Just last year, I had an encounter with a fur coat that left me both aghast and amazed. At Chicago’s Modern Vintage Fashion event, there was an entire booth dedicated to fur. Now — indulge me for a second. I’m from the islands. Furs are not a part of the wardrobe in such climates. So visiting colder climes and now living in Chicago, has been quite the eye-opener. Because downtown, honey there are some women strutting their stuff in fur. And I can’t deny my fascination with it.

Fur is so soft. It’s so glam. It’s so over-the-top and decadent. There’s a part of me that loves the look of fur, particularly in moderation (head-to-toe fur is crazy tacky, IMO). But an even bigger part of me can only see the cruelty, the blood, the senseless murder of it all.

Before I get into all of that, back to Modern Vintage Chicago.

This particular booth was dripping in fur. All colors, all kinds. Fox and mink and chinchilla and rabbit, as well as more exotic-looking varieties. I walked around touching all of it. And then I came face to face with a fox stole. Complete with a pointy little nose, heartbreaking eye sockets, and little paws with pads and claws that reminded me so much of Max, my cat’s. It made me shudder. I just had to get out of that booth ASAP.

After being spooked by the stole, I had to SMH at myself. Because I eat meat. And I’ve been ardently seeking a leather jacket, because everything I’ve seen that’s pleather in plus size looks really cheap and fake. And I have a thing for suede. I realize that I am a total hypocrite.

But as hypocritical as I may be, I will never wear fur. And I don’t quite understand the defensive stance Kelis recently took in her open letter to PETA. First she took to Twitter to brag about wearing her “Cruella De Ville.” Then she took to MySpace for a rant that is nonsensical, to say the least. Kelis defends her right to wear “rodents,” then proceeds to tell PETA to “…Find a worthwhile cause like the women being maimed in these Middle Eastern countries. Or female circumcision. Or women’s rights here in America, we still get paid less for doing the same jobs as men.”

Le sigh.

Kelis I love your music, but I can’t agree with your MySpace rant. There are already organizations that focus on women’s rights. PETA is dedicated to saving and improving the lives of animals. And animal rights is a very worthwhile cause. Without the hard work of animal rights groups around the world, many species that are currently endangered would most likely be extinct.

I am glad that organizations like PETA do as much as they do to raise awareness of the tremendous cruelty to animals that is done around the world. But I also think PETA does the cause a disservice. The group has become the most public face of animal rights, and their tactics are often ill-advised. As much as I’d never wear fur, I’d also never even consider throwing a bucket of paint on someone. That is no way to win hearts and minds, or convince anyone that wearing fur is bad. That’s a way to polarize people, and to make those who do wear fur angry at animal rights supporters, and even more adamant in their desire to wear clothing made of animal pelts.

There are far better ways to make a point.

Edited at 11:34 pm – I’d like to thank the bellas in the comments and on Twitter who have added reasons to question PETA’s approach to animal rights even more.

Click here to read about PETA’s sexism, racism, and hypocrisy in their ads and behavior.

I’d like the record to show that I’m not mad at anyone who’s got a fur coat. Many of the people I know who own furs, own antiques that have been passed through their families for eons. Even if you’re pro-fur, I say that’s your prerogrative. I am aware of my own apparent hypocrisies, I abhor hunting and would never wear fur, but still I eat meat and look good in leather. To me, the difference is this — I don’t want an animal — ANY animal — to be killed just for its fur. I tell myself leather is different — cows are already killed for their meat, and leather is taken from already dead cows. But it’s more or less the same thing — an animal’s flayed skin. In terms of eating meat — that’s probably never gonna stop, sorry. But I’m trying my best to be better, by participating in Meatless Monday. I made that resolution for health reasons, primarily. But it’s a baby step in what I believe is the right direction.

I am a fan of faux fur — we’ve really come a long way from the old days. A good faux feels just as soft and cuddly as a fur coat, to me. But just when I’m patting myself on the back for making a choice against cruelty, then I’ll read that fake fur isn’t always fake.

What’s an aspiring fashionista like myself to do?

I don’t know, y’all. What do you think? Are you a fur fanatic? Or are you pro-PETA? What are your views?

