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That is the question… Wearing real fur has been a hot-button issue for decades, but in the last few years real fur has made a big comeback. Before you don your PETA, protest, faux fur coat… The plot thickens.

Least you think faux fur and knitted rabbit are the answer, both come with their own set of hypocritical, ethical and environmental problems.

This was my mother’s mink coat. For the first 18 years of her life she was a poor girl from Union City, Tennessee, with only two dresses to her name so this coat was very special to her. For awhile I thought I’d make mink pillows out of it. Then I realized I couldn’t do that, nor could I let it languish in my closet, or give it away… just to be politically correct. Her name is embroidered on the lining, and it smells like her! I will wear it always.

According to the Fur Commission of the USA and National Geographic, two-thirds of the 2016, major women’s fall fashion collections included fur: 91 out of 156 collections in New York; 55 out of 65 in Milan, and 51 out of 92 of the Paris collections included real fur. Even so, as a protest to the way animals are raised and/or killed for their fur, faux fur is still everywhere and not just in the fashion industry.

Faux fur pillows, rugs and throws are a popular trend in home design. While we may be patting ourselves on the back for buying fake fur, these disposable trends come at a huge price.

  • It can take up to ten barrels of oil to make one faux fur coat.
  • These “100 percent modacrylic” fibers are treated with toxic chemicals that may cause cancer and are largely produced in developing countries where environmental controls are lax, sweatshop conditions and child labor abounds.
  • It will take 1,000 years for one piece of faux fur to biodegrade in a landfill as opposed to six months to a year for real fur.

Knitted rabbit vests, scarves, hats—even key chains—have become big trends, and like minks, rabbits can be unethically raised. Unlike minks—which are killed outright—rabbits are often left bloody and battered after their fur is hand plucked from their bodies. This savage treatment will happen to them, again, the next year. 

After I finished many of my breast cancer surgeries and all of my chemos, my late husband bought me this suede and fox coat on a trip to Colorado. You can see my hair had grown out several inches. It was a special trip for us. I love this coat and will wear it always.

We’re kidding ourselves if we think faux fur and rabbit fur are good, moral alternatives to real fur. The answer isn’t in turning a blind eye with disposable faux furs, or banning the sale of real fur like San Francisco, West Hollywood and Berkeley has done. Banning fur farming isn’t the answer either.

Instead, what if we demand strict, ethical and verifiable parameters before accredited fur farmers can sell their furs?

While many cows and chickens are still raised in inhumane conditions, we continue to eat their meat, drink milk, eat eggs and wear leather and suede at a level that makes the fur industry seem inconsequential. Even so, consumers have made their voices heard: WE NOW HAVE CHOICES about whether we buy free range chickens and cows and grass-fed beef free of growth hormones and antibiotics.

I bought this fox sweater a number of years ago and wore it at a photo shoot for Lois Joy Johnson’s (MORE Magazine’s Founding Beauty & Fashion Editor) 2015 book, “The Woman’s Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life and Love After 50.” Lois used this photo on page one of Chapter One… plus another 10, full page photos of me! I was so honored and had such a blast! It’s still one of the best books for women over 50. I will wear this always because I love it, and it was a defining time in my life and what it meant to be over 60 and widowed. Photograph by Michael Waring.

Our collective voices have made humane advances in the raising and killing of cows and chickens for profit, but with fur…

We’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water and in-turn, created an even bigger monster… Faux fur! 

What if we enforce and regulate fur farming in the U.S.–by law–as they’ve done in some European countries, like Finland, where “WelFur” visits, inspections and upgrades of the European fur industry are demanded? 

This is my beautiful friend, Kimberly Frick, @frickspicks on Instagram. Today I spoke with Kim who said, “I’m from Chicago, and I’ve had this piece (fur) for a long time, and I’m going to wear it. If you don’t agree or have nothing nice to say… Just keep scrolling.”

And what if we go one step further? What if we continue to apply pressure to push out the worst fur farmers by demanding ALL FASHION AND FUR DESIGNERS AND WHOLESALE and RETAIL SELLERS prove their furs are certified as humanely “Welfur” raised? Yes… That will be difficult, and take time. I realize it’s not foolproof, but it’s a start. We have to make a smart start somewhere! And it’s far better than the faux course we’re on now.

How do you feel about real fur versus faux fur?

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39 thoughts on “TO FUR OR NOT TO FUR?”

