By Seth Victor
Have you ever wanted to fly? Have you ever wanted to be able to dive into the obliqueness of the ocean, breathe through the water, and resist the pressure of the depths? How about sprinting over the terrain in but a few strides? Of course you’ve dreamed of these things, or if not the ones I’ve listed, some other superhuman ability. Countless comic books let us vicariously live these fantasies, be it through Aquaman, The Flash, or whatever superhero catches your fancy. Many superheroes (and supervillians) have powers similar to certain animals. Many take their namesake directly from the animal they admire, or which gave them their power, such as Catwoman (agility, curiosity that gets her into trouble), Spiderman (sticks to walls, makes webs), or Batman (like all bats, has a high tech computer and drives a tricked out car). Some writers even give their protagonists the power to turn into animals.
It is no surprise that we admire animals and the things they do. While humans may be the ultimate tool builders, every animal in a particular species can do a certain skill set, while each individual human only knows how to do one or two things of which she is capable. Prof. Cassuto previously wrote about a visit he took to his son’s school where this reality was misrepresented. I think a lot of us would love to have a better instinctual skill set, and we envy animals that have awesome inherent ability. We also envy how amazing animals look, which brings me to today’s topic. It’s all well and good to admire the physical features of an animal. It’s even okay to want to become a certain animal. You cross a line, however, when you kill an animal in order to look like her.
The fur trade is my choice for envy because there is no other way to explain why people continue to indulge in this madness. I can only conclude that people who buy fur are so insecure about their appearances that they feel they need to mask themselves in the skin of another in order to be slightly presentable to the public. Excuse the condemnation, but I really cannot fathom the rationalization process for purchasing fur.
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If you are an 18th century French entrepreneur, or perhaps a self-supporting isolated individual on the outskirts of the wilds, I’ll give you a pass. If you need to wear furs to survive the winter, or else face a frozen death, that’s another story. I just doubt that the models I see daily on the billboards for Flemington Fur are living in handmade cabins. Furs are the ultimate luxury, not because they are valuable, even in our overturned value system, but because if you wear one you tell the world that you are so important that your appearance justifies death. You literally look “to die for,” and that’s not a good thing. I experience a particular variety of revolt when someone shows off a fur coat and expects praise for it. There is nothing special about wearing animals.
As with eating CAFO-raised animals, there is no law prohibiting anyone from wearing a fur coat. Also, unlike dog fighting or bestiality, countries can import fur, which means that the laws in other countries weigh heavily on fur regulation. Any controls in the United States are useless when 85% of fur products are coming from China, a nation not well-known for animal rights. As with many environmental issues in China, regulations are slim, and enforcement is highly suspect. Of course one need only drive a few hours north for controversy over pelt trade. The United States took a step in the right direction by outlawing cat and dog fur imports in 2000. Seven years later, the EU followed suit. While I applaud positive action, I worry that if it took until the last decade to ban the fur of animals the Western world considers to be companions, it might take far too long to outlaw the trade of more “wild” animals.
The call for action to combat this sin is to restrict the trade of furs. Impressively, I think the general public is behind this initiative. Fur is not nearly as popular as it once was, and while some people still want the look, they are weighing the cruelty against their desires and deciding that faux fur or no fur is a better choice. That the general public is already phasing out fur is reflected in the campaigns of animal interest groups, who recently tend to focus on truth in labeling (so fur isn’t being falsely labels as faux fur) rather than outright prohibition.
That said, fur is still being purchased and desired, and people continue to envy the hides of other mammals. This issue is far from resolved, but it is the easiest to address personally. Fur is an antiquated status symbol, and there are hundreds of easy ways to look fashionable and trendy without taking a life. If we keep vigilant and demand more laws that ensure we know what we are buying, I am confident that we can phase out the fur trade and end cruelty in yet another area. After all, that’s what a real hero would do.