By Paula Moore
If you’d rather go naked than wear fur, you’re in luck. This fall, faux fur is everywhere. Many of the hefty fashion magazines on newsstands this month include spreads spotlighting faux-fur coats and other creations. Designers and retailers from Anna Sui to Uniqlo are selling faux-fur bags, faux-fur jackets, boots trimmed with faux fur and more. Even veteran designer Karl Lagerfeld featured head-to-toe fake fur in his fall collection for Chanel.
Whether it’s a sign of a slow economic recovery (fake fur is considerably cheaper than the “real thing”) or a nod to the growing “eco-fashion” movement hardly matters. For the sake of the millions of animals suffering in crowded wire-mesh cages on fur farms, faux fur is one trend that we should all embrace.
On fur farms around the world, animals spend their entire lives in small, filth-encrusted cages, often with no protection from the driving rain or the scorching sun. Rabbits’ tender feet become raw and ulcerated from rubbing against the wire mesh of the cage bottoms, and the stench of ammonia from urine-soaked floors burns their eyes and lungs. Video footage taken during undercover investigations of fur farms in China and France shows rabbits twitching and shaking after their throats are cut.
In China, which is now the world’s largest exporter of fur, animals on fur farms are bludgeoned, beaten and mutilated—all in the name of fashion.
Earlier this year, PETA’s affiliate PETA Asia released footage from its latest undercover investigation of fur markets and farms in China. The shocking footage reveals that raccoon dogs are beaten with steel pipes and left to die slowly as they writhe in agony in full view of other animals. Rabbits’ necks are broken while the animals are still conscious and able to feel pain. Animals live in barren wire cages—exposed to all weather extremes—as frozen piles of waste accumulate below them. Some are driven insane from the constant confinement and frantically pace and walk in circles in their cages.
Says Project Runway guru Tim Gunn, “With so many great alternatives, why would you buy the real thing? Why would you? I just don’t understand it.”
For anyone who worries that faux fur may not be as “green” as other options, consider this: Before a fur garment reaches the local mall, it is soaked in a bath of chemicals—including sulfuric acid, ammonium chloride, formaldehyde, lead acetate, sodium perborate and more—to keep it from decomposing in the buyer’s closet. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, one of the chemicals used to dye furs, hexavalent chromium, is a hazardous waste.
As designer Marc Bouwer (who uses no fur, leather or wool in his collections) points out, the technology used to produce faux fur will continue to improve. “But death is death.”
So when you’re out shopping for clothes this fall, remember that sometimes it’s OK—in fact, it’s preferred—to “fake it.” “Technical advances are so perfect you can hardly tell fake fur from the real thing,” says Lagerfeld. “Fake is not chic … but fake fur is.”
Paula Moore is a research specialist for The PETA Foundation.