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Tuesday, 6 March 2012

It's probably incorrect to call the fur coat a fad considering it's been around since we were living in caves. However, it's definitely a mode of fashion that has seen its day.  And what is unique about it is that its fall from grace was not due to the typical capricious tastes of Western consumers, but rather a social stigma originating from the treatment of the animals that are made in its creation.  So, while the fur coat itself may not qualify as a fad given its millennial longevity, the condescension towards it definitely would.

Not so long ago, getting your wife a mink coat was tantamount to a diamond ring.  It was expensive and showy - a status symbol not unlike dad's Cadillac.  Then, somewhere along the way, an awareness about the animals used to make it started to erode its place at the top.  Eventually, this awareness turned into aggression and multi-million dollar campaigns against it.  The fur coat as a symbol of elegance and pride was thhhhrpt (fart noise).

Personally, I have mental dilemma with the whole fur coat thing.  I understand that way the animals are treated is barbaric.  I understand it takes hundreds of these miserable creatures to create a single coat.  So, I get it. It's not the way a civilized conscientious society should treat its fellow earthly inhabitants just to have a nice coat - especially considering there are synthetic alternatives.

However, I am curious why the fur coat is considered verboten (to the point where wearers have been literally attacked) and yet so many other things are, more or less, considered tolerable.  For instance, there is not near the stigma associated with...

Eating a Big Mac
Wearing a leather jacket
Ordering veal or foie gras at a fancy restaurant
Buying a leather sofa
Carving up the Thanksgiving turkey...

Etc. Etc. You get my point.  There's plenty of other socially acceptable activities that involve some degree of animal cruelty.  But for some reason, the fur coat got pegged as the one that is intolerable.  And I won't even go into the fact that there are an equal level of products out there that involve cruelty to humans, but aren't stigmatized at all!  For instance, the gold that is mined at the expense of human lives in Africa, the shoes that are manufactured in a Vietnamese sweatshop, etc.

And I can't buy into the "two wrongs don't make a right" argument.  In other words, just because we approve of slave labor in Sri Lankan textile mills, shouldn't mean that we should approve of fur coats. That train of thought is invalid in my book. With a single sentence it sweeps under the rug all of society's crimes, but feels okay with fixating on a single one.

So, what to do? This is wear things get murky because we have a world population of around six billion and consumerism gone batshit crazy.  To be mindful of every aspect of every product that enters your home or your mouth is bordering on the impossible.  Yet, to completely ignore the sometimes horrific origins of these products doesn't seem to be a humane alternative either.  Thus, we Westerners have resorted to cherry picking examples like fur coats to rail against; subsequently, our conscience is assuaged but our intelligence remains stymied.

In the end, I have answers that can completely cover the dilemma.  We are at a point in our civilization where we are caught between willful ignorance and a debilitating awareness.  Most of us just tread somewhere in the middle, satisfied that we don't wear fur coats.


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