The Vin­son View

Picky nicky on the ethics of crea­ture com­forts

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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.

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