Fur, leather, and wool – materials made from the skin and coats of animals – can be found in the wardrobes of many Americans. Most of these people purchase animal-based garments without thinking at all about their production – a luxury the animals abused in the making of them cannot afford.
In recent years, fur has made an unfortunate comeback in the fashion industry. Some species of animals are raised on fur farms specifically for the “commodity” of their fur. Mink are one prominent example. Spending their lives cramped into small wire cages, mink are treated like inanimate objects rather than living, feeling animals. Fur farmers use the cheapest means possible to slaughter the mink while preserving their fur: suffocation, anal electrocution, gassing and poisoning are common. Labeling practices for fur are also notoriously misleading; a coat marked as “mink fur” might actually contain cat or dog fur, and “faux-fur” items sold in mainstream clothing stores are sometimes made of real fur.
Leather is either produced overseas in countries that often lack any animal cruelty legislation, resulting in horrendous practices (cows who are sloppily killed by having their throats slit, or skinned while still conscious), or produced as a co-product of the meat industry, meaning the purchase of leather directly supports industrial animal agriculture and contributes to its profitability. Tanning leather also requires a huge number of chemicals, which creates waste that is responsible for polluting nearby communities and ecosystems.
Many people mistakenly think that wool is cruelty-free – the animal didn’t have to die to produce it, right? Unfortunately, many sheep bred for wool are kept in conditions that are little better than the conditions of “food” animals: castrated without anesthesia, tail-docked, transported like cargo, and sheared in a way that cuts off pieces of skin along with their wool. Ultimately, they are slaughtered for their meat, known as “mutton,” and many of their lambs are slaughtered to be eaten while still babies. Furthermore, certain breeds of sheep are grown by farmers to have longer, thicker coats than would be necessary in nature, resulting in heatstroke and flies nesting in the folds of their skin.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – Animals Used for Clothing
The Humane Society of the United States – Dogs and Cats in the Fur Trade
The Humane Society of the United States – Fur in Fashion
Skin Trade – Documentary
- Why Should We Care?
- Animal Testing
- Companion Animals
- What to Do?