* photo from the Wall Street Journal

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naomi says:
January 21, 2010, 8:44 pm
We have a major problem in Louisiana with nutria, an orange-toothed rodent imported for its fur, which is destroying wetland. Currently, they're killed for a bounty and the bodies tossed. There's a movement to save the pelts (and eat the meat, but I just can't go there) for coats. When the fur is shaved, it looks like sheared beaver. It's beautiful, it's warm, and you're making use of an animal product that is wasted otherwise - you're actually ethical. Check out Righteous Fur.
winnie says:
January 21, 2010, 8:59 pm
Umm, why do you abhor hunting if you eat meat from the store or a restaurant? Contrary to popular belief, all hunters are not like Sarah Palin, shooting down wolves for sport. Most of actually eat what they kill. Wild game is more flavorful and leaner that commercially produced meat. Just because you buy it in a supermarket wrapped in plastic, doesn't mean wasn't killed. Most of my male relative still hunt. If I were a turkey, I'd rather take my chances in the wild instead of being locked up in a cage my entire life and fed an artificial diet. The real threat to wildlife is not a mink farm. It's the destruction of habitat, i.e. urban sprawl and pollution. I'm a green fanatic, mainly b/c my father taught me at a young age to appreciate the beauty of nature and the wild. My father's a hunter.
Crystars says:
January 21, 2010, 9:00 pm
I love fur, I have two! To each their own.
Anji says:
January 21, 2010, 9:02 pm
I am on Kelis' side. PETA is so over the top, they're a joke. While the cause may be seemingly worth while, I don't approve of PETA's methods. If anything, I want to eat a hamburger every time I see their ads just out of spite.
Um...yeah says:
January 21, 2010, 9:09 pm
Afrobella, I respect your awareness of your "hypocrisy" (I prefer to be more generous and say "conflicting feelings.") Meat, leather, fur -it's all the same - animals die, no matter how people might try to make a distinction. Your quandry is simple: don't wear fur; enjoy the increasingly good fakes. Personally, I eat meat/fish, I wear leather/suede and I wear fur. I also have faux (but none of my coats get much wear here in Sunny SoCal). One last thing, I beg to differ with you - fakes don't feel or look the same as real, but should be worn cheerfully and knowingly. So buy your faux fur and own that look!
NinaG says:
January 21, 2010, 9:37 pm
I don't care for fur but I abhor PETA because they use tactics that marginalize oppressed groups. Their actions can really be disturbing.
M says:
January 21, 2010, 9:49 pm
I agree with Winnie about hunting. Most of the hunters that I've known eat what they kill. Humans can't eat without killing something. Vegetarians and vegans kill plants. Once you cook them or separate them from their roots, you kill them. What I don't like about our modern meat is that the animals are mistreated and don't receive the proper nutrients that would be passed on to humans. After all, there is such a thing called the circle of life for all organisms.
Phyrra says:
January 21, 2010, 10:04 pm
I think if you inherit a fur from your family, i.e. vintage, it's fine. I personally won't wear real fur, but I'll buy fake. I think it's really improved in how it feels in the past few years. I'm really on the line about suede and leather these days. I'm uncomfortable with it, but it doesn't bother me quite the same way that fur can bother me. I guess that's because I'll eat cow, and I theorize that suede/leather comes from cows that are being eaten. I think PETA is full of a bunch of psychotic people. That said, I'm all for protecting animals, I just think PETA goes way too far with some of the things they've done.
bella says:
January 21, 2010, 9:37 pm
Hey Naomi - just checked out Righteous Fir. Oh my. I don't think I could rock a purse with a face. I'll wait to see if they come out with regular stoles and collars. Winnie - perhaps my feelings about hunting should have been explained further. The hunters I have known have largely been gun obsessed and uber macho sport hunters, or just ignorant and unconscionable ala Sarah Palin hunting wolves from a helicopter. I am more familiar with the negative stereotypes of hunters, in that regard. I take particular issue with "canned hunting" where exotic prey are brought into enclosed environments and killed for trophy display purposes. It sounds like your dad and the hunters you have known pay respect to the rules, and are the kinds of hunters that appreciate the wild (and our place in it). Which I can appreciate. I know factory farming is horrific. I have seen the videos. Once seen, those images can't be unseen =( Anji - you are not alone! I know many who have said that PETA turns them off, rather than inspiring empathy for the cause.
