Fwd: Fur crying out loud
- makeetah@... wrote:Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2006 19:16:07 +1100
This article is in the latest high fashion magazine Simply You in New
Zealand. Please write to the Simply You editor, Bridget Hope, about your
concerns for the animal suffering in the fur trade, in support of AAA's
Fur Free Auckland campaign and also in support of our Campaign Against
bridget @ simplyyou.co.nz (remove spaces)
Please contact Annah Stretton and Bridget Saunders with your concerns
regarding their use and promotion of possum fur:
Annah Stretton : headoffice @ annahs.co.nz
Bridget Saunders: bridgetsaunders @ xtra.co.nz
Fur crying out loud
by Natalie Bridges
Simply You Winter 2006
It's one of the most archaic means of survival and keeping warm. But in
the modern context of active animal rights, fur is a controversial and
emotive, shocking stimulus, provoking mixed glances, high tensions ... and
In a plentiful world where we can choose what to wear, the question of
whether to wear fur has become the subject of heated debate. The views of
animal activist and furrier appear irresolvable, and the clash of the
polarised camps has had bloody consequences.
According to the International Fur Trade Federation (IFTF), the last ten
years have seen a dramatic surge in the popularity of fur. More than 370
leading designers use fur in their collections today, compared with about
40 a decade ago. Over the last six years, global fur sales have increased
by approximately 42 percent, rocketing from US $9.1 billion in 2000 to US
$11.7 billion last year.
PR officer for the IFTF, Iona Service, says the increase in consumer
demand is due to new techniques, such as shearing and weaving, which allow
manufacturers to manipulate fur and create a vast range of different
looks. "Lighter weight and more versatile furs are more suited to the
demands of modern lifestyles than more traditional coats that your granny
might have worn," says Iona.
Designers have responded to fur's heightened cachet, by rushing to
included in their collections. Fur trims swept the winter catwalks this
year, and fur was also seen embellishing Spring Summer collections and
The recent resurgence in demand has seen fur hit the headlines once again.
Controversy surrounding London Fashion Week and Air New Zealand Fashion
Week this year highlighted the sensational nature of the fur tussle.
International animal pressure group People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals (PETA) and Auckland Animal Action (AAA) were out in force
protesting against the fur trade.
In conflict with IFTF statistics, Asia and Pacific Representative for
PETA, Andrew Butler, is convinced that high fashion labels still using fur
are out of step with public opinion, which is predominantly opposed to it.
"Public opinion is the most important thing to us. We have seen a steady
decline in the wholesales of fur - an 80 percent fall in England - the
start of a downward spiral for the industry. People don't want to see fur
in their high street shops, but designers keep using it anyway." Andrew
hails British stores such as Marks & Spencer, Topshop, and the more
up-market Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, which have recently adopted
policies to prevent fur from making its way onto their racks.
He says that high fashion labels unashamedly succumb to fur for economic
sponsorship. "Collections need to be given financial backing - and the fur
industry is desperately throwing money at designers to get them to use
fur. Designers don't care as long as they are seen and publicised because
they are selfish and would do anything for a specific image."
Such comments are bourn out in Julien Macdonald's blase reaction to the
PETA demonstration against him at London Fashion Week in September.
Protestors invaded the catwalk brandishing 'Macdonald Fur Scum' placards.
But the Welsh international designer was subsequently have reported to
have shrugged off the incident, satisfied that all publicity is good for
business. He told reporters after the show that, "there are far too many
important things to worry about like the tsunami and what happened in New
Orleans that worrying about a fur coat and a dead animal."
Anna Wintour, editor of the US edition of Vogue, was hit in the face by a
tofu cream pie propelled by PETA activists as she left the Chloe fashion
ready-to-wear show in central Paris in October 2005. PETA claims Anna
refuses to run any paid anti-fur advertisements in her magazine while
welcoming pro-fur advertises to Vogue's pages.
All this seems a far cry from what was arguably the height of fur's
ostracism just over a decade ago, when world-renowned supermodels,
including Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista, embarked
on the eminent 'We'd rather go naked than wear fur' campaign with PETA.
But in October Heather Mills McCartney, an avid member of PETA, described
Naomi Campbell in an interview with Jonathan Dimbleby as "superficial,
shallow and hypocritical", after she reneged on her contract to publicly
renounce fur, choosing to wear and model fur again.
Naomi is just one of a younger generation of au courant celebrities such
as Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce Knowles, Elizabeth Hurley, and Kate Moss, who
have revived fur's glamorous image.
Heather has been at the centre of a PETA dispute with Jennifer Lopez, who
can't resist adorning her won wardrobe or Sweetface label with fur. Last
September she stormed Jennifer Lopez's fashion house headquarters with a
group of anti-fur protestors, all wearing 'body videos' that showed
haunting images of animals being skinned alive for their pelts.
