Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fur is green: ecological?

The fur industry likes to market their products as ecological. It is a classic strategy that is being used by many businesses across the globe. The public is becoming more and more aware of environmental problems and companies naturally jump the bandwagon to give their product an extra edge and lure consumers.

Dilbert picked up on this a long time ago.

But how much of what the "fur is green" campaign claims about the ecological advantages of fur are true and proven. And even if it were true...Is it truly a practical solution to environmental problems to run around draped in fur year round? Or are they just screwing around? Let's find out...

Fur is renewable

According to "fur is green":

Fur is a natural, renewable and sustainable resource. That means we only use part of what nature produces each year without depleting wildlife populations or damage the natural habitat s that sustain them

My thoughts:

1. Most fur comes from fur farms. This means the more fur is being bought, the more animals are being bred which even increases the amount of livestock in the world. Is this green? Livestock is a big problem as it is right now and is putting tremendous strain on the environment. If you don't believe me, their is more than enough research to back this up. One nice example is the U.N. report livestock's long shadow

2. Aside from the ethical problems of fur trapping there are environmental concerns. Not just target animals get trapped by the fur industry. Non-target animals can wind up in the traps as well, including endangered species. Or domestic animals such as dogs by the way.

3. Real facts to back up the claim that no more animals are being taken from the wild than the environment can sustain are not provided. A short lesson in history (even recent history) would make it clear though that supply and demand are the most important in the real world. Not conservation. And this is the same for any "natural" product, whether it is whalemeat, fur, ivory, ... History teaches us to be cautious.

fur durable and recyclable

well cared-for, a fur garment will remain functional and beautiful for many, many years – far longer that any other clothing material.

I doubt that. I have clothes lying around here that are quite old (decades) but that aren't made from fur. It isn't just fur...

But the reality is that fashion changes and people will want to wear things that are fashionable. Not something that is several decades old and gathering dust in the attic.

Unlike other textiles, fur garments can also be re-cut and restyled (“remodeled”) as fashions change. Your old fur coat can even be “recycled” to make bags, pillows, throws or other home accessories.

So we cannot restyle other textiles? A simple google search shows us that this is of course complete hogwash. Maybe the folks over at "fur is green" need a how to guide? No problem: recycle clothes

A jeans (cotton, not fur!) can even be "recycled" into a bag. Check it out for yourself: purse from jeans

The net is full with creative ideas on how to revamp your wardrobe. Knock yourself out.

And I fail to see how we can revamp a fur collar or some fur trim on a pair of boots on the other hand.

I just don't get that the fur trade gets so much publicity, when their arguments are so weak. No other industry would get away with this. It just doesn't make sense.

fur is biodegradable

Real fur is an organic material. « Faux fur » (fake fur) and most synthetics are made from petrochemicals. Like other plastics, these materials do not break down easily and will remain in landfills for centuries

This is solved easily. Don't wear fur. No real and no fake fur. No problem... But landfills? We can recycle polyesters. A nice example is polar fleece


It is a good alternative to wool (of particular importance to those who are allergic or sensitive to wool). Another benefit of fleece is that it can be made out of recycled PET bottles, or even recycled fleece.

fur processing

Small quantities of formaldehyde can be used to protect fur follicles during dressing or dyeing, and gentle acids (e.g., acetic acid, which is vinegar) activate the tanning process, but local environmental protection controls ensure that there are no harmful effluents

Formaldehyde is a carcinogen. Not so innocent... And acetic acid isn't vinegar at all.


Acetic acid, CH3COOH is an organic acid that gives vinegar its sour taste and pungent smell.

Acetic acid is produced industrially both synthetically and by bacterial fermentation. Today, the biological route accounts for only about 10% of world production, but it remains important for the production of vinegar, as many nations' food purity laws stipulate that vinegar used in foods must be of biological origin. About 75% of acetic acid made for use in the chemical industry is made by methanol carbonylation

Concentrated acetic acid is corrosive and must, therefore, be handled with appropriate care, since it can cause skin burns, permanent eye damage, and irritation to the mucous membranes. These burns or blisters may not appear until hours after exposure. Latex gloves offer no protection, so specially resistant gloves, such as those made of nitrile rubber, are worn when handling the compound. Concentrated acetic acid can be ignited with difficulty in the laboratory. It becomes a flammable risk if the ambient temperature exceeds 39 °C (102 °F), and can form explosive mixtures with air above this temperature (explosive limits: 5.4–16%).
The hazards of solutions of acetic acid depend on the concentration

Doesn't seem so green and harmless.

The "fur is green" campaign also likes to quote a book written by R.S. Blackburn.

biodegradable and sustainable fibres

I don't see any mention of fur. What I do see is that the author mentions natural fibres such as cotton, Soy protein based green composites,Hemp,... I don't see mink, fox or raccoon collars as a subject of study. Curious...

They also like to point out that everything is well regulated in regards to the environment. Well, that might be the case in countries such as Norway or the US (although, BP?) but this isn't the case in China. And as I blogged before, a lot of the fur that is being produced in the West is being bought by the chinese. These pelts end up in China where they can be processed and shipped back to the West (as fur trim on shiny ployester vests maybe?). You can read it here

So, what evidence have they given for their ethical treatment of animals and the environment? None as far as I can see...

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