The Vinson View
Picky nicky on the ethics of creature comforts
Picky Nicky on the ethics of shopping
Last January, I posted two images on Instagram a day apart, and was perplexed by the comments I received. One image was of a 1970s fox fur bolero, the other a shearling blanket. Followers who detested the former liked the latter, despite the fact that 16 lambs, aged between three to six months, had been recently slaughtered in order to produce the custom-made blanket, while the vintage Gucci fox number was on show at the brand’s museum and unlikely to be reissued. On the same topic, Givenchy went to great pains to explain that its autumn/ winter furs were fake and its shearling was ‘ethical’ (when pushed for an explanation, it said ‘ethical shearling is from sheep that are raised for food’) and Gucci swapped kangaroo skin for long-haired lambskin to line its signature ‘Princetown’ loafer.
So fur is morally bad, but leather and shearling are ‘ethical’ because the animal is also eaten by humans. It is true that a lot of leather is a by-product of the meat industry, but some of the best hides from the better tanneries are sourced from cattle raised in France and Belgium primarily for their blemish-free skin. All animal products have primary and secondary uses, the order depending on which provides the highest value. Australian kangaroos are harvested in a managed way to control their numbers and their meat is exported worldwide.
They are also considered pests by sheep farmers so may be killed to enable the production of wool, shearling, lamb or mutton, the ethics of that being quite hazy.
Some of those who feel fur is morally repugnant seem OK with sipping a 473ml grande caffe latte, while up to a litre of cow’s milk per day per person (in its fluid form and processed products) is consumed in some European countries. And is it really fine for gym bunnies to eat 12-egg-white omelettes? We go through 30 million eggs per day in the UK, mostly produced by battery-caged chickens farmed intensively in the EU. Some 50 billion animals are factory-farmed each year. I think the emphasis is slightly skewed here, and fur is just an easy target.
I am very picky about the origin of any meat, poultry, dairy or fish that I eat, and very mindful about having a mainly plantbased diet. And I am just as careful on the rare occasions that I buy fur.
Today’s consumers should expect high standards of animal welfare in anything they buy, wild or farmed, and thankfully transparency is improving all the time. We have lost touch with how our food is made, and fashion is too often made to be thrown away. All natural resources are precious, so whatever it is, buy less and buy better.