Heather Mills McCartney also appeared in a PETA ad with her pet dog,
condemning the brutal cat and dog hair market in China. The ad carried the
emotive message "If you wouldn't wear your dog...please don't wear any
According to PETA, China is now the world's biggest fur producer and is
notorious for poor animal welfare standards. Heather claims that many
opulent fur goods are made from cat and dog hair that makes its way around
the world passed-off as fox or mink. XingYe Fur Co. Ltd, or China-Furs,
based in Hebei, which boasts an annual turnover of US $10 million, seemed
reluctant to answer questions about their business. They process mink,
rabbit, fox and raccoon fur for the fashion industry but refuse to
disclose who they supply to. They only admitted to being "a little"
worried about animal activist campaigns against the fur trade.
Without admitting any concerns about Asian animal welfare standards
directly, Iona Service says that the IFTF actively supports and encourages
the adoption of Western farming practices on China fur farms. "Through
IFTF's Member in China, awareness has been raised at federal and
provincial level. With the help of local governments, seminars are being
arranged to educate farmers about Western animal welfare standards".
Saga Furs of Scandinavia was at the forefront of fur's revival in the
1980s and early Nineties, with some notable successes. PR Manager Samira
Kudsk is proud of what Saga Furs has achieved in its quest to reintroduce
the desirable properties of fur. "The establishment of Saga Design Centre
in 1988, the creation of 'inspirational collections', seminars,
instructional courses and constant product development became the prime
elements in our mission. Now after hosting more than 22, 000 visiting
professionals, Saga Furs has realised its ambitions - to bring fur back in
fashion....Fur is a hot fashion item, and for designers it's a fantastic
material to work with."
But Andrew Butler of PETA says that Saga Furs pushes the positive
psychological perceptions of fur, and that although they claim to have the
highest animal welfare standards in the world, their fox, mink and
Finnraccoon, are subject to unimaginable torment. "The vast majority of
fur comes from fur farms, and even those where they claim to have the
highest animal welfare standards in the world - like Saga Furs in
Scandinavia - the animals are kept in tiny, filthy, wire-mesh cages. "Saga
markets the idea of fur and has been doing it successfully, reaching the
designers, but not reaching the consumers. No amount of glitz and glamour
on the catwalk is going to eclipse the image of an animal being
electrocuted in peoples' minds". When Saga was approached about their
animal welfare standards, they failed to offer a response.
New Zealand produces the world's possum fur, throwing up a whole host of
unique and ambiguous issues. A native Australian animal, where it a
protected species, the possum was introduced into New Zealand in 1837 to
develop a fur industry. Facing few natural threats, a population of some
70 million possums has caused considerable damage to New Zealand's
indigenous flora and fauna, birds and insects.
But possum fur, often refered to as an ethical option, fails to bring
environmentalists, animal activists and furriers into harmony. The
conflict revolves around the immediate concern to protect the native bush
and its inhabitants versus the humaneness and cost of methods used to kill
the predators for the fur industry. Andrew Butler of PETA says the notion
of ethical or pest fur is absurd and just a convenient excuse to make
money off the back of an animal. "Whenever an animal is used for fur,
corners get cut to make a greater profit margin, and the animals always
suffer," says Andrew.
AAA campaigned at Fashion Week against the use of leg-hold or gin traps to
kill possums for the fur trade, targeting New Zealand designer Annah
Stretton. They say this method, banned in 89 other countries, is the most
commonly used in New Zealand. "We are against the killing of possums at
all because humans cause much greater damage to the environment than
so-called pests," says AAA spokesperson and protestor Deirdre Sims.
"Leg-hold traps are reusable so they are probably saving money because
it's a single investment. Animals, left for days, have chewed off their
own legs to escape. They also trap other ground-dwelling animals including
kiwis, wekas, and even cats and dogs."
But designer Annah Stretton says that the protestors are ignorant about
the reality of the possum in New Zealand and the methods by which they are
killed. She says trappers mostly use cyanide to kill possums, which cause
an instant and humane end. Annah believes that what really needs to be
addressed is the slow and brutal death that the controversial 1080 poison,
used by the Department of Conservation (DOC), inflicts on possums. 1080
causes convulsions and leaves the possum to run for about a day, which
means that their bodies can't be found and the skins can't be used. "1080
poisoning needs to be stopped immediately. But the possum is a genuine
pest in New Zealand. I'm not instigating their deaths. AAA needs to get a
little bit more informed about fur companies who trap - they generally use
cyanide, which is painless and efficient. For the companies it it not
economic to use gin traps because it takes days to catch them and it ruins
When offered the chance by TV3, AAA refused to confront Annah Stretton in
a television broadcast, and she says they have never once approached her
directly to ask for her personal opinion. Annah decries the media's
constant determination to sensationalise a subject that is in fact quite
straightforward. "It's information that activists and journalists need.
Ironically I work actively for the SPCA...It's so easy to get facts right,
just pick up the phone. There was no substance for AAA protesting."
Annah made the business decision at Air New Zealand Fashion Week to remove
a possum fur collar from a jacket set for the runway. She refused to allow
the limelight to be directed upon the shouts of AAA, which would detract
from her team's hard work. "I wanted the show to stand on its own. I
didn't want it to be AAA's show. It wasn't a backdown and I still actively
use possum fur in my collection."
