Green Manolo » Fur Still Not Demonstrably Eco-Friendly Despite Advertising to the Contrary

Fur Still Not Demonstrably Eco-Friendly Despite Advertising to the Contrary

By Christa

I first read about at Treehugger, and I have to admit, the web site is compelling. Animals breed, making the main component of a fur coat a renewable resource. A fur coat in good condition can be repurposed into other accessories, which is a form of recycling, and maybe even composted. Kept well, fur garments are durable, which could translate into fewer new garments for fur enthusiasts. And the folks, aka the Fur Council of Canada, argue that fur is humanely trapped and farmed, super non-polluting to process, and provides a much-needed livelihood for indigenous peoples in the north.

On the other hand, the Humane Society tells a different story:

Mink, foxes, raccoon dogs, rabbits and other species with the misfortune of having attractive fur are raised in wire mesh battery cages on fur confinement operations, described euphemistically as “fur farms,” to account for 85% of the world’s production of animal fur.3 The animal wastes contain high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus.

A 2003 Michigan State University study in the Fur Rancher Blue Book of Fur Farming states that “the U.S. mink industry adds almost 1,000 tons of phosphorus to the environment each year.”

The 2003 European Commission Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Bureau “Reference Document on Best Available Techniques for the Tanning of Hides and Skins”
recognizes the tanning15 industry as “a potentially pollution-intensive industry.”

The Industrial Pollution Projection System rates the fur dressing and dyeing industry one of the five worst industries for toxic metal pollution to the land.

Personally, I don’t wear fur, but I’ve always found it a bit difficult to accept the OMG FUR IS SUPER GROSS argument from someone wearing a leather jacket made of leather that came from who knows where. Tell me, is leather more acceptable because it’s made from a big dumb cow while the fur in a fur coat is made from a majestic wild animal?

As for whether fur is green, I think the arguments on both sides are clothed in shades of gray. claims that fur in general is fair trade, non-polluting, and sustainable – in other words, quite green – but provides no actual evidence to back up its claims. But while processing and dyeing fur requires some gnarly chemicals and can lead to industrial pollution of waterways when factories are less-than-careful about disposal and containment, so can the processing of leather – which happens on a much larger scale. The same goes for energy consumption and whether it’s good for the primary producer versus the manufacturer who sells a fur or leather product for hundreds of bucks.

Do I think that some fur (and leather) can be produced in a green way? Absolutely. Do I think the fur and leather on an average pair of boots made in China and sold at the department store has much chance of being green? No. With regards to, my greenwashing detector is going off in a big way.

3 Responses to “Fur Still Not Demonstrably Eco-Friendly Despite Advertising to the Contrary”

  1. Phyllis Says:

    I’ve seen factory leather tanning in person and you’re right – its a nasty process that uses lots of toxic chemicals so even if the animals are humanely raised and processed the production of leather hides is anything but sustainable.

  2. aurumgirl Says:

    But compare the processing of cotton into fabric, as well as the production of “synthetic” fabrics that now comprise most of the non-fur alternatives for warm weather clothing. Consider the circumstances by which those plant sourced fabrics are farmed, processed, dyed, cut, and tailored into clothing. Most if not all of the cotton grown is GMO (again, major destruction to biodiversity and soil quality there); it’s grown by force, as a “cash crop”, often by people who would rather grow their own traditional foods with which to feed themselves instead; and we all know who is combing, dying, cutting and tailoring that clothing all over the world. They are not well paid and they are often abused there too. Synthetic fibres like polyesters, all that fleece we so love, all those “down” like materials we use to create warm clothing–those production processes pollute bodies of water and create mutation in the aquatic life dependent on those waters.

    And far more people wear these materials than wear fur. Or even leather. NONE of it is green, but I do see quite a lot of greenwashing going on in all those clothing industries.

    My point is we like to close our eyes to the reality of the way we live, and the way the things we use are created, often in an effort to appear “holier” than others. In our culture, which is still heavily puritanical, we are all trying to appear more virtuous than others, sinless, and therefore “closer to _______” (fill in the blank as you choose: God, splendour, being correct, whatever). Focusing just on fur and leather detracts from the fact that we do bring about destruction with the way we do things.

  3. Cone Says:

    I think fur is like anything else- you have to consider various factors. It’s like meat. Is it better to buy an individually-packaged, preservative-and-sodium laden “chickenless chicken burger” that was produced halfway across the world? Or is it better to buy some honest-to-goodness sausage from your neighbour up the way? Fur farms are not pleasant things, I’m sure- neither is hunting- but if I can get a pair of handmade sealskin mitts when I go to NL to visit a friend of mine, is that really worse than buying a pair of “hotpaws” at Wal-Mart?

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