Farming for Fur
The UK banned farming animals for fur almost two decades ago. Concerns about the ethics of the industry and animal welfare made Europe follow UK’s decision. Even major fashion brands like Chanel, Gucci, Zara and many more have stopped using fur. Activists and animal rights organisations have been lobbying to stop the fur trade entirely. Still, many do not realise that not only is the practice highly unethical, but extremely taxing on the environment.
Animals that are farmed for fur included foxes, minks, ferrets, rabbits, racoons and chinchillas. Fur farmed animals require large amounts of land, water, energy and other resources, this creates a substantial ecological footprint.
‘’In the fur industry, the amount of potentially toxic chemicals that have to be used to treat, what is essentially a piece of rotting skin, in order to stop it from degrading as it naturally would do, comes with a big environmental price tag,’’ says Wendy Higgins, director of International media at Humane Society International.
‘’The fur trade is very good at telling consumers that the fur is natural when actually nothing is further from the truth. It is only natural when it’s on the animal to which it belongs,’’ says Wendy.
The Process of Creating Fur
The processing of the fur itself is a very complex process, as it ensures that the finished product which otherwise would biodegrade, lasts a long time. The pelts are treated with chemicals like formaldehyde, ammonia, chlorine and chromium. Formaldehyde and chromium are considered poisons and carcinogens. These chemicals are polluting soils and water and pose a threat to workers and fur consumers as reported by Fur Free Alliance.
According to life cycle assessment (LCA) study by CE Delft, it requires more than eleven animals to produce 1kg of fur. This means that the production of fur clothing has a higher environmental impact than producing any other textiles. Luxurious fur items tick seventeen out of the eighteen environmental impact categories, including climate change and toxic emissions.
The fur production also requires a lot of energy throughout every stage from fur farming of the animals to the transportation of finished fur products around the world.
Even the disposing of animal carcasses is a polluting process, it releases gases like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and many more.
Is Fur Farming Environmentally-Friendly?
Fur farming supporters defend fur production by saying they rely on sustainable sources which can be later recycled. They claim that the fur production is ‘’green’’ compared to the faux fur production.
Another study by CE Delft proves something different. They found that even compared to synthetically made faux fur, fur coats still have a severely higher environmental impact. The feed and keeping of the fur farmed animals are the two main contributing factors to impact on climate change.
Banning Fur Farming
Although many countries have banned fur farming, some still maintain fur farms till this day.
‘’It’s a symbolic industry, it is associated with history and with glamour so it has a particular status in the wardrobe, which is quite difficult to budge,’’ says Bel Jacobs, Speaker on climate change, animal rights and ethical fashion.
Bel says: ‘’We’ve managed to do it a bit more in in the Western countries so a lot of labels have been dropping fur from their remit, but we are still looking at Russia and China where there’s a lot of fur consumption.’’
Humane Society International reveals that there are still around one hundred million animals bred and killed on fur farms in places like China, some European countries and certain parts of North America. Animal trapping is another problem linked to the fashion industry that still remains legal in many countries including Wales.
‘’Even if it was a compelling green activity, it needs to be stopped,’’ says Bel. ‘’We absolutely as humans have no right to keep animals in isolation, in sterile environments without access to their friends or their communities, for a very short period of time and then to kill them for what becomes a so-called luxury item.’’