Monday, 17 October 2016

Farm Fresh Fur on the High Street

Farm Fresh Fur on the High Street

“The beautiful furs from leopard, jaguar, Snow leopard, Clouded leopard and so on, are used to clad the inelegant bodies of thoughtless and, for the most part, ugly women. I wonder how many would buy these furs if they knew that on their bodies they wore the skin of an animal that, when captured, was killed by the medieval and agonizing method of having a red-hot rod inserted up its rectum so as not to mark the skin.” (Gerald Durrell)

“Animals on fur farms spend their entire lives confined to cramped, filthy wire cages. Fur farmers use the cheapest and cruelest killing methods available, including suffocation, electrocution, gas, and poison. “More than half the fur in the U.S. comes from China, where millions of dogs and cats are bludgeoned, hanged, bled to death, and often skinned alive for their fur. Chinese fur is often deliberately mislabeled, so if you wear any fur, there’s no way of knowing for sure whose skin you’re in.” (PETA)

Bailliwick Express reports that fur is on sale here

“A range of winter warmers that have gone on sale on Jersey's high street has been freezing out some local customers, and re-ignited a social media debate about whether it's right or wrong to wear real fur.”

“Dozens of people have commented on Facebook about Voisins selling it this season, with some so disgusted they claim they'll be boycotting the store - while others argue it's no different to wearing leather or eating meat.”

“Voisins Department Store Chairman Gerald Voisin said: ‘As a fashion retailer, Voisins is committed to bringing customers a broad choice of brands and products. Animal welfare is important to us, and we are aware that across the industry, the sustainability and ethics behind fashion manufacturing is an area of growing concern for a number of customers. We have received assurances from our brands that the fur featured in the garments in store has been sourced ethically from certified suppliers.”

Harvey Nickols had a similar response. In an email to CAFT, their Press and Marketing Director wrote: "I can confirm that our buyers have bought fur trimmed products for this season. We have taken this opportunity to review our fur policy and from this season onwards we will be stocking fur trimmed products. The fur used is ethically sourced and humanely farmed."

And writing in the Telegraph in 2014, Oliver Duggan, said:

“Haunting images of caged animals raised in poor conditions to be skinned for their fur have damaged the perception of fur for decades, but according to Hockley the reality of the industry has changed dramatically. He claims that the industry treats animals more humanely than those who farm animals for meat or leather, adding that demand for ethically-sourced fur motivated a series of improvements in regulation.”

“The ‘Origin Assured’ (OA) programme, for instance, was launched in Moscow in 2007 to distinguish between ethical and unethical farming in the more than $15bn (£9.2bn) global fur industry.

Backed by the International Fur Trade Federation, it’s a label similar to ‘Fair Trade’ that is reserved for fur sourced from farms that meets the industry’s new standards.”

However this claim just does not stand up in practice. Instead, “ethically farmed” seems to be more like the branding of factory hens as “farm fresh”, something that sounded as good as “free range” but actually was not. It was a clever piece of PR, so that consumers would feel good about buying the product.

For in 2016, this whole claim of “ethically sourced” was challenged by PETA, both with researched reports and with recent video evidence

“The Dutch fur industry tried to dupe the public into believing that its fur products are “100% ethically sourced”. But the Advertising Standards Agency agreed with PETA Netherlands that the industry’s claims are wholly unsubstantiated.”

“In their complaint, PETA Netherlands referenced investigations of fur farms in countries eligible for the fur industry’s “Origin Assured” label, a scheme which is supposed to guarantee that animals who were killed to make products were treated humanely.”

“Fur produced on farms in twenty-nine countries can potentially be labeled “Origin-Assured” simply because those countries have environmental standards, animal welfare laws and/or best practice guidelines on the books. Whether or not those standards are robust or enforced isn't taken into consideration.”

The video footage can be seen at:

PETA notes that:

“The video footage you've just seen was all captured in nine of the biggest fur-producing countries in the Western world: Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden and the US.”

“All fur products from these countries are eligible to carry the International Fur Trade Federation's "Origin Assured" label, which is supposed to guarantee that the animals who were killed to make the product were treated humanely.”

Real Ethical Fur

However, this is one product which can be called “ethical fur”, and it is that produced by Pamela Paquin under the brand “Petite Mort”, in the USA.

As Kimberley Mok reports:

“‘Ethical fur’ may seem like an oxymoron, especially in light of greenwashing campaigns that attempt to obfuscate the full environmental impact and inhumane practices of the mainstream fur industry. Nevertheless, there are alternatives, and we've seen designers use roadkill for fur clothing rather than raise captive animals, and it may make more sense than you may initially think”

“According to Culture Change, around 1 million animals are killed on American roads every day (or approximately 365 million animals a year). The fur industry, on the other hand, kills 50 million animals per year. So that's a lot of roadkill that's essentially going to waste -- a fact that's spurred the recent rise of "roadkill cuisine" and businesses like Wayland, Massachusetts-based ethical fur company Petite Mort.”

“Founder Pamela Paquin, a former global sustainability consultant who grew up on a dairy farm, handcrafts luxurious items out of dead animals that she finds on the roads. She calls it "accidental fur," working with local highway agencies and animal control departments to source the dead animals, which have ranged from fox, beaver, bears, raccoons, otters, deer, mink and more. She works with local taxidermists to process the skins, which are then shipped off to a tannery in Idaho, one of the few places that can handle partial pelts.”

Pamela Paquin says that:

“Accidental furs are loving resurrections of our fuzzy wild neighbors who have met with an untimely or natural death – it is sensible Yankee ethics at their best. Each luxurious piece is hand made, individually numbered, custom tailored to each owner’s specifications, befitting an heirloom investment.”

The report notes that:

“Paquin's furry gloves, leg warmers, neck muffs and hats aren't cheap, ranging from USD $380 to $1,000, but the demand for her one-of-a-kind pieces has been very strong. Best of all, a percentage of sales goes to Critical Pathways, a project that works to provide local wildlife safe underpasses to traverse highways.”

An article by Meaghan Agnew in “Modern Farmer” also looks at what she is doing.

“It’s so much a part of everyday life to see these animals,” says Paquin. “Who of us doesn’t look away? You don’t want to see it because when you fully soak in the meaning of what happened, it’s emotionally draining.”

Lest one fear the wrath of PETA, Paquin also sews a sterling silver badge to the outside of the piece, indicating it as a one of a kind, principled product: “People need to look at the fur and say okay, that’s Petite Mort, it’s an ethical fur.” All pieces are made to measure and start at $1000, save for the hats, which range from $380 to $500. (Men, FYI, are big fans of the leg warmers.)

So come on, Voisins, why not stock some really ethical fur, rather than that which is about as ethically sourced as “farm fresh” is for chickens?


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