africaliving says:
January 22, 2010, 12:17 am
Great post! Fur is definitely a hot look right now. I wonder if wearing fake fur somehow still makes me pro-fur and sends the wrong message? I live in an area where many people are vegans and might even persecute someone for wearing wool (or eat honey!) so just depends on where you decide to draw the line.
Tara says:
January 22, 2010, 12:46 am
I'm anti-fur, anti-PETA. I did research on them for a project, fully ready to be down with the cause and I was shocked and disappointed. http://www.petakillsanimals.com/ For one, that's an informative link about their "no-kill shelters". Their extremist tactics make me sick. Comparing meat-eating to the Holocaust, making a crack at plus-sized people (hey, if you weren't eating meat, you wouldn't be fat, har har), funding domestic terrorist organizations... I'm sorry for making this comment all about PETA, but I would hate to think that if you were anti-animal abuse, that automatically puts you in the PETA camp.
Stardust80 says:
January 22, 2010, 12:50 am
While I'm not a fan of fur, there's no way that, as a black woman, I could ever support the actions of PETA. They are one of the most racist and sexist organizations around right now. They compare women to pigs, African Americans to cows and the obese to whales. I won't even discuss the sexualization of women's bodies in all of their ad campaigns but here is a pretty good article about it - http://jezebel.com/5453982/ingrid-newkirk-is-the-worst-person-in-the-world
bella says:
January 22, 2010, 1:33 am
Stardust80 - great read. I'm going to edit my post and add that link. See, it makes me sad - PETA does good work. But they undercut their message so, so much in their zeal.
NB says:
January 22, 2010, 2:23 am
I'm anti-fur/anti-PETA. There is a great cause called, "coats for cubs" where you can ship to wildlife rehabilitators in Canada and the States for baby animals to act as a surrogate. http://www.hsus.org/furfree/campaigns/c4c/
Moni says:
January 22, 2010, 3:14 am
Although I agree with some (many) of their causes, I'm also completely anti-PETA. Their tactics are despicable. As Tara said, they've used racist, sexist and sizeist adds to promote their causes. They're also unethical. Did you hear about them using Michelle's Obama's image on their latest fur campaign without her permission? http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/07/AR2010010703949.html?hpid=moreheadlines I can't support them, no matter how positive their cause might be. As for fur, I'm not a big fan. I wouldn't buy a new fur, though I might buy a vintage one, since the animal is long dead.
Sabbio says:
January 22, 2010, 6:27 am
The only thing I'll say is quote Alice Walker "The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men." I'm not crazy about PETA but still I made a painting which title ("Own reasons") was inspired by this quote, about being naked rather than wear fur... it was for a contest but I prefer to see PETA act than to see people kill animals.
nyc/caribbean ragazza says:
January 22, 2010, 7:03 am
Not down with PETA at all. Their methods do not help the cause. If I still lived in the States I would have a bigger issue with eating meat/dairy as the way the argibusiness goes about raising/slaughtering animals is cruel, hurts the environment, hurts farmers and the meat is less tasty.
Purple says:
January 22, 2010, 10:15 am
This is an issue I've grappled with over the years. Leather and fur are ultrachic but I will never wear them. So that is not the problem for me. My dilemma is does wearing artificial leather or fur glorify wearing the real thing, or justify the human propensity to desire leather and fur?
peter says:
January 22, 2010, 10:35 am
Here is a good video about meat: http://meat.org
Christine says:
January 22, 2010, 11:27 am
I'm with the NYC/Caribbean Ragazza on this one. I try to buy ethically raised meat when it is not prohibitively expensive and try to implement meatless meals into my diet (I was vegetarian for six years, vegan for half a year). I don't have a problem with leather as the cows are going to be eaten in any case. I think the fur issue is the senseless cruelty of it. No one is out eating mink (to my knowledge), but then why wear the fur? Ditto the hunting. It's not for me, but I'll eat venison, if someone offers it to me. And I've gone fishing...I think that there isn't something wrong with hunting or fishing and eating what you capture. If anything it is certainly more "natural" than going to the supermarket to get some freakishly large chicken breasts in a sterile foam container, you know?
Friday says:
January 22, 2010, 11:35 am
