The Eco Ethics Of Fur


As real fur flaunts its newly-minted eco-wash, fake fur continues to fluff itself in the eco-limelight. Is fur green? Is faux fur any greener?

Listen: fur is being promoted as good for the environment. In one case, it’s that of the Common Brush-Tailed Possum, an Australian marsupial. Introduced to New Zealand by fur traders, it’s lately become a pest of epidemic proportions. Consequently, the New Zealand World Wildlife Fund supports a cull of the possum population, and other New Zealand environmental groups want the possum fur trade to enjoy the backing of the government. Celebrities are being encouraged to promote it  – for example, Tiger Woods swears by possum fur gloves.

(If you’re wondering, the numbers of possums are being reduced as quickly as possible by independent hunters – and that means the cheapest methods available, which are traps and cyanide. “We support killing possums,” says Eric Pyle, Conservation Director of the World Wildlife Fund New Zealand, as printed in The Guardian.)

Worldwide demand for fur helps finance the hunters. That’s why wearing possum fur is “eco-friendly”. Also, the Fur Council of Canada would like to inform us all that fur is environmentally friendly. Fur is green!

What? I thought faux fur was green. Which is it?

Synthetic pile fabrics can simulate any natural colour or texture, allowing designers to mimic nature flawlessly. And because no animals are harmed, they’re “eco-friendly” (although there is that slightly pesky problem of a non-renewable resource – petroleum – being used for many faux fur fabrics).

Now for the truth: investigations by the Humane Society of ther United States found that many luxury items were using racoon and dog (yes, dog) fur, including one worn in public by Sean “P. Diddy” Combs. Amongst the high-profile design houses implicated were Calvin Klein, Sean John and Rocawear. The faux fur item gracing a customer’s shoulders might contain real animal hair.

Save the animals by wearing fake fur, and you’re not only likely to be wearing a product made from synthetics (read: petrol), you’re keeping real fur products desirable, because they look identical. And that’s if the faux fur is even, er, genuinely fake. But I suppose we can save the New Zealand environment by supporting the international fur trade.

Real furriers claim fur is eco-friendly, being a “renewable resource”. But faux furriers claim it’s faux fur that is eco-friendly, since no animals are harmed.

Where do you stand? (And what will you wear?)

Image: fox fur ear muffs at Bluefly

Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.