involved,”
Hardie wrote, “but undercover investigations
have shown the brutal reality.
“For the majority of the public, fur
remains an unethical relic that has no place in a
compassionate society,” Hardie concluded.
While garments featuring cheap fur trim are
moving in department stores, all is not well for
traditional furriers.
“Schumacher Furs & Outerwear, after 111
years of business and one solid year of fervent
animal-rights protests, is hanging it up in
Portland,” reported Spencer Heinz and Seth
Prince of The Oregonian on November 29.
“We’re leaving downtown Portland because
we feel that it’s losing its appeal for people to
shop in,” said owner Gregg Schumacher, 51.
“The panhandling, the musicians on the street,
the urination in the parking garages. Yes, the
protests. The place is not conducive to running
a retail operation.” Betting the other way,
several major new retail, hotel, and
residential complexes opened recently within
walking distance of the Schumacher store, with
more to open, or reopen after remodeling, in
early 2007.
The “Women’s Fashion Fall 2004” edition
of The New York Times Style Magazine featured fur
on 36 of 270 pages, as many as included fur in
2001-2003 combined, but “Women’s Fashion Fall
2006” displayed fur on just 21 of 300 pages,
mostly as trim, without any depiction of
traditional coats. A two-page article on fur
included a variety of critical remarks, rarely
seen before in New York Times fur coverage.
Much of the growth in the international
fur trade reflects the emergence of an upscale
consumer fur market in China, which until
recently imported pelts almost exclusively for
manufacturing into exported finished garments.
The Danish auction house Kopenhagen Fur,
owned by a collective of about 2,000 fur
breeders, claimed record sales of $893 million
during the fiscal year ending in September 2006,
with 80% of the sales volume coming from China
and Hong Kong,
“Kopenhagen Fur produces about 40% of the
world’s mink, accounting for 90% of the furs” it
sells, wrote Tasneem Brogger for the online
magazine Bloomburg.com.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.