As Gucci becomes the latest luxury brand to ban the use of fur in its collections Drapers asks one fur advocate and one anti-fur brand to debate the issue.
YES: Mark Oaten, CEO of the International Fur Federation
I’ll be blunt. I wasn’t convinced when I got the call about the CEO position for the International Fur Federation. I’m no fashionista and, as a former MP, I’d had my fill of controversy. As an outsider looking in, all I saw was protest after protest against fur. Why would I wilfully jump into another fire?
Once I met up with the farmers and traders, it was apparent that it wasn’t just the protestors that are passionate about fur. Fur is a trade with a rich heritage, and I was immediately won over by the stories that had been passed down over generations.
We needed to update the industry’s image, as well as putting great effort into demonstrating that the fur trade is flourishing and countering propaganda peddled by the anti-groups. Our aim is to prove just how responsible and ethical the industry is, and to bring fur to new generations.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: there’s no denying that fur is controversial. I’ve always said that if you don’t want to wear fur, I support your right to choose and will defend that until the end. But fake fur is not better for the environment – it’s full of chemicals, often contains animal content and is as biodegradable as a plastic bag. Whatever your views on fur, you can’t get a more natural product. It comes from nature and lasts for life rather than ending up in a landfill within years of purchase.
The fur industry is highly regulated and is under a huge amount of public scrutiny, but on a practical level, it’s also very much in the interests of the farmers to look after the animals in their care to ensure the quality of their pelts. As such, the misinformation we hear about animals being skinned alive make no sense whatsoever and any fur farm that doesn’t maintain standards will be swiftly closed down.
We have acknowledged the lies time and time again, but it’s an easy story for the animal rights groups to push. That’s why my top priority is to develop a new global certification standard called Furmark, which will set in place a traceability scheme to cover farming, wild fur and the dressing of skins. There is no place for bad practitioners in the trade and we will be tough on those that don’t meet the requirements.
Changing entrenched attitudes is a slow process, but it’s now time for the fur sector to be proactive in resetting the narrative.
NO: Helen Moore, founder and owner of eponymous fake fur label Helen Moore
Until now I have sat on the fence regarding the fur debate for several reasons: I was reluctant to upset some of our retailers who sell both real and fake fur; I was concerned about some of the actions attributed to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); and we use leather for our bag straps. I am aware that leather is a contentious issue. However, we use ethically sourced European leather, which is a byproduct and would otherwise go to waste.
Examining the issue, I looked into why 12 European countries have banned fur farming. The general consensus is that keeping animals in captivity and killing them solely for their fur is unjust and unnecessary. The bans are clearly a force for good, but have resulted in fur farming being relegated to countries where there is little or no regulation. Until recently I avoided watching videos of distressed animals cooped up in tiny, filthy cages. It is hard to imagine that anyone with the slightest amount of compassion would entertain the idea of wearing real fur knowing the deplorable suffering caused.
The production of faux fur is no more harmful to the environment than the production of any synthetic fibre such as polyester, nylon or acrylic – all of which are ubiquitous. The fur lobby argues that fur is naturally degradable. However, the severely toxic chemicals used to prevent its decomposition guarantee its durability. I work with fake fur and all our fabrics comply with REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals) standards, ensuring that they are free from harmful chemicals. Fake fur has the added advantages of not smelling and being washable.
One of the most extraordinary news items regarding fur last year was the labelling of cat fur as fake fur. Real fur is so cheap to produce that breaching labelling regulations to sell into fur-free stores was clearly worth the risk.
I have previously said that I did not want to start a crusade against real fur, but I regret my ambivalence. I am shocked that such suffering is still tolerated in the name of fashion. The strong campaigns led by PETA have been instrumental in changing attitudes. Its protests are frequently condemned, but without its tenacity there would be more untold suffering. The support of celebrities such as Joanna Lumley, and fashion designers such as Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood, continues to raise awareness.
To wear fur is a personal choice, but there is an alternative. Good fake fur is extremely soft and luxurious, and is available in myriad colours and textures. It can match all the qualities of real fur without causing any suffering. Surely it is better to go for the cruelty-free option?