Real vs. Faux Fur: a Timeless Debate
Written by Rachel Brosman,
Edited by Allison Fern Clausis and Aurora Hinz
NEW YORK, New York - Every fashionista loves a cozy fur coat in the cold winter months. However, what kind of fur you choose, real or faux, says something about your values. Although many designers, such as Gucci and Stella McCartney, have decided to go fur-free, that does not mean that faux fur is necessarily the most ethical and environmentally conscious choice.
There are approximately 1,100 fur retailers and 100 fur manufacturers in the U.S. Eighty-five percent of those are small, family-run businesses which have been passed down from generation to generation. In the global fur market, the U.S. ranks among the top countries for retail fur sales. Other top countries include Italy, Russia, and China (fur.org). There are more designers working with fur today than in the 1980s. In 1985, only 42 designers were creating fur fashions. Today, there are over 500 renowned designers using fur in their collections. In addition, 55% of fur buyers today are under 44 years of age. Surprisingly, one in five women owns a real fur coat (fur.org). The fashion industry is deeply divided on whether to participate in the global fur trade, a market worth more than $40 billion a year that employs over one million people, according to the first study to take into account retail sales, fur farming, and production, commissioned by the International Fur Trade Federation (businessoffashion.com).
There are a number of reasons why individuals and even designers choose to support faux fur. Fur farming in the U.S. is the only sector of animal agriculture unregulated by the federal government (peta.org). Because of this, fur farms do not have the same restrictions and rules as other industries, resulting in more environmentally harmful practices.
One example of harmful effects from fur production is linked to the raising of animals. One million pounds of feces are produced annually by U.S. mink farms alone. One dangerous component of this waste is that it contains nearly 1,000 tons of phosphorus, which pollutes nearby rivers and streams (peta.org). According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, too much phosphorus in the water causes algae to grow faster than ecosystems can handle (epa.gov).
More than 50 million animals are killed for use in fashion every year (bornfreeusa.org). A few methods used to kill animals for their fur include gassing, electrocution, and neck breaking. More ethical ways include using traps (bornfreeusa.org). But in the last two decades, fur production has shifted East, where regulation is poorly enforced. In 2014, Hong Kong accounted for 70 to 80 percent of the world’s total fine fur exports, according to PwC (businessoffashion.com). There are no penalties for people who abuse animals on fur farms in China, which is the world’s largest fur exporter, supplying more than half of the finished garments in the United States (peta.org).
On the other hand, many people do not realize the reasons that others choose real fur. Fake fur is made from non-renewable petroleum-based products, like nylon, acrylic, and polyester, which is then treated with heat and chemicals to improve its look and feel. According to the International Fur Trade Federation, these industrial processes use three times as much non-renewable energy as real fur (bustle.com). Acrylic, the principal fiber in fake fur, is bad for the planet. The US Sustainable Apparel Coalition put acrylic on its list of fabrics with the worst effect on the environment (id.vice.com).“The farmers who produce in the United States take animal welfare as the highest priority,” said Michael Whelan, executive director of the Fur Commission USA. “Over half of our budget goes into animal research — what's best for the animals” (businessoffashion.com). Costume designer Minna Attala told The Daily Mail, "Killing animals for vanity is not right, but there are whole communities of people who rely on this industry for employment, and, in the majority of cases, the animals are treated well, so that they’ll have healthy coats." (bustle.com).
All in all, the decision of whether to choose real or faux fur is very personal and one that should be taken into deep consideration. Ultimately, it comes down to the issues that you are most passionate about, and what you believe is the better of two evils. It is important to respect the opinions of others while also being vocal about one’s personal choice. After all, 86% of Americans support an individual’s freedom to choose whether or not to wear fur (fur.org).
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