The World Wildlife Federation acknowledges that there is a plentiful
supply of possum fur and skins. But they refuse to endorse their use in
industry because they say the beneficiaries of an established industry
based on an invasive alien species develop an interest in maintaining its
It may sound like an oxymoron, but Bridget Saunders, designer and gossip
columnist, claims to be both animal rights activist and furrier. Bridget
describes her fashion label as Fur With Ethics, defined by "thinking and
caring about your purchase and where it came from because everything
deserves a life before a death." She wholly advocates the enjoyment of
vintage fur; old fur coats that have been handed down the generations. "If
you have a 30 or 40 year old skin, a warm thing, love it and use it until
it's old and mangy. Then throw it away and don't recreate it."
Bridget deals only in possum fur, and previously rabbit until numbers were
decimated by Calcivirus. She says pest fur requires greater consideration
because the native forests are at stake. Bridget is no longer a member of
AAA. "I agree with AAA members who say that natural modifying of breeding
is best. But while those methods are not available - mainly because of
money - trapping is necessary to save our native animals. Possums aren't
really warm fuzzy victims as AAA sees them." She believes possums are a
valuable natural substance that ought to be utilised resourcefully. "Your
killing an animal anyway so it's just crazy not to use the by-product. And
its a question of the life before the death - a possum has a much happier
life than a factory farmed fox."
Jonny Hazlett, General Manager of Slinkskins based outside of
Invercargill, supplies baby lamb skins derived from casualties of nature
and possum fur to fashion houses around the world. He is currently
struggling to keep up with the demand for possum stimulated by the
introduction of his company's products to America and Europe.
New tanning and dyeing techniques developed over the last ten years have
brought possum fur to the forefront of the fashion industry as a highly
desirable and affordable material. "Fur is no longer exclusive and for the
super rich. Possum was just used for lining before but now we produce many
effects, which are dictated by the fashion industry. "The fur trade has
been clothing people for years. It will always be popular and in demand -
it will just go in cycles. In fashion conscious parts of the world, fur is
back. People want to buy natural things again." Jonny thinks his business
is ethical, especially because he sources possum skins from trappers who
use cyanide-based poisons. Like Annah, he vehemently opposes the use of
1080 poison for the same reasons.
Queenstown-based designer and director of Siberia, Cordula Schill,
produces fashion fur coats and accessories made from possum skins. But she
is reluctant to label herself as ethical because the surrounding issues
are so murky. "It's not black or white. I'll put myself in the firing line
by saying I'm an ethical designer. Possum fur is beautiful and available
under very specific circumstances - circumstances that animal activists
don't want to hear about. I'm all for fur, it just depends how you do it -
I'm against factory farming. It's a very tricky area." Cordula says that
even those clients initially against fur make an exception when it comes
to possum. "People don't know what possum fur is. They just hear fur and
say 'no'! But when you explain about the possum and where they come from
they usually think it's ok. We have a responsibility to ensure animals
have a decent life and death. Apart from that I believe wearing fur is no
different from wearing leather shoes or eating meat."
Ethical, it seems, is a relative and unstable term within the fur debate.
The subject of animal rights requires an holistic approach and a certain
degree of perspective; being anti-fur while wearing leather is ultimately
a contradiction. Groups like AAA and PETA are purist and follow a vegan
Stella McCartney, an active PETA ambassador, is one of very few designers
who can wholeheartedly lay claim to the ethical badge, as she refuses to
use leather in her collections, let alone fur. Other PETA ambassadors
include Australian model Imogen Bailey, Pamela Anderson, Sharon Osbourne,
Gorna Visnjic, and Simon Cowell. All have participated in anti-fur ad
campaigns for the pressure group. "We show designers can make an informed
decision about using it. In India, cows are taken on death marches," says
Andrew Butler of PETA. "It's not about disagreeing with those who are not
vegan. Any small step to help is a good thing. Designers don't need to be
vegan or not use leather - but not using fur is the smallest thing they
Animals on free-roaming fur farms that produce fox and mink are treated
much less cruelly that the animals used to produce leather, or the pigs
killed for the pork we eat, says Saunders. "People need to start thinking
straight! Free range farming is cool - well it's the same as having cows -
and that's not as bad as pig farming! "I'm just totally against factory
farming. I would like to see all fur imports from China banned. But some
fox fur would be much less cruel that the wicked factory farming of pork."
IFTF's Iona Service agrees. "Fur farming is a natural part of livestock
farming. There is no reason why wearing fur should be less acceptable that
wearing leather shoes or a silk scarf, or eating meat, which all involve
breeding programmes for man's use."
Expect no resolution because clean-cut truths are hard to come by in this
clash of emotions, rights and voices. It all boils down to a matter of
human conscience and choice, ironically the only points at which furriers
and animal activists converge. "In cold climates it is the best form of
clothing for keeping warm. In warmer climates, it is a matter of choice.
People should be free to buy and wear fur if they make this choice,"
Andrew Butler of PETA reinforces this view in a slightly different vein,
"If we make a choice, if we can avoid causing suffering and there is an
alternative then we should choose to take that alternative."
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