Im anti PETA also, I disagree with their tactics, and campaigns. I have to admit that fake furs have come along way (my grandmother owns several). On a lighter note Bella, when you described the fox stole it brought back a childhood memory of mine. My grandmother had a close friend whom we would see every week when we would go to church. She wore a stole very similar to the one you had described above and it terrified me! My grandmother would tell me to "give Auntie a hug" and I would hide and begin to whimper. I still remember the "emeralds" for the eyes and the claws and small teeth (yes teeth). For years my grandmother did not understand why I did not want to give this woman a hug, I laugh at this now but I was a bit traumatized at 4. LOL!
Ladytraveler says:
January 22, 2010, 5:52 pm
I'm vegan so I try not to use fur, leather, eat meat or any meat products etc. I also try hard to extend the same justice and concern I have for animals and the environment to other humans by not judging them or harming them with my words and never with my hands. I choose to abstain from animal products for environmental and health reasons and because I'm concerned about sustainability. I believe that systems that are cruel to animals are often also oppressive to the humans that work in them...see the meat packing industry horrors, factory farming etc. I respect people's individual choices but I feel good being vegan and much healthier too :)
Charrise says:
January 22, 2010, 7:49 pm
I just had this convo with my Husband. I used to be anti fur, as I am a major animal lover! And I am aginst alll types of animal cruelty! But really I love leather ans suede, and I WILL not wear either of them fake. In addition, I eat meat, I fish, I let my cats hunt and kill mice, and I let my dogs go after rabits in my garden. I don't think that's cruel. So, what can I say is my reasoning for no fur? I can't come up with a legit reason. Plus, just to note. The leather that makes our fab bags and shoes, is not from the cows that are killed for our steaks. There are cows raise for their skin, and then cows raise for the meat. That simple. So as of last week, I am cool with wearing fur. Too bad I am about to move to Miami! Lol
winnie says:
January 22, 2010, 9:51 pm
Bella, Thanks for clarifying. Those types of people you describe aren't really hunters. They just like to kill things. I agree that's disgusting. FYI, fake fur is very bad for the environment.
Kitty says:
January 23, 2010, 10:51 pm
I don't find you hypocritical at all. I used to be a vegan, but I had to stop because it was making me sick. I used to be anemic and going vegan triggered it to come back. I eat meat now, but not a lot; I'm a complete omnivore. I love veggies, but I still need to eat chicken and eggs. That being said, I'm anti-peta. They are militant about everyone, can live without meat and they abhor the idea of having pets. They are nothing but a bunch of hateful people with agendas. They only like you if you think like them and they only think in black and white. They don't understand that not everyone can take the veg pledge or that not everyone that eats meat is against animal rights. My advice is do what you can for the animals, for people, and the planet. We can't do everything, but we can do what we can. A little in abundance. :)
Juanita says:
January 24, 2010, 7:42 pm
If I lived in Chicago, I would buy and wear a real fur. It is cold there and fur is warm. That is why animals have it. We humans don't have fur, but we can get it. I wouldn't buy one strictly for vanity or fashion, but I would wear one for warmth. That's seems pretty clear stance and ethical to me. Thanks for starting this discussin and giving folks a chance to sound off.
J.Adia says:
January 25, 2010, 1:18 pm
I am anti Peta and I feel if you want a fur, it's your choice. I remember I got a new leather coat in high school for Christmas. My friend turned her nose up at it b/c she felt it was cruel to animals. However, she was sporting her new LEATHER Doc Martins. Their stance on using animals for research bothers me. Unfortunately/Fortunately we need animals for progress. Many of the prescriptions we use have first been tested on animals before they reach market. I interned in a lab and there are protocols to how the animals are treated and housed. The use of animals as research subjects has helped improved the lives of all people. There are better organizations that promote animal welfare than PETA.
LBell says:
January 25, 2010, 11:10 pm
Bella, I can tell the Chicago winters are getting to you! ;) Way back when I was new to Chicago I went to a fur event at the Merchandise Mart and tried on a few coats. Whew! When you're living in a place like Chicago, where the winter is no joke, fur is the TRUTH. It will keep you warm like (almost) nobody's business. As my co-worker says, there's a REASON why animals have fur! That said...I own a pair of beaver earmuffs and that's as far as I go re fur. The only way I'd wear a fur coat is if it were a matter of survival (like, I'm stranded in north Alaska). Otherwise I don't think it's necessary...and I no longer see it as glamorous.
