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'Eco-Friendly' Fur? That's Fuzzy Thinking

by Matt Rice

Here's proof that just about everyone is jumping aboard the green bandwagon. In an advertising campaign launched late last year, the Fur Council of Canada touts fur-wearers as the new environmental activists. Apparently, killing small animals and turning them into tacky coats is right up there with calculating your carbon footprint.

This fuzzy thinking adds up to little more than greenwashing.

The Fur Council's "consumer reassurance" campaign-that's what it's called on their Web site-is nonsense. For starters, furs, like other animal skins, are loaded with caustic, even dangerous, chemicals to prevent them from rotting in the buyer's closet.

Before the finished product reaches the local fur salon, it is soaked in a bath of chemicals, then bleached, dyed or toned. The laundry list of chemicals used during the dressing process includes sulfuric acid, ammonium chloride, formaldehyde, lead acetate, sodium perborate and more. The alkalis, acids, chromates, bleaching agents, oils, salt and various compounds used in dyeing are potential skin irritants. In dye houses and dye kitchens, workers are also at risk of ingesting toxic dusts when salts of lead, copper and chromium, as well as possibly carcinogenic dyes, are weighed and cooked. One chemical used in dying, hexavalent chromium, is-according to the Environmental Protection Agency-a hazardous waste.

Does any of this sound eco-friendly to you?

You can add to this the fact that the majority of animals killed for fur today are raised on fur farms. Processing fur from farmed animals requires transporting feed to those animals; removing their waste; electricity for the housing and killing facilities; the use of pesticides, vaccines and antibiotics; transportation to remove the carcasses-you get the idea. In the United States alone, fur farms generate tens of thousands of tons of waste every year, including manure, shavings, straw and animal corpses. Many of those carcasses end up rotting in our landfills.

When all is said and done, producing a farmed-fur jacket requires 20 times the amount of energy needed to produce a faux fur.

Finally, any consideration of "environmentally friendly" claims must take into account the treatment of animals, since animals are a large part of the environment. Let's look at how the fur industry treats animals.

From the day they are born until the day they are killed, animals on fur farms lead lives of misery. Rabbits raised to become someone's fur collar are forced to live in their own waste in small, barren cages. Foxes, insane from stress and boredom, throw themselves repeatedly against the wire cage bars. Or they cower pitifully in the back of their cage, paralyzed with fear. The animals' deaths are painful and merciless. Many foxes are killed by being electrocuted; minks are cruelly gassed. Rabbits have their necks broken.

The fur industry's eco-friendly claims are nothing but a desperate attempt to convince the public that fur is something other than a cruel product for callous fashionistas. But by now, most of us have seen the video footage of animals being beaten, strangled or electrocuted for their pelts, and we're just not buying it.

Matt Rice is the assistant manager of campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.FurIsDead.com.

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