Is it ok to buy and wear fur clothes? Is fur an ethical and sustainable material? Are there any better alternatives to fur clothing? These are the kind of questions I was asking myself for a long time.
You are probably wondering like me if it's wrong to buy and wear fur clothing. I did a lot of research and asked experts to craft the most useful answer possible.
We should stop buying and wearing fur clothes because it's cruel and unnecessary. Animals are enslaved, exploited, subjected to torturous treatments, and exposed to hazardous chemicals with destructive effects on human health and ecosystems.
There are about 115 million animals used in laboratory experiments each year worldwide, according to the Humane Society International. Animals used in experiments include rats, mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, fish, farm animals, even dogs, cats, and many more.
In the fashion industry to satisfy our demand for fur, wool, leather, silk, and down, billions of animals around the world are brutally slaughtered each year.
There is a lot of animal cruelty going on in the textile and apparel industry. Brutal farming, trapping, and skinning of animals still occur too often in the fashion industry. This is all very shocking to me, especially when there are available alternatives.
Why do fashion designers and brands keep using animals and inhumane practices to make fur clothing?
What's wrong with fur
Fur clothes are obtained from furry animal hide. It's one of the oldest forms of clothing but it's viewed as warm and luxurious in fashion.
Animal pelts with hair left on are used to make fur clothing such as coats, jackets, capes, parkas, vests, and boleros.
The most common animals that are slaughtered to make fur clothes are:
There are no welfare standards that make fur production ethical. It's unethical to remove animal skins to make a coat.
Many animal rights organizations such as PETA mobilize fashion designers, brands, and celebrities to boycott fur clothes because it's cruel and unnecessary.
"Animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way."
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
Designer brands like Versace and Furla already decided to stop using real fur completely in their new collections since March 2018.
"Fur? I am out of that. I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion. It doesn’t feel right."
- Donatella Francesca Versace, Versace Chief Creative Officer
Many other well-known fashion brands and designers already avoid using real fur completely including:
- Calvin Klein
- Michael Kors
- Vivienne Westwood
Ethical consumerism is rising. People want to buy from designers and brands that they believe are doing their best to improve their social and environmental impact.
Animal cruelty shouldn't exist in any modern and civilized society.
But some people still believe that we should keeping using natural materials such as fur, leather, wool, down, silk, and feathers to minimize the environmental impact of fashion.
The environmental impact of fur clothes
There are plenty of reports, studies, lobbyists, activists, and scientists working on both sides of the argument and providing different assessments. The fur industry claims to be sustainable, even environmentally responsible.
Faux fur and synthetic fiber production, consumption, and disposal cause enormous harm to the environment. Alternatives to real fur are made from petroleum by-products, which aren't sustainable or biodegradable.
They are made from a non-renewable resource that requires chemicals in its processing. They also add to the plastic and micro-fiber pollution, provoking the death of millions of animals on land and in the oceans each year.
On the other hand, the manufacturing of fur clothes involves very dangerous substances, including acids, bleaches, and toxic dyes. Many hazardous chemicals are used to prevent putrefaction up to unsafe levels.
Fur factories pollute soils, water, and air in the surrounding environment. It has a huge negative impact on human health and ecosystems.
Approximately 245 mink farms in 22 states across the United States produce about 3.1 million pelts annually, according to the Fur Commission.
Animal wastes contain high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus. Millions of pounds of feces are produced annually, polluting nearby rivers and water sources. This is the most common form of water pollution in the United States, according to the Humane Society report on the impacts of fur production.
Air pollution comes from gases released from the animals’ manure, and the disposal of animal carcasses by incineration. Fur factory farms also consume a vast amount of feed, water, and energy.
There is a cultural shift happening in our society and with it, the rise of conscious consumerism. Our approach to consumption is changing as global warming worsens.
But the poor treatment of animals goes beyond its impact on climate change. It's an emotional and ethical issue. We should love animals and not kill them. Buying and wearing fur clothes is outdated and irrelevant.
No excuse can justify the mass killing of animals for fashion. Animals are beaten, electrocuted, or skinned alive to make fur clothes. It's not acceptable.
You can prevent fur farming, trapping, and trading by not buying and wearing fur clothes. Don't support companies using animal products or by-products for clothing.
Choose materials that are sustainable, long-lasting, and biodegradable. Buy sustainable fashion made from renewable resources with socially and environmentally responsible production processes.
If you don't know where to start, read up my guide on how to check if a fashion brand is ethical.
