The Real Cost Of Fur
by Brenda Shoss
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As a Northwestern University freshman, I wore recycled rags to appear arty and anti-mainstream. My prized vintage possession was Grandma Ethel's black sweater with the fox fur collar.
After college I shared a condominium with Tikvah, an orange Maine Coon mix cat and Stanley, a white and black Lhasa Apsa. I recall how the light darted in luminous arcs and folds across their small furry bodies as they played or slept. Their fur seemed so alive. The white foxes who died for Grandma Ethel's sweater once ran and foraged for food in their natural home. I found it strange to view some animals as coats and others as companions. Tikvah and Stanley drove granny's garment into eternal retirement.
As I slowly replaced my fur and leather items with man-made togs, I realized that the struggle to find faux-chic paled in comparison to the plight of animals mutilated for fashion.
If any of the 30 million foxes, chinchillas, minks, sables, beavers, or rabbits raised on fur farms could relay their story in human terms, it might read: "I was born in a shed, confined to one of many wire cages encrusted in feces and rusty food cans. I want to run for miles, burrow and dig. I can't, so I pace and tear at my skin. I've never seen the sun, grass or trees.
"One day human hands will strap a metal noose around my neck and shove an electric prod into my rectum. They'll force a metal conductor down my throat, to shoot 240 volts of electricity through my body.
"I'll emit a crackling sound just before my teeth fall out and my body convulses. Since the electrical current won't stun my brain, I'll feel the excruciating force of a massive heart attack for up to two minutes."
Sadly, this is no anthropomorphic rant. Sentient beings do not require human intellect to feel fear and pain. No creature with a central nervous system can be raised to gracefully endure electrocution through its genitals. In addition to anal electrocution, some of the 10 to 100 animals slaughtered for every fur coat or fur-trimmed garment are asphyxiated with carbon monoxide gas and skinned alive. Others undergo neck snapping, a method in which the killer jerks the animal's vertebra out of the socket. Still others are injected with pesticides, chloral hydrate, or magnesium sulfate.
Fur-bearing animals who can't be cage-raised are caught in body-crushing traps, steel jaw leghold traps or snares. One out of four chew a leg off to escape. Trappers club, stomp, suffocate, drown or strangle animals who have already suffered in the traps for days. For every target animal, two to ten times as many trash animals-dogs, cats, deer, squirrels, birds-are maimed and left to die.
But as more consumers learn about the methods used to ensure undamaged pelts, the fur industry sinks deeper into a financial/image slump. Along with its deceptive slogan, "Fur is back!" garments are now disguised in pink, blue or day-glo orange dyes to appeal to a younger market. Fur trim and lining are sheared to resemble velvet.
Despite attempts to reinvent the fur trade as humane and hip, major U.S. fur retailers such as Evans and Andriana have declared bankruptcy. The Fur & Leather Centre is the only remaining furrier in St. Louis. Dillards, Macy's West & other prominent department chains have closed their fur salons. Steel-jaw leghold traps are illegal in 89 countries and according to a Gallup Poll, 74% of Americans want them outlawed here. Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, and Switzerland are phasing out fur farms. The United Kingdom recently passed the Fur Farming Prohibition Bill, which forbids all farming of animals for their fur by the year 2003.
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