Compassion Is the New Green

The aim of fffashion fur free design competition is to help establish compassion for animals as a cornerstone of the growing ethical and green fashion movement and to provide support to aspiring designers who share this goal.

The need for this effort is great and the time has never been better.

In recent years we have witnessed more and more markets embracing ideologies that support ethical consumerism. The natural product industry is experiencing all-time sales highs, and products such as hybrid cars, fair-trade coffee, cruelty-free cosmetics and household products, free-range and organic foods all achieve measurable success. The fashion industry has begun to take notice.

In a recent collection of white papers on "Future Fashion," Julie Gilhart, Senior Vice President and Fashion Director for Barney's New York, wrote, "Taste used to mean good style. Now taste is increasingly about making good ethical choices. Luxury was about buying something extravagant. Now luxury is about making sure the extravagance is sustainable." She also opined that "Socially conscience ethical consumerism is The New Cool."

Ironically, Barney's is one of the major U.S. retailers that continue to sell garments made with of real animal fur. In fact, Barney's is one of a number of retailers recently found to be selling garments made from raccoon dog — a species from China that endures a particularly brutal killing process including being skinned alive.

Unfortunately, Born Free USA is all too familiar with encountering this type of disconnect between concern for the environment and concern for individual animal suffering. A number of retailers, designers, celebrities, and magazines continue to ignore the realities of fur by selling, designing, wearing, advertising, or otherwise promoting fur despite the cruelty involved in the making of fur garments.

Animals involved in fur fashion are either factory "farmed" or trapped. Factory-farmed animals are forced to live confined in cages, and experience gruesome deaths simply for the sake of fashion. Trapped animals endure the horrors and pain of ensnarement and are ultimately killed in horrific ways simply to supply their fur. Simply put, no fur garments are made compassionately.

Placing humane concerns aside, there are many reasons that fur could never be considered "responsible," "sustainable," or "environmentally friendly."

  • Fur farms like any other factory farm produce loads of animal waste (manure) that is too intensely concentrated to be neutralized by natural processes and the type of manure produced is inappropriate to be used as a fertilizer for food crops.
  • Fur farms also produce waste in the form of animal corpses — meat from animals raised for fur is typically not consumed. Rather it is routinely piled up and allowed to rot, rendered, incinerated, or used as bait to lure wildlife into traps.
  • Compared to a faux fur coat, it takes nearly 3 times more energy to produce a fur coat from trapped animals and 15 times more energy to produce a farmed-fur coat, according to a study by Gregory H. Smith, a transportation research engineer at the University of Michigan.
  • Environmentally harmful chemicals including chromium and formaldehyde are used in the processing and tanning of real fur garments to keep them from rotting. In 1991 six New Jersey fur processors/tanners were fined more than $2 million for releasing toxic waste into the environment. Tanneries more than any other business are on the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund list that identifies the priority environmental clean-ups.
  • Traps set to catch wild furbearing animals are notoriously indiscriminate, often catching "non-target" animals including threatened and endangered species and domestic dogs and cats. In 2008 a federal judge ruled that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources was in violation of the Endangered Species Act for allowing trappers to set traps and snares that catch, injure, and kill Canada lynx, a protected species. The case was filed on behalf of Born Free USA and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Thankfully some players in the ethical fashion movement have made the connection between compassion and conservation. Ellen Chiang, Director of Business Development for Organic Style, told Born Free USA, "In keeping with Organic Style's high ethical standards for production, taking a stand against fur fashion is a natural expression of environmental and social consciousness. We guarantee our products live up to the integrity we promise our customers, and applying the highest level of diligence to maintain a completely fur-free commerce and company."

We simply cannot let compassion for animals be left out of the social and environmental equation. Fashion designers, retailers, and consumers must realize that fur has no place in socially conscious ethical consumerism. With this fun and innovative contest, "fashion" will provide fresh new talent an opportunity to practice their ethics and show off their designs, and will help spread the message that fur is not only cruel, it is decidedly "uncool."

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