Expert opinion on buying and wearing fur clothes
Here is what the experts have to say about buying and wearing fur clothing:
"Real fur is never going to be eco-friendly. However, there are a few companies that are working on creating faux fur made out of recycled materials."
- Katya Ocejo, fashion-conscious and professional Fashion Designer
"There is no excuse for wearing fur unless it's your natural skin covering."
- Zoe Sutton
"I don’t believe that “new fur” is eco-friendly since commercial farming is the leading cause of planet pollution. If that’s not enough, I don’t think there’s anything humane about raising animals for fur. If it’s not something we’d like done to us, it’s probably not a good idea. But I tend to agree if it’s vintage, second hand, or hiding deep in your closet, it’s better to use that than to buy anything new."
- Heather White Monsma, Fundraiser
"Not eco-friendly and not sustainable. Most alternatives to fur is also not eco-friendly. Just design something else."
- Bente Nilssen, Fashion Activist
"This simply boils down to whether or not you think it is ok to kill animals for fur. This depends entirely on an individual’s viewpoint. There are many good reasons for the use of fur clothing, eg sustainability, it’s what nature provides, it's biodegradable, one coat will outlast several purchases of other coats, it’s incredibly functional and warm, it’s unbeatable in terms of softness and comfort."
- Heather Pearce, Zoologist
"I am concerned about the rise in alternative furs as some derivatives are from plastic compounds. So, what happens to the garment at the end of its life? Can it be repurposed, composted, returned to the manufacturer? Eco should encompass the circular economy principles."
- Melissa McCabe, Corethics Founding Director
"There are many reasons, but the simple one “we should love animals” is the most compelling to me. We human beings have a monopoly on power over our planet, but we also arguably have a responsibility to the other beings who share it with us. We have done a poor job of shouldering this responsibility, especially recently."
- Lee Kenney Ballentine, Publisher and Poet
"So long as it's sustainably sourced, I'd rather wear fur and leather than plastic. I have a lot of vintage fur and I've never had to throw away a leather belt or bag."
- Alison Heinrich, Australian ISSF Member
"Industrial fur production, like any other industrial production that involves exploiting animals and humans, is not OK. Is wearing fur OK? I think there's no one-fits-all answer. If I had a flock of Gotland sheep, I'd have to slaughter bucks every year. So why not make use of all they have to offer?"
- Annelie Wendeberg, Fibre Artist and Owner of trådverk
"Real fur, no. Faux fur is generally plastic, which isn't sustainable but if your design depends on it, use secondhand. Thrift stores are ideal for it. May take longer to source but is the most sustainable option."
- Christopher Snow, SixSixty
"Its animal abuse, animals can't move much, get any outdoors because of the damage of the fur. It's unnecessary. Unless you are an indigenous person living directly on the land. Hard chemicals are used in the production. The end product is so expensive it has no value to most people on this planet."
- Andersine Hjort
"Nobody can avoid killing animals or affect the environment. Therefore, I choose animal products, because they last longer, have better functionalities and - in my opinion - in the end, are way better for the environment in terms of both production and decomposing. I do not say that the animal production is perfect, but I do say that is has a better environmental impact in the long run."
- Pern Lo, Computer Scientist
"Fur is animal abuse, it's plain and simple."
- Ravi Bangera, Environmentalist
"I am against the contemporary practice of commercial farming of animal fur. Period. It is abusive and not eco-friendly. On the other hand, I am not against indigenous folks and people living in a similar subsistence situation securing and using furs for warmth to survive. [...] Most of my clothing pieces are from quality purchases made twenty or thirty years ago. Even some of those purchases were from thrift shops or were given to me second hand from family or friends. [...] I presently live in a place with extremely cold temperatures during the winter season. Last year we had a week of 50 below zero temperatures. If someone gifted me a vintage fur coat I would gladly wear it for the warmth. [...] Fur coats are passed from one generation to the next and that seems like a sustainable item to me."
- Dr. Jane Hudak, Ph. D. in Art Education from The Ohio State University
"There is zero reason to wear fur. If I wore a dress made of my hair and scalp people would flip out."
- Nicole Schock
"Personally, sustainability includes 3 pillars: kind to the environment, people and animals. If something fails in one of those categories, it fails overall. The abuse of animals is inherently unsustainable if we view the earth as a whole, rather than as a resource we can take from indefinitely. [...] Other materials could be used for warmth, but the majority of fur is used for fashion/style, where it can just be removed with no practical consequence."
- Sofia Rezenta Voudouroglou, University of Warwick Graduate
Do you think fur clothes have a future in the sustainable fashion industry?
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.