  1. I choose to not wear ANY of these pieces. Nor eat these animals. My choice. Yet—— I respect those that do and stroll on by. I so wish in this dark climate of our country RESPCT would be a choice and a value too.

    • I have my mother’s mink and both my daughters, her niece,and I have worn it for various occasions. It is beautiful and so warm. We will continue to wear it.

      • Brava, Leigh! When I was writing this blog, my friend, Kimberley Frick, and I were saying there’s nothing like fur to keep you warm. Leather and wool just don’t cut it. If I’m trapped in the cold outdoors somewhere, I hope I’m wearing mother’s coat and not my leather jacket. Thanks for weighing in! I appreciate you, Brenda

    • Hello C, Your statement applies to everything in our country right now. We should have choices and respect one another for the choices we make. A friend of mine is seven years old, and she doesn’t like abstract art. Recently we talked about “isn’t it great there are people who do and people, like you, who like paintings of flowers? There’s something for everybody!” She loved that answer and understood we all have choices and there’s something for everyone. Thank you for your awesome comment, Brenda

  2. I figured that since I eat meat… and wear leather boots, shoes, jackets and purses, it would be hypocritical of me to eschew fur.
    Although I don’t own one, it’s for financial reasons, not judgemental ones.
    I do have a faux-fur that’s fun, but now I see it’s drawbacks.
    We each need to make our own decision, and not judge others for theirs. Working together towards “Wel-fur” standards is a great idea!
    XO Donna

  3. I agree. In my lifetime so many choices and living styles and politics have been deemed ‘correct think’ that I worry the future of the country is that we are all outwardly amiable smiling robots, terrified to have any opinion that deviates from the ‘norm’ forced upon us.

    You are courageous in writing this post.

    • Thank you, Lynn. I have the same fears, as should we all. It’s an alarming time we live in when you say I’m “courageous in writing this post.” Think back to Hitler’s Germany… At first a few Jewish stores were closed for various reasons. No one said anything. Then as it began happening more and more, still no one said anything. Then the Jews started disappearing from their homes, and people were afraid to even talk about it among themselves. Then Hitler’s SS openly dragged entire Jewish families from their homes. As politically correct as this country has become, where people are afraid to admit their religious and political beliefs; our leaders are calling for us to harass those with opposing beliefs until they leave the restaurant where they’re eating and get off the streets, or cities like San Francisco are forbidding us to sell fur… NO. I WILL NOT BE QUIET, BECAUSE IF I AM COWED AND SILENCED, SOMEDAY THEY WILL COME FOR ME, AND THERE WILL BE NO ONE WHO SPEAKS UP TO STOP THEM! Whether we agree with someone else’s beliefs, we have a right to our beliefs and to not be afraid of our neighbors. Thank you, Lynn. Brenda

  4. I agree with Lynn, and you. I love natural fibers , and fur. It’s too warm to wear it where I live. Polyester factories are worrisome to me, I try not to buy polyester.

    • Hi Eileen, I agree with you. Nothing beats 100% cotton, and it only takes three months for it to decompose in a landfill. Polyester doesn’t breathe on our bodies and like the cockroaches, it will be here until the end of time. Thanks so much for your observation, Brenda

  5. Brenda, as you’ve done on many occasions, you’ve opened my eyes ….this time to the faux fur and rabbit fur products. I have both now and am now ashamed that I caused pain and unfathomable trauma to rabbits I had presumed to be humanely raised and farmed for their fur. I, too, have real fur pieces that I’ve worn far too infrequently. Like you, I have my Mother’s mink which I can never give away. Her name is also sewn into the lining. Thank you for bringing to light these thought provoking issues… you frequently do.

    • Hi Laureen, I’m not sure how we ever thought rabbit farming was okay, but mink farming wasn’t. I guess the PETA people just haven’t jumped on that bandwagon yet. Don’t get me wrong, there is a much needed place for voices like PETA. I just wish they led with all the facts. xoxo, Brenda

  6. I appreciate the unveiling of the ills of faux fur, that said I’m not a fan of either. I did go through a stretch of being a vegetarian in my 20’s until I was pregnant at 34 and fell off the wagon with an airport hot dog, we all have our weaknesses. We have a lot of choices to make as consumers and choosing wisely and humanely seems to be harder to identify. Interesting post and you look fabulous.

