The abuse of the fur industry is well-documented and has been well-publicised for decades now: trapping animals in bone-breaking steel traps, clubbing them to death, electrocuting them through the mouth or anus, breaking their necks and backs, skinning them alive...the list goes on.
Yet, people continue to wear fur. While that's partially because some people don't care about animal abuse, the other reason the fur industry is booming (with over 45 million animals being skinned per year for their fur), is that some people unwittingly buy fur.
You might ask: how can anyone unwittingly buy fur? Good question.
To explain: when most people think of fur they tend to think of 60,000 dollar mink coats. So people make the logical assumption that an inexpensive item - like a cheap jacket or kid's toy with fur trim can only contain faux fur.
The truth is that besides making expensive fur coats, the fur trade also skins countless rabbits, cats and dogs (among other animals) every day, and their pelt is worth is only a few dollars. So the fur trim that appears on an inexpensive jacket or a kid's toy doesn't make much of a difference to the price of the product. So while the logical assumption is that an inexpensive item has to be faux, it's often real fur. To make it more confusing, it's not labelled as fur.
You can check whether you're looking at faux or real by pulling it apart and looking at the root. If you see that the strands are held down with stitching, you're looking at faux. If you see skin (and no stitching), you're looking at real fur.
What if you're not certain? Well, if you're in doubt, it's best to go without. Find another piece of clothing or a toy that you're absolutely sure about.
Always keep in mind: fur is only ever beautiful on the animal who was born wearing it. And that goes for ANY product made of animals too: leather, suede, exotic skins, wool, sheepskin, silk, and feathers. So, go vegan and dress animal-free.
Down is the soft layer of feathers closest to a birds' skin, and the down and feather industry is as abusive as any other industry that uses animals for clothing.
To begin with, most down comes from dead geese and ducks who were victims of the meat and foie gras (paté) industries. The meat industry is well-known for its abuse of animals.
The foie gras industry's abuse is also well-known: it includes the usual abuse of the meat industry, but also adds force-feeding the geese and ducks via tubes shoved down their throats. The birds are pumped with huge amounts of food so that their livers become diseased. Their diseased livers then become foie gras (or paté).
Like all farmed animals, the geese and ducks are eventually sent to be killed. In the slaughterhouse they have their throats cut and are plunged (often alive and conscious if the throat-slashing isn't been done properly) into tanks of scalding hot water to remove their feathers.
Some down comes from living birds who regularly have large amounts of down torn from their bodies. Imagine having your hair repeatedly ripped out of your head - that would be akin to the pain and distress these poor ducks and geese suffer on a regular basis.
With all the synthetic insulating materials that are available, there is absolutely no need to buy products containing feathers or down. Go vegan and choose the animal-free options.
Even some people who are disgusted with fur will happily buy leather, suede, and exotic animal skin products
There are three main reasons for this.
Firstly, because in most societies cows have (sadly) been relegated to being animals who are simply for human use and abuse. Animals killed for fur, on the other hand, are usually thought of as either wild animals to be respected or companion animals to be loved.
Secondly, anti-fur campaigns are so widely-publicised by animal organisations that they've made it seem as though fur is the most abusive of all the animal-based clothing industries.
Thirdly, because leather and suede are seen as by-products of the widely-accepted meat industry. The attitude is often: "Why not use the whole cow since we're killing her for her flesh anyway?"
On the first point, it's ridiculous to think that a cow is any less sentient than any wild or companion animal. Think about it: I'm sure a cow doesn't want to be killed and skinned any more than a lion or your dog does.
On the second point, just because big campaigns have not brought the abuse of leather, suede and exotic skin into the media, it doesn't mean they're not as abusive as fur and all other animal-based clothing, shoes, accessories and furniture. They absolutely are, without a doubt. All animal-based products - and that includes those made of leather, suede, exotic skins, silk, wool, sheepskin, feathers, and fur - involves the torture and killing of animals.
As for the third point of leather and suede being by-products of the meat industry, that's sometimes the case, but not always. In situations where it is the case, I say: who cares if it's a by-product? It involves the torture and killing of animals and is therefore morally wrong.
