Faux fur vs real fur, which one is better?
"The Ocean is predicted to have more plastic than fish"
- Washington Post
The fur debate has been fought in the fashion industry furiously for many, many decades and it is still being discussed. This is because there is no correct answer. The debate itself is full of contradictions and hypocrisies, faux fur might be better for animals but is it better for the planet? Well as it is made of tiny strands of plastic, it not only takes hundreds of years to biodegrade but it also forms microplastics that get into water and will end up in animals’ and humans’ bodies. Not only is there no correct answer as it is a personal choice, but every report on the subject shows such strong opinions that there seems to be no room for negotiation. In short, it is incredibly hard to become informed because strong opinion articles have replaced science-based reports on the fur industry.
Instead, this article aims to show a few different viewpoints on different aspects of the fur debate in order for you to make your own decision on where you stand. This is by no means going to show every aspect of the debate but it should be enough to inspire you to go on to research and make your own decisions.
Why is faux fur bad?
While faux fur is considered to be the humane and ethical option, the fabric is made up of essentially tiny strands of plastic which are incredibly bad for the environment. Every time they are washed they release micro-plastics which then go into our water stream and when they are thrown away they take hundreds of years to biodegrade. Faux fur is also much more widely available at a lower price which means that more and more is being bought and thrown away much more quickly, whereas because real fur is expensive it is much more likely to be saved and worn for many, many years. One of the main differences between the two types of fur is that faux fur is part of the fast fashion industry and real fur is part of the slow fashion industry so comparably much more faux fur gets thrown away each year because it is not built to last. In fact, the Daily Mail states that around 60% of the clothing that is put into landfill each year is made from acrylic, the main ingredient in faux fur clothes. This is in stark comparison to real fur which the Daily Mail states can even be composted in the garden! That being said, in order to not be hypocritical, if you swear off faux fur, logically you must swear off clothing made from synthetic fabrics which is nearly all clothes for people with a lower budget.
Why is real fur bad?
While there are many obvious reasons why real fur is bad, we want to focus on the factors which might be more unknown. Nearly all the fur in the World is sourced from fur farms which are essentially battery farms. Battery farms are some of the worst polluters in the World because the huge amounts of animals create huge amounts of carbon dioxide. In addition, the treatment of fur is not good for the environment either because the furs are treated with a variety of harmful chemicals to clean, treat and colour them. Therefore real fur is not the eco-friendly option that many people believe it to be, it is actually an incredibly harmful industry. But logically if you are against fur you should also be against leather because it is made from the skins of animals. It is incredibly difficult to buy clothes that are good for the environment because harmful chemicals are used to treat almost every type of fabric.
What is being created to help?
All hope is not lost though! As we speak new fabrics are being created which are not sourced from plastic or animals, such as pineapple leather which provides a sturdy leather-like fabric perfect for bags and shoes. It is not widely available yet and is not perfect as it has a petroleum-based finishing so it is not 100% biodegradable. But it is definitely a step in the right direction. There are a few concerns with this process though… Even if new fabrics are created which are eco friendly and good for the planet, will they be widely available at a low enough price to stop shops stocking synthetic materials? Will it just be thrown away as part of the fast fashion machine?
What do you do until this help is available?
Well, one of the reasons that the fashion industry is so bad for the environment is the fast fashion phenomenon which has taken over high streets. If we went through clothing more slowly, properly took care of quality pieces we could save millions of tons of waste going to landfill each year. But the problem is much greater than that because all clothes which are affordable for most person are poorly made and low quality which means they break easily, forcing the consumer to take part in fast fashion. So what can you do? Trying to make a conscious change is as much as you can do, educate yourself, find small brands which are good for the environment and as for fur or faux fur, you are probably best off looking at second hand!
What about Cultural clothing?
One often overlooked aspect of the fur debate is the consideration of cultural clothing which includes fur. Russian clothing and coats have traditionally been made out of fur and to this day fur is still held in the hearts of many Russians’. Canadian Mounties traditionally wear muskrat hats and Hasidic Jews wear mink hats called Shtreimels, to name a few. If all fur was banned it would take away from cultural icons of communities which often are among the most historically downtrodden.
Don’t believe the propaganda!
Although we encourage you to do your own research on this subject, do be aware of the propaganda of many websites. One, in particular, is PETA who strongly advocate for all use of fur to be banned but killed 89% of the animals in their care last year. As a sustainable shopper, look for the facts and do the research but most importantly, make your own decisions on the fur debate!
You should also consider the source of fur that different countries use. In Canada, Coyotes are an invasive species and are culled in a similar way to badgers in the UK. Canada Goose uses Coyote fur on their coats so is it excusable to use the fur of animals which would have been killed anyway?
But why then is fur production banned in the UK but the culling of badgers is encouraged?
Overall the fur debate is full of contradictions, unless you have a strong opinion, it is hard to know where to stand. If you don’t agree with wearing fur, how can you agree with wearing leather? The same can be said with wearing faux fur and wearing polyester or synthetic fabrics
There is a strong focus on fur and faux fur but in reality, nearly all products in the fashion industry are bad for the environment, specifically because of the fast-fashion attitude many people have that clothes are only temporary when in reality they take hundreds of years to bio-degrade.
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