Frugalista says:
January 27, 2010, 6:51 pm
A lot of the fake fur is still animal fur. It's often dog fur. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/01/21/BANG1BL0DD.DTL&feed=rss.news
LV says:
January 30, 2010, 1:29 pm
I am a meat eater and leather wearer, but I do not wear fur. I look at it like this, when a cow is killed, it is used for meat and to make clothing items. The animals killed to make fur coats aren't also eaten. I do agree that PETA's methods can be over-the-top sometimes.
cheychey says:
February 1, 2010, 4:03 am
I'm glad you brought this up because fashion should have an ethics to it. As someone already quoted from Alice Walker, animals are not here to be abused by humans. There might be a lot of contradiction in some of the people who say it (whether it's a horrible organization like PETA or some kid you went to school with) but the statement itself is still true.
reno says:
March 4, 2010, 8:50 pm
go to http://www.ocpausa.org/fur.htm and see if you still like animal coats
Vaselisa says:
March 13, 2010, 2:12 pm
I don't see anything wrong about wearing fur despite the propaganda and probable staged live-skinning videos (paid animals-abuse has been done before, notably in 1964 during the Canadian seal hunt when a sealer stated that he was paid money by a wildlife group to abuse a seal on camera) cited by animal groups, no doubt to promote their agenda. Many of these grops use fur as a wedge issue to promote a wider agenda which, if revealed to thoughtful public scrutiny, would be rejected hands down. There is a misconception that the meat from fur animals is not utilized. In fact, it is used for pet food, oils for leather and cosmetics, paints, tires, etc. Those carcasses go to rendering plants. The "dog-fur" that's often referred to by the same people is not hair from the domestic dog but a canid from a different species referred to as the "Raccoon Dog" or "Finn-Raccoon" (nictereutes procionoides). I know that some will disagree, but to me there's no substitute for the softness, regal glamour, and allure of real fur. I will continue to wear it until my dying day.
DNLee says:
April 29, 2010, 1:14 pm
I don't do fur either. And it's not hypocritical. Harvesting animals for need is fine. Aluetians wear fur and I have no prob with it. I dislike the idea of fur, fancy fur as a status and not about utility. Eat the meat, use the sinew for string, wear the fur or leather. I'm okay with hunting to keep the population in check (BTW, I have NO problem with rabbit fur). But to harvest an animal just for trophy - that's what I find disgusting.
Eric says:
October 17, 2010, 9:32 pm
Fur is anathema - it looks trashy and it comes from a trashy industry. Only poseurs and the nouveau riche would have anything to do with this vulgar garbage.
theperfectnose says:
December 4, 2012, 7:14 pm
Well said lady, you are a beautiful person. The urge to hug you right now is strong. I have similar feelings on this fur is beautiful but I cannot justify the killing of a living thing for its skin. Not to mention the pain of all the animals raised on fur farms in battery cages. I too eat meat but I buy free range, ethically killed stuff and consume the minimum I can restrict myself to. I no longer eat chicken because the regulations on what constitutes barn/ free range in Australia are.. shall we say too flexible for my liking. I came across this blog post following a search for the ethics/ environmental costs of fake fur vs real. In short-I've acquired a short roll of fake fur (it's pretty hideous but I reckon it would be more hideous clogging up a landfill as it is another form of plastic). So I'm going to make something (suitably hideous) out of it. Which brings me to my next question: can you sew? Do you know anyone that sews? You can make fairly hot fake suede (I use the stuff used for upholstery-it's tough, durable and doesn't bald out like the real stuff+ it comes in awesome colours and is affordable) jackets (regular/ motorcycle type). So if you can sew/know someone that does I can recommend sewing patterns you can use-or trace you one if I have one in your size. Cheers.
theperfectnose says:
December 4, 2012, 7:18 pm
Just remembered-there is one ethical fur out there-possum fur from New Zealand. Possums were introduced in NZ from Australia and have no natural predators there. So they breed like crazy and decimate all the forests. Shooting these is legal and the harvested fur is 'ethical' provided the animal was killed in the correct manner.