    • Hi Bryce! I’ve been primarily a vegetarian since my 20’s as well. It doesn’t have anything to do with not eating animals that might have been inhumanly raised and slaughtered, but because that’s what my body craves. You’re so right about the difficulty consumers face making decisions about something seemingly as simple as which orange juice to buy. We have to be vigilant, aware consumers, and that takes a lot of work on our part. Thank you, sweet lady, for the complement! I appreciate that! xoxo, Brenda

  7. I don’t wear fur. It is simply not my thing, but I do own leather and suede boots, shoes, purses, gloves, etc. I say do what ever you are going to do humanely and let everyone live. If you’ve ever plucked your eyebrows, you know how painful a process that can be so imagine how painful it is to a rabbit to have its entire body plucked? Not so humane either…right? You are never going to stop EVERYONE from wearing fur so make the process humane and as painless as possible and stop judging.

    • BRAVA Clearissa!! Well said. You know I found some photos of rabbits after they’d been plucked… Couldn’t bring myself to show them here. Talk about heart breaking… Thanks for your awesome comment, Brenda

  8. These are all hard decisions. As many others have mentioned, I too eat meat and I own some leather products. I don’t own any furs. It’s not a look that appeals to me, but I don’t judge others for their choices. Life is full of difficult ethical choices. I like to think most of us are doing the best that we can. It’s good to rethink our motives and choices periodically.

    • Ooh… What a brilliant statement, Christie! “It’s good to rethink our motives and choices periodically.” Too often we find ourselves making decisions based on what our younger self believed, or perhaps the situation and the facts have changed, and we need to update our decision-making as well. Even though most of us are doing the best we can… I agree with you… but I wonder how many of us rethink our positions? Such a great comment!!! Thanks so much for reading my blog and taking the time to respond. I appreciate you. Brenda

  9. Oh, my goodness, you’ve knocked my world askew! I never even gave a thought to the unethicality (is that a word?) of faux fur! Admittedly, I’ve never had a problem with wearing fur or anything leather (rancher’s daughter), but I never realized the impact of those ‘more ethical’ faux furs. Thank you for the wake-up! I’m pushing for better standards among our fur-growers!

    • Diane, Don’t feel bad. I didn’t know it either until I saw the statistics about fur making a comeback at Fashion Weeks around the world and looking into the issues. I lived on a ranch for 10 years and the men in my life hunted deer and ate venison and my home has a number of whitetail and axis deer hides on the floor. It’s just what you do in Texas. Yes, we all need to find ways to make fur farmers accountable. I loved your comment. Thank you, Brenda

    • Thanks Laura! It’s far more meaningful for all of us if we think about what we’re wearing as opposed to simply “I love that outfit.” I appreciate your kind comment. Means a lot to me, Brenda

  10. We don’t have to wear ANY of it ! It’s in humane to kill an animal in the way that it’s done just for our own fashion ideologies. There are plenty of other ethical fabrics these days to be worn . Luckily, I live in Australia so don’t see much fur being worn , but my stomach churns when I see it ( mostly in the states, not Europe).

    • Hi Julie, Just like there are humane and ethical ways to raise and kill cows and chickens, the same applies to fur farming. It’s food for thought. Thanks for weighing in. I appreciate that you took the time to read and comment. Brenda

  11. I take issue more with people who want to mind my business for me than I do wearing fur. I love real fur and don’t have any because of the cost. I regret the one time I had a chance to buy a full-length mink at a good price and talked myself out of it. I had no idea about the faux fur but have never been a fan of most of it. Humane practices should always be used when farming for food or fur.

    • Hi Victoria, I’ve never been a fan of most of the faux fur either, probably because so much of it looks like old bathmats. If my husband hadn’t bought me the suede coat trimmed in fox, I wouldn’t have given fur a second thought. I’m with you about “people who want to mind my business for me.” That’s a powerful statement. Always love seeing you here. Thank you! xoxo, Brenda

  12. We have some life parallels, Brenda! My paternal grandparents were very poor and never completed high school, but my grandpa trapped mink in the wild and had a fur jacket made for my grandma. I’m sure it was a sign of success, as you said. (Even though he probably poached the mink!)

    I don’t wear real fur, I guess because it’s just not in me to want it. But I have a lovely faux-fur vest that I often wear when it’s cold out. I like your idea of ethical fur farming practices. You’re absolutely on the money about the “cost” of faux fur!

