The Fur Sustainability Debate Explained
In recent years, the fur sustainability debate has gained a lot of attention. While the primary issues used to revolve around animal welfare, more people than ever are starting to look at things from an environmental standpoint. Now, new information is being shed on how the fur trade affects our environment and the intensity to which it contributes to climate change. However, there are also a lot of people that are skeptical about the sustainability of the faux fur industry. This article is about explaining the fur sustainability debate and which industry is ultimately making a bigger impact on the environment.
The History of Fur in Fashion
About 170,000 years ago, the first fur coat was worn. While it was nothing like we’ve see in fashion magazines, it was the rudimentary beginning of the fur industry. The main difference between then and now was that people used fur for warmth and survival. Without the sophisticated shelters we have today, it was one of the only ways to ensure that you were protected from the elements. Fast forward some 169,000 years to the early 1900’s and fur was transformed into a showcase of wealth and class. During these times and up until the 1960’s, fur was only worn by the rich, famous, or royalty.
During the transition from fur used for survival to fur used for lavish clothing, animal rights legislation was underway—it actually dates back to the 1600’s. In 1635, the first known animal protection legislation was passed in Ireland and regulated how wool was extracted from living sheep. As we’ve progressed through the 1700’s, 1800’s, and 1900’s, more legislation was created to protect animals and instill ethical treatment.
However, during this time the fur industry continued to thrive. It wasn’t until recently that we’ve seen such a major shift in how the public views fur. Since 2016, many brands have taken a vow to stop using fur. Brands like Armani, Gucci, Prada, and Chanel no longer produce it and major retailers like Macy’s no longer sell it. Activists have made such a case for the elimination of the fur trade that the entire state of California is slowly banning the sale and manufacturing of fur and entire countries are taking a stand. Norway has recently outlined a plan to shut down all of the remaining fox and mink farms by 2025, and we believe this is just the beginning.
While it’s taken years to get to this point, animal activists have made it loud and clear to the rest of us that fur is detrimental to animal rights and has a cascading effect on the rest of our lives. With the origination of PETA in 1980, these movements have only gotten stronger. Because of their efforts, we’ve even seen a major shift of eating patterns. Today, 9.7 million people in the United States follow a vegetarian-based diet.
To combat all of these changes, the fur industry started releasing statements that it would take the proper measures to become an ethical industry that prioritizes animal welfare. However, many people have been quick to point out the contradictory nature of that statement. How are you planning to prioritize animal welfare if the product still results in killing hundreds of thousands of animals per year? Simply put, there are no ethical ways to approach the fur industry.
The Origination of the Fur Sustainability Debate
In addition to activists fighting for the ethical treatment of animals, a new debate has started making headlines. As we become more conscious of climate change and the subsequent effect it has on our environment, people have started bringing up the sustainable issues with fur. When looking at it from a big picture standpoint, the fur industry is a sustainability nightmare. It’s extremely problematic from start to finish, but up until now this issue has been put on the backburner to shed light on the way animals are treated prior to being killed for their fur.
The reality of it is that most fur is produced on animal farms, fur farms, or factory farms. Factory farms are one of the worst offenders when it comes to pollution and emissions that cause climate change and they produce toxic chemicals that lead into waterways and soil.
There is a big difference between faux fur and real fur. The CO2 emissions that are associated with the fur industry far outweigh the CO2 emissions involved in faux fur. These farms need to put in work to not only trap the animals, but then they have to house them, fed them, and keep them contained to a single farm for however long it takes until it’s time to harvest their fur. Not only is this terrible for the environment in terms of pollution, but the manure runs off into fresh water sources and the chemicals that are used by the plant to process the fur end up saturating the ground. The chemicals used regularly are extremely toxic and terrible for our Earth.
The Fur Sustainability Debate: Is Fur Really Worse Than Faux Fur?
To put it simply, real fur has a hugely negative impact on our environment as a whole. While many people are quick to bring up the synthetic microfibers that are used to make faux fur, it’s important to understand all of the moving parts before jumping to conclusions.
Each type of faux fur is made differently. Low-quality faux fur is going to use cheap products that aren’t put together well, which inadvertently increases the number of microfibers that come off of the fabric when it’s washed. The problem is that these microscopic fibers are too small to be filtered out of treatment plants and those against the faux fur industry use as evidence that faux fur is contributing to the pollution of our planet.
While this is true for low-quality material, there are ways to mitigate the negative sides to faux fur in terms of environmental sustainability. First of all, it’s important that you buy high-quality materials that are produced in a way that reduces this “shedding.” It’s also been shown that using front-loading washing machines help to reduce the amount of fibers that are shed, subsequently decreasing your environmental impact. If you really want to make sure that your faux fur is sustainable, Patagonia sells a specially designed laundry bag that traps the fibers from any faux fur so that they don’t end up polluting the planet.
With the ability to do your part in reducing the environmental impact of faux fur, it makes the debate even more clear. Faux fur is more sustainable for the environment. If you’re still not sold, consider the direct environmental burdens we previously discussed that are associated with fur farms. The faux fur industry does not produce even a fraction of these CO2 emissions, toxic chemical waste, or manure/waste pollutants. While the manufacturing still needs to occur in a place where they will undoubtedly produce some emissions, it’s nothing in comparison. In fact, the carbon footprint of a mink skin is almost equal to the daily footprint of an average Finnish consumer; the footprint of a fox skin is approximately three days’ worth and the footprint of faux fur alternatives are only a fifth of the footprint of a mink.
While there are still some advancements to be made in the faux fur industry as a whole, companies that use high-quality materials are paving the way for environmental sustainability and animal rights.
Pretty Rugged offers a wide variety of sustainable fur products with everything from outwear to customizable pet blankets. If you have any questions about our products, head over to our FAQ page or email us!