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Humane Holiday Shopping Guide

Published 09/15/04
Source: Animal Issues, Volume 35 Number 3, Fall 2004

It’s official: the holiday hullabaloo has begun! Throughout the autumn months, simply turning on the television or taking a stroll through a local mall means being inundated with celebratory songs, festive decorations, and advertisements promoting that “special something for a special someone.”

As you consider what gifts to buy for your loved ones, it’s important to remember the power you hold as a consumer, not just during the holidays, but all year long. By shopping with your compassionate values on your mind and in your heart, you can truly make a difference in the lives of animals!

For retailers, the period leading up to the December holidays is the most eagerly anticipated time of year. They wait with bated breath to learn where you, the almighty consumer, will bestow your hard-earned dollars, and which companies and industries will receive your financial vote of confidence.

API wants to help you advocate for the animals through your purchases and send a clear message to the marketplace. Read on to learn how to make this holiday season a humane one for all living beings.

Foregoing Fur

Did you think that fur was only marketed to and worn by the wealthy or the old-fashioned? Think again!

Sadly, fur is more pervasive than ever in the fashion landscape. In addition to traditional-looking fur garments, fur is also more frequently appearing in some unusual places, colors, and shapes.

There was a time when fur was primarily a product of haute couture. These days, however, the fur industry is making a concerted effort to reach out to new markets, to present an “edgy” look, to make its products more attractive to young people — to, in its own words, “democratize” fur.

Such efforts may be paying off. Even though your grandmother’s fur is no longer in vogue, fur still adorns the pages of Vogue, as well as countless catalog pages and store shelves from coast to coast.

A recent article in the New York Times, for example, noted the ubiquity of fur on fashion-show runways, and how the fur frequently appeared in forms that were a far cry from that of the familiar, full-length fur coat. The article remarked on the many novel ways designers incorporated fur into their clothes, including the appearance of a “grass-green fox jacket,” “Big Bird fur,” and a “fur collar spreading across the shoulders like a slightly haywire toupee.”1 Fur is now frequently dyed bright colors or is made to mimic exotic animal patterns; it may be braided or beaded to give it a unique texture, or shorn down to imitate the feel of a soft velvet fabric. And even a cursory look at magazines aimed at young, fashion-conscious consumers shows that fur — particularly fur trim — makes plenty of appearances in both advertisements and fashion layouts.

All this is no doubt pleasing to the fur industry. Alan Herscovici, Vice President of the Fur Counsel of Canada, has talked openly about wanting “to attract a younger, hipper consumer,”2 and has praised designers who have “re-interpreted” fur, making it “lighter, sportier and more colourful.”3

But no matter how it’s dyed or cut, fur is still the product of a cruel, unnecessary industry that brings suffering and death to astonishing numbers of animals. For example, furriers eagerly await the results of Canada’s seal “cull.” In 2003, the Canadian government announced that it would permit the clubbing and shooting of close to one million baby harp seals over the next three years. Coincidentally, according to a 2004 BBC Online report, “Seal skin is back in fashion ... [and] this year the emphasis is on youth.”4

Meanwhile, millions of animals, including foxes, minks, and nutria, are held captive in grim conditions in fur farms across the globe before being slaughtered. And the barbaric practice of trapping animals to transform their pelts into products continues to this day.

No market, however, can profit without customers, so the power ultimately rests in your hands. Sales figures reveal consumer preferences, and you can send a powerful message to the marketplace by only patronizing those stores that choose to operate completely fur-free. You can also make a concerted effort to give and dress compassionately, and to forego items containing even the smallest bit of fur trim.

Let the fur industry know that you see through its marketing ploys. Tell it that as much as it would like us to believe that the hot pink slippers with a furry ruff are “cute and cuddly,” we cannot be so easily fooled. No matter how they’re cut or what color they’re dyed, those “adorable” slippers were made by killing living, breathing animals.

API will be right beside you in the fight against fur. In addition to consumer education, we will continue our aggressive efforts to push for stricter fur labeling laws, to ban cruel traps and fur factory farms, and to encourage retailers to renounce this unnecessary product not just for the season, but forever.

Remember: While style may be fickle, compassion is always in fashion!

What You Can Do:

  • Only purchase from those retailers that have agreed to sell no fur or fur-trimmed items.
  • Make sure any trim is faux fur before you make a purchase. Don’t assume that because it is less expensive that is not real fur. (For information on discriminating between real fur and faux, see Buyer Beware!)
  • As you shop this holiday season, if you see fur in a store or catalog, write API and let us know. We will contact these retailers on your behalf and ask them to make a pledge no to sell fur. You can also report “Fur Sightings” on API’s fur and trapping website, www.BanCruelTraps.com. Several companies identified on our website as purveyors of fur have contacted API and have agreed in writing to remove their fur items — all because of their keen desire for your business!
  • Thank those companies that refuse to sell fur by giving them your business. Let them know you chose to patronize their store because of their compassionate stance on fur.

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