    • Hi Val, Most of these issues I wouldn’t have known anything about had I not seen the blurb that real fur was making a comeback at Fashion Week, and I wouldn’t have considered buying fur for myself until James bought me that coat. We were in a store in Colorado, and I tried it on for fun. When he turned around and saw me in it… His eyes lit up! I think we got caught up in the moment. I was by no means finished with my breast cancer surgeries, and we didn’t know what was to come, but it was the first time we’d taken time for ourselves, “without cancer” being center stage. I think buying/investing in that coat meant I’d be around long enough to wear it again and again. It’s kind of ironic that 14 years later, I’m still here, but he isn’t. xoxox, Brenda

    I OWN A LOT OF REAL from working in the RETAIL WORLD YEAS AGO………we got it at COST!!!!!
    I would like to think they were getting a HAIRCUT!

    • Contessa, At cost!! Oh heavenly days!! Yes, but do you wear it or living in California, are you afraid you’ll be doused with a bucket of orange paint? I think we all feel eyes staring at us when we wear our real fur, but you’re near the epicenter of banning the sale of real fur. That would be difficult. Nothing can compare to fur for keeping you warm. NOTHING! Thanks for reading and commenting, sweet friend! xoxox, Brenda

  14. Brenda, the timing of this article couldn’t have been better for me. I am in the process of cleaning out my basement and came across the beautiful long mink coat that belonged to my mother. When she passed, over 35 years ago, I didn’t have the heart to get rid of it as it held many special childhood memories for me. My mother’s hugs when wearing it, were almost magical, her beauty was illuminating, her pride was authentic, not hubristic. My mother was brought up very poor and she had worked hard for this purchase. She taught me that the coat was something very special and would last a lifetime if cared for properly. She explained to me, that since the animals had given up their lives, so she could be warm (I was only 6), it was our responsibility to look after the animals. I shamefully kept the coat hidden away, thinking I was a bad person for wanting to keep it. Anti fur rhetoric was rampant at the time. Thank you, thank you for opening my eyes and allowing me to pull it out of storage. I will continue to support charities that uphold the ethical treatment of animals………..but at the same time, give myself permission to have my own point of view!

    • Hi Cynthia, I’m glad I was able to help you clarify some things. With the creation of faux fur, this “shame on you for wearing real fur” has gone beyond anything reasonable. The most disturbing thing is the vocal, anti fur protesters aren’t educated about both sides of the issue, yet because they scream the loudest, they get the most media coverage which translates into many of us blindly agreeing they must be right. I was trained as a journalist… when there were REAL journalists who weighed both sides of every issue and then ONLY wrote the facts… not their opinion of what they personally believed. That together with being married to a scientist for 17 years made me a FACT BASED person. Like your mother, mine grew up very poor. She was proud she’d finally reached the point where she could buy a fur coat. I will always wear my furs. Last winter I was scolded by a wackadoodle on a bicycle in NYC who shouted, “Only stupid people wear fur.” From where I stood she was the stupid one. It was the coldest day of the year, and she was wearing shorts and flip flops! Brava for continuing to support the ethical treatment of animals, but continuing to wear your fur. Loved your comment!! Thanks so much, Brenda

  15. I do love real fur and have had some good pieces throughout my life. I wouldn’t wear real fur out of the house nowadays for the fear of getting abuse for doing so. A lot of what is said here makes good sense. What about the manufacturers that have been lying? Saying it’s fake fur and it’s turned out to be real?

  16. Hi Laurie, I didn’t know anyone was passing off real fur as fake fur… The prices are so different… Hmm… It will soon be two January’s ago I was in NYC on one of the wickedest, bitter cold days they’d had in years. I was way downtown, walking against the wind, heading uptown with not a cab in sight. I was wearing the long suede and fox fur coat my husband bought me in Colorado. A woman in shorts, a sports bra and flip flops rode past me on a bicycle and shouted, “People who wear fur are stupid,” to which I replied, “Well I guess you can stamp a big “S” on my forehead.” If someone wants to verbally abuse me for wearing fur… Bring it on! xoxo, Brenda

  17. I’m a total militant anti-fur person (and a mostly-vegan vegetarian since I was 15), but I respect other people’s opinions. I never ever underestimate the capacity for humans to be completely desensitised to the suffering of animals when it comes to making money. Backyard fur breeders and trappers are about as easy to regulate as puppy mills, so unfortunately regulation will help but not cure the problem. I don’t support any industries with unethical practices; if you buy faux fur carefully (especially European manufactured according to REACH standards) you can do so with minimal environmental impact. Everything in the clothing manufacturing process is filthy, even denim… or maybe I should say ESPECIALLY denim. All of this is awful for the planet but articles like yours are so good for bringing the topic in front of consumers so they can be MINDFUL when they purchase things.

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