Frontier Style Special: A Fashion Fur Pas

The fashion world has long been associated with the use of fur on their products; it is a well-known signature of luxury for those who treat themselves to a high-end piece from the catwalk.

Fox fur is one of the most used fur in the fashion industry, particular species include the Arctic (white) Fox, silver or Grey fox and the Cross fox, a variant of the red fox. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) the Arctic fox was and still is a vital source of income to traders due to the exceptional quality of its fur.

White foxes have been found to be held in captivity on fur farms where they have been bred for their lustrous coat for over 70 years. Whilst it is difficult to know the condition of every existing fur farm, foxes tend to be restricted to small areas and are usually confined in cages, where living conditions are significantly lower in value than the rich surroundings of the wild. Additionally hunting methods are generally crude with leg hold traps and shootings being the main mechanisms used.

Although the use of fur has seen a decline in the past decade, it has been just over 20 years since 90,604 Grey fox skins were harvested by the US, between 1991 and 1992. With the development of comfortable and yet still fashionable alternatives such as the identical-looking artificial fur, the use of real fur appears to be redundant. Yet Burberry and other couture brands such as Gucci, Prada and Versace continue to incorporate fur into their clothing. Organisations such as PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have protested against the modern use of animal coats, labelling some fashions stores as “synonymous with cruelty to animals”. Burberry has responded to the claims stating that as a luxury brand many of its consumers “expect the use of natural hides in Burberry collections”. The question thus remains at what cost does it pay to look good?

Skin Couture

Another coat commonly used in the fashion world is snake skin. Designers have remarked on their delight at mixing an exotic and wild print, such that is found on these beautiful pythons, with the sophistication of their designs. Whilst many will agree that the Chanel bag above is tres tres chic, once made aware of the behind-the-scenes activities that occur before this accessory is produced opinions may change.

The pythons traded for its skin are usually imported from regions in South East and East Asia. The hunting method used to peel this creature’s natural coat is gruesome to say the least; the snakes tend to be pinned by the head to a tree and skinned alive in order to retain the freshness of the skin. The pythons are then left to die in a humiliating pile.

What poachers and hunters may be unaware of is how important snakes found in jungles and forests are to the eco-system. With the predators being captured and skinned alive, their prey are left behind to increase in numbers having an adverse impact on agriculture.

But the good old phrase “money talks” couldn’t be more applicable in this case, with “the harvesting of snakes and the initial processing of their skins [contributing important] …revenue to local communities in China and neighbouring countries” said Dr Su Chunyu, Executive Director General of the CITES Management Authority of China. A compromise is being reached with animal protection agencies ensuring sustainable living. It seems clear however that money and vanity, held in high regard by many, are costing animals their lives. So I ask again, at what cost does it pay to look good?

By Nancy Bukasa


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