In situations where the leather and suede is not a by-product, let me paint some pictures for you: there are dogs sitting in cages right now, about to be skinned so that leather products can be made out of their skin. Wild animals, like zebras and kangaroos, suffer the same fate to make items like shoes and belts. And cows considered unsuitable for meat are skinned to make jackets, handbags and sofas.
Exotic skin products are made from alligators, crocodiles, lizards and snakes, who are skinned alive to make handbags and wallets. Baby goats are boiled alive to make gloves, and unborn calves and lambs are aborted so that they can be skinned to make a variety of accessories.
Still, whether killed specifically for their skin, or skinned as well as being chopped up for people to eat, it all means violence and death for innocent animals. And seeing as there are loads of non-animal-based clothes, shoes, accessories and furniture out there, there's just no need to buy anything made of animals.
So for goodness sake, buy fake! Buy vegan.
Yes, actually, there is a whole heap wrong with wearing silk because to create silk, millions of silkworms are steamed or gassed alive in their cocoons. That sounds wrong to me.
The bottom line is that it doesn't matter whether we're talking about silk, leather, suede, exotic skin wool, sheepskin, fur, down or feathers: it all involves animal use.
There are animal-free alternatives to silk, so there's no excuse in the world for anyone to buy it. And that goes for any product made of animals too. There are fashionable non-animal alternatives, so be vegan and dress animal-free.
For years I thought that the wool industry was pretty harmless. A sheep getting their wool shorn would be like me getting a haircut, right? Wrong! The wool industry is as abusive as any other animal farming.
Something to explore before I explain some of the specific abuses of the wool industry is the notion that if we don't shear sheep, their wool will overgrow. That's true because we've bred sheep to be overly-woolly and in need of shearing. We - humans - have done that for our own gain.
If nature were left to itself, sheep wouldn't need shearing. Think about it: have you ever known of a wild animal who needs to be shorn or clipped? The answer is: no, there is no such wild animal. So our greed for more profit has lead to sheep being bred to grow abnormal amounts of wool that needs to be sheared regularly. And it's this over-wooliness that leads to the first wool industry-specific abuse which is mulesing.
Sheep bred to be overly-woolly often end up getting fly-blown. To combat this, the wool industry mutilates them. The painful mutilation - called 'mulesing' - is where large chunks of skin and flesh are cut from the lamb's rear end. Of course no painkillers are used (as that would eat into the profit), and some lambs drop dead on the spot from the excruciating pain.
However, I don't want you to misunderstand me: it's not the mulesing that makes the wool industry abusive. In other words, if you took the mulesing away it would not suddenly make the wool industry okay. Mulesing is just one of the abusive practices but, with or without it, the wool industry remains abusive because the lambs who survive the mulesing go on to be abused in the typical ways all farmed animals are. That includes bad living conditions, rough treatment (especially during shearing), and overall neglect.
And, last but not least, comes the end point of all animal use which is death. Once the sheep are no longer useful in terms of wool production, they're either sent to the slaughterhouse and skinned to make sheepskin products, or exported alive overseas. The trip overseas is long and harrowing for the animals, and many don't survive. Those who do survive the journey are then killed in the destination country.
There are loads of vegan alternatives readily available, so there's absolutely no need support animal abuse by purchasing any animal-based items - including wool and sheepskin products.
Once I became aware that I had a household full of animal abuse, the quandary of what to do with the animal-based items I possessed arose. It was clear that I was not going to buy any more such products, but what was I to do with the ones I already had?
This dilemma is one we are all faced with once we discover the abuse behind any leather, suede, exotic skin, wool, sheepskin, silk, feather, down and fur products we own. Do we use the item until it's unable to be used? Do we get rid of it? If so, how? By giving it to charity or by throwing it away?
The following are the considerations behind each of the above choices:
So, they are the schools of thought. Contemplate them and make your decision. Whatever you decide, one thing is certain: that you should only buy vegan from now on.
SAY NO TO PUPPY MILLS! SAY NO TO ANIMALS IN PETSHOPS! SAY NO TO BREEDERS!
Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance
It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.
Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.
Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.
Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.
Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.
If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.
All information and photos are copyright © Despina Rosales.