We Won’t Wear Fur, But We Will Wear Leather. Are We Hypocrites?

fur hood

Confession: On a trip to Venice some years back, I literally slept naked in an ankle-length black mink coat a Republican friend had lent me for the week-long trip. Diddy hasn’t had it so good. Talk about texture porn.

There’s a reasonable explanation for how this happened. I accidentally nodded off in the thing the first night, as I am wont to do, and what can I say? I never slept so well, and decided to keep it up for the whole vacation. Why we don’t sleep naked in fur as a matter of nightly course is beyond me. Just try it sometime. No? Oh, well. One woman’s decadent is my yes, please.

Before you comment in horror, consider, my eco babes: why is the knee-jerk reaction to fur one of disgust, while the vast majority of us are rocking leather boots this winter?

Like most people, I can deftly rationalize just about anything if it fills an ego need. As a teen I read Diet for a New America, by John Robbins, and promptly gave up meat/began lecturing my parents daily. Only, I still wore leather all through high school and college, knowing full well that my Steve Maddens were not exactly “making use” of the byproducts of the meat industry, but rather fueling its factory-farming splendor.

Another confession: Possibly the most ironic point in the failure known as my vegetarian career was attending the Farm Sanctuary in Orland, Calif. in the early Noughties with my much more carnivorously pure friend, Dori, an actress who had the sense not to show up to the event in leather clogs. Unlike a certain green editor we won’t mention. Oops!

All this is to say, wearing fur may be more viscerally offensive, but I don’t think it’s any worse than strapping yourself into a leather belt. In fact, it’s possibly better. True, much of the fur industry raises animals in appalling conditions. But do CAFO cows have it any better? Not a chance. It’s completely reasonable to argue that the business of ethically raised animals turned out as fall’s new fur vest still has the moral high ground over a hue-du-jour downer beef belt bought on sale at Nordstrom Rack.

Going further, it’s nearly impossible to separate the issue of animal welfare from environmental principles. Even if you think, as I do, that it’s perfectly acceptable to raise animals for human use (if done in a way that is certifiably humane), there’s still the fact that animal products of any kind – from fur caps to leather bombers to tonight’s dinner – suck the earth’s resources harder than a Hoover.

Ethically, the choices are either vegan products made from synthetic goods, or animal products produced in a way that is deemed to be humane. Environmentally, neither vegan nor animal products are ideal. Nothing is.

When we first started EcoSalon, I was contacted by a woman selling “vegan”, “eco” faux fur rugs. The vegan claim didn’t bother me, since it was true, but her eco claim got my attention – mainly because the rugs actually used “eco” in the brand name. I asked her what could possibly be eco about her petroleum-based rugs, and after a slightly heated exchange, she acknowledged she should probably change the name altogether.

Nothing annoys me more than a vegan…product trying to cop some green cred. Vegan is often touted as being eco-friendly, simply because it sounds more ethical and less energy-intensive than using animals, but sounding all nice ‘n stuff doesn’t make it so. A lot of vegan goods are little more than plastic. Marketing much?

I’d personally rather have recycled leather, which has had years to off-gas those nasty preservatives, sidling up to my skin than plastic, recycled or otherwise, which will never, ever biodegrade and is far more energy-intensive to recycle or reuse than an animal-based good.

I love to tell the fur in Venice story for the reaction it gets, but the bittersweet part of this is that no one ever says a thing about my closet full of giant leather handbags and gussy shoes. Fur is like veal, I guess. It’s off the list – if you’re a good person, you just don’t do it. But crusted fish filets and suede D’orsays are A-OK.

When vegetarianism first garnered Western mainstream notice in the 70s, meat-eaters loved to point out the hypocrisy of vegheads showing up to protests sporting leather loafers. And if we’re being honest, they had a point.

But if we’re still being honest, maybe fur isn’t necessarily so bad. (The fur industry would sure like us to believe so: check out Fur Is Green.)

Let’s be real. Should we only ever wear recycled, vegan products?

More questions:

Would you rather wear recycled or vintage – and therefore eco-friendly – vegan products, or recycled or vintage leather and fur?

How many times have you (privately or openly) judged a woman in fur, while ignoring the hordes of both leather and plastic boots, bags and belts parading past you daily? I know there have been times that I have.

And, do you wear leather but not fur?

Let me have it, ladies.

Image: lanuiop