By Dani Rukin

Last week, Willamette Week published a piece entitled, “Fur Coats Are Coming Back. Don’t Hate Until You Try One,” that sparked a slew of angry responses on WW’s Facebook page.

And for good reason. I believe I speak for many when I point out the author's obvious recklessness in promoting and encouraging readers to, in essence,
"bring back fur." When I first read the op-ed, I thought it was a poorly written satire. When I realized the writer was sincere, I was flabbergasted by their flagrant lack of awareness of the tainted history of fur, and why it's been recently banned in Berkeley—not to mention dropped by high-end and well-known designers such as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani, and now, most recently, Gucci. And the list is growing.

These designers have all gone fur-free because they have realized that, in modern society, fur is a symbol of unspeakable cruelty, torture and violence. We are not cavemen and we are no longer trying to survive in the Arctic.  I understand you have to make tough journalistic decisions, but giving a voice to this archaic position supports normalizing violence against animals for the sole purpose of being worn as a conversation piece, or as an attempt to convey status. Or both. I'd like to believe Willamette Week is better than that.

By agreeing to publish this antiquated and potentially damaging opinion, you are giving a platform for extreme and unnecessary violence against animals who experience fear, pain, joy, and love, just as we do. Violence, brutality, and oppression against any one group is the same, regardless of who is being discriminated against. Suffering is suffering, no matter the victim, including animals.

The author asserts that "fur was made by nature to keep the elements away." Yes, for the animals who are born with it. It's not ours to take, especially when we have so many man-made options. Technology and science afford us the ability to make more humane clothing choices—now, more than ever.

Some would argue that real fur is better because synthetic alternatives are made from chemicals. Fur from animals is no exception: after the fur-bearing animal is killed, their skin is treated with toxic chemicals to keep it from rotting and decomposing.

Additionally, fur farms, known for their cruel treatment of animals, as well as for their profit-driven killing methods, comprise 85% of the fur produced globally, causing significant environmental damage and dumping millions of pounds of waste every year, polluting the earth. And the proliferation of these farms only increases the demand for fur.

The writer then suggests that, in order to "satisfy this desire" for fur, we turn more toward "sustainable fur," and reminds us that, "there are already options like wild-caught furs and furs from invasive species…." Do they know how animals in the wild are captured for their fur?

"Wild-caught" is a euphemism for what is known as trapping. They use powerful steel leg-hold traps that clamp onto the unsuspecting animal's limb. Oftentimes, they are mothers trying to return to their cubs and, if they don't die from exhaustion trying to struggle free, or from blood loss, exposure to the elements, other predators, or chewing or twisting off their own limb to break free, they will meet a gruesome fate when the trapper returns and either shoots, strangles, or beats them to death.

It is also not uncommon for dogs, cats, birds, and endangered species to become prey to these deadly traps. Which also begs the question of how in Western society we've been conditioned to justify the mutilation, torture, and killing of many fur-bearing animals, but when it comes to cats and dogs, the same treatment would be unthinkable.

And what gives us the right to determine who is, and is not, "invasive?" Right now, the U.S. Administration has determined that certain immigrants, many desperately fleeing unimaginable violence in their country-of- origin, are "invasive." Is that the kind of world we want to live in?

There's a unified sentiment amongst animal rights advocates: "Our planet, theirs too"—let's start acting like it before we succeed in completely destroying everything around us, including ourselves.

The writer also asserts, "If we decide to wear fur, we should do it mindfully." How do you "mindfully" steal the fur from another sentient being who wants to live as much as we do, for something we don't even need? It's their fur, not ours.  There is a frightening trend of fur retailers using terms such as, "ethically sourced" and "sustainable", to appeal to our innate compassion for animals. And also to likely assuage the guilt that often accompanies donning a garment that most people know caused unspeakable suffering just for a fashion statement. It's called, "humane-washing" and "green-washing."  And unless we go out of our way to educate ourselves and each other, we are easily convinced that there is an ethical way to "source" fur.

There isn't. Sadly, the fur industry has been relentless in its attempt to make a comeback and it's up to all of us to do everything we can to prevent, not enable, this deplorable and shameful resurgence. Encourage everyone you know to choose compassion over vanity and consider becoming involved in helping educate others about the hidden reality of fur.

According to the author, wearing, "vintage fur comes with only half the negative vibes as new fur," and to that I say, wearing even inherited or vintage fur only sends a message that it's okay. As an alternative, please consider donating the fur to a wildlife rehabilitation facility or a farm animal sanctuary where it will be used as warm bedding for orphaned animals. "Coats for Cubs", operated by resale fashion retailer Buffalo Exchange, allows you to drop off furs in any condition at any Buffalo Exchange retailer.

We need to make fur history!

For those interested, there is an annual "Fur-Free Friday" protest in downtown Portland the day after Thanksgiving, which draws a sizable crowd. And for those interested in becoming more active, you can join Portland Animal Activism on Facebook—a warm and welcoming group—and learn about the various ways to get involved. Whether it's volunteering at a local animal sanctuary, leafleting on campuses, doing vegan outreach, or protesting circuses, zoos, and rodeos, there's something for everyone.

Thank you for publishing an opposing view to the solipsistic and potentially damaging "Fur Coats Are Coming Back" op-ed.