Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Few Thoughts on the Old Fur vs. Leather Issue

The debate over fur gets very intense. And it always gets me wondering why anti-fur militants do not respond in a like fashion to people wearing leather. Oh sure, we have to pick and choose our struggles. Each person fighting in the trenches for an end to animal exploitation is a welcome comrade. But you can't deny that fur causes an emotional reaction among those who dislike it that is far more visceral than other types of animal-related clothing.

Pictured here is MP Justin Trudeau, son of the late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and now a Member of Parliament from Quebec. He is seen here with his wife and children, posing for their annual Christmas card and wearing furs.

The card sparked a heated protest, with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) leading the charge. I don't have the same problems with PETA that some other abolitionist vegans do. I know that any organization that fights on as many fronts as PETA does is bound to take some really shitty stands, but for every one of these they take, they also adopt some damn good positions and reach out to a hell of a lot of people. Many people have been moved to embrace veganism by the powerful PETA video, narrated by Alec Baldwin, that tells omnivores where their meat comes from. I paid dues to PETA last year, I'll pay them again this year. Despite my differences with the organization, I realize that ours is a huge battle, on a big front, and when we begin turning on each other, this movement will begin writing its own obituary.

That said, singling out fur over the production of other types of animal products has always been something I've never understood. It seems to place a higher priority on one type of animal over another. I do not mind people protesting Justin Trudeau. That doesn't bother me. In fact, the question arises: What if this Christmas card went public and nobody spoke out?

Still, it is impossible to ignore that fur causes a far more passionate outcry than leather or other types of clothing made out of animals, and for no good reason at all. The English stand-up comic Alexei Sayle had a funny and very cynical explanation for this: "People are more violently opposed to fur than to leather because it's safer to harass rich women than motorcycle gangs."

Of course, I don't buy Sayle's point - humorously though it may've been made. And I am a firm believer in fighting struggles on a very broad front and putting aside differences (as long as we all agree to zero violence). This is exactly what conservatives in the United States have done - put aside petty sectarian squabbling - and look at how successful they have been. When we turn on those in the movement we don't think are perfect, instead of keeping the focus on the institutions and ways of thinking that abuse and exploit animals, we begin to fight a doomed battle. But that doesn't mean we can't wonder, aloud, why some animals seem provoke a more emotional outcry than others. Any animal being exploited for any reason deserves equal sympathy - not only by this movement as a whole, but by us as individuals.


  1. I agree that PETA likely does more good than harm, however I do have great concerns about their apparent poor record of placing rescued animals into adoptive homes. Here PETA opens themselves to deserved criticism about a policy that could be rectified fairly easily by partnering with reputable rescue and shelter operations. (

    As you note, however, the positive for PETA probably outweighs the negative...even though the negative seems so stupid on their part.

  2. Justin & family look ridiculous wearing the fur things. All you see is the fur instead of their faces. You are forced to confront the fur; it's almost like they're goading the rest of us.

    And maybe that's why fur attracts all the is OUT THERE, confronting you, not quiet and reserved like leather is.

  3. The fur is very much in your face in this Christmas card. And after I wrote this Blog entry, a Facebook pal posted a horrific photograph of numerous corpses of bloody and skinned animals whose fur had been ripped from their bodies for people like the family pictured here. It really made me think twice about this Blog Entry. I'm glad Justin is getting grief.