No to fur

Is fur green? part 1

Posted by oneandonlyhypnos on February 28, 2009

If I have to believe what fur traders are claiming, fur is back in the market. People apparently get their kicks again from fur and it’s OK ‘again’. I have my doubts about that, but it does not even matter to me if fur is ‘in fashion’ or out of fashion. What I care about is sound ethical arguments. What I care about is: Is it just what is being done to these animals for a bit of fur trim or other fashion items?

I am not the only person that asks himself this question, and I guess the fur industry knows it. Organizations like PETA, HSUS and other animal right groups have been campainging heavily against the fur trade, which they claim is unethical. Likewise animal welfare organizations such as the british RSPCA, are not too keen about fur: don’t be fooled by fur

Lately, people have been bombarded with fur ads by the fur industry. They almost throw the fur-bearing anorexic models in our face and celebs dress up in it.

But this was not enough, these days you can easily come across a campaign of the fur council claiming that fur is green. Fur is apparently the new sort of eco fashion. The environmental activist according to the campaign: activist So I guess, we will soon run into Greenpeace activists dressed up in mink and sable? NOT so fast!

Let’s take a good look at this campaign. First and foremost, let us delve into the ecological argument. On this part of the website we can read the following statement: ecological

up to one gallon of petroleum – a non-renewable resource – is needed to produce three synthetic jackets. The production of synthetic fibers also involves chemical reactions at high temperatures, producing potentially harmful substances.

Here they are attacking synthetic clothing. clothing is often made from polyesters these days. But what they are saying seems to be somewhat misleading. To asses if their statement is correct, we must delve into the wonderful world of polyesters. The website of the Australian government has some very interesting information to share with us on this issue. I will quote the most important paraghraps on my blog. you can read the original text here.

Polyesters play a predominant role as biodegradable plastics due to their potentially hydrolysable ester bonds. As shown in Figure 3.1 below, the polyester family is made of two major groups – aliphatic (linear) polyesters and aromatic (aromatic rings) polyesters.

Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are aliphatic polyesters naturally produced via a microbial process on sugar-based medium, where they act as carbon and energy storage material in bacteria. They were the first biodegradable polyesters to be utilised in plastics. The two main members of the PHA family are polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) and polyhydroxyvalerate (PHV).

Aliphatic polyesters such as PHAs, and more specifically homopolymers and copolymers of hydroxybutyric acid and hydroxyvaleric acid, have been proven to be readily biodegradable. Such polymers are actually synthesised by microbes, with the polymer accumulating in the microbes’ cells during growth.

Off course synthetics entail more than polyesters. On wikipedia you can find a lot of usefull information on this topic. For those that are interested: synthetic fiber

If you take the time to look into their argument against synthetics, it just does not make sense. There are biodegradable synthetic fibers. It can be environmentally sound. And it should too! We all wear t-shirts…what do you think they were made from? What do we have to do? Produce T-shirts made from mink? How if fur going to solve environmental problems? How is fur trim helping the environment? After all, it is stiched to a synthetic piece of fabric, isn’t it? So how is fur making it any better?

There are some other…quite interesting remarks being made on their website:

Fur tanning (“dressing”) and coloring, however, are relatively benign, as they must be, to preserve fur hairs and follicles. (By contrast, in leather tanning the hair is intentionally removed from the hide.)

The main chemicals used to “dress” fur pelts are table salt, water, alum salts, soda ash, sawdust, cornstarch, lanolin and other natural ingredients. Small quantities of formaldehyde can be used to protect fur follicles during dressing or dyeing, and gentle acids (e.g., acetic acid, which is vinegar) activate the tanning process, but local environmental protection controls ensure that there are no harmful effluents. Excess fats are skimmed and even PH levels must be neutralized before wastewater is released. And because furs are available in an extraordinary range of natural colours, only a small proportion are dyed.

On first glance, the word formaldehyde jumps out as far as I am concerned. Why you might ask? Because formaldehyde is a dangerous substance. On wikipedia we can find the following:

Formaldehyde is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that there is “sufficient evidence” that occupational exposure to formaldehyde causes nasopharyngeal cancer in humans.

That does not seem very green to me…What do you think about this?

Off course they state that it is sometimes used and they only use ‘a little’. But what exactly is sometimes? What exactly is a little? And we will have to take their word on it, since they just state their ‘facts’ and hardly back anything up with solid hard evidence.

What is even more shocking to me, is that they use so-called ‘gentle acids’. They just happen to mention acetic acid. That is not so gentle as they may want you to believe…On wikipedia we can read the following:

Concentrated acetic acid is corrosive and must therefore be handled with appropriate care, since it can cause skin burns, permanent eye damage, and irritation to the mucous membranes. These burns or blisters may not appear until hours after exposure. Latex gloves offer no protection, so specially resistant gloves, such as those made of nitrile rubber, should be worn when handling the compound. Concentrated acetic acid can be ignited with difficulty in the laboratory. It becomes a flammable risk if the ambient temperature exceeds 39 °C (102 °F), and can form explosive mixtures with air above this temperature (explosive limits: 5.4%–16%). The hazards of solutions of acetic acid depend on the concentration.

They also state that acetic acid is vinegar, apparently…but that totally correct. On wikipedia we can find the following: “Acetic acid, also known as ethanoic acid, is an organic acid, giving vinegar its sour taste and pungent smell” It is not vinegar itself. It is the main ingredient.

The ‘fur is green’ site also mentions soda ash and labels it natural, BUT they forget to mention that most soda ash is being produced synthetically via the ‘Solvay process’. If it is synthetic, it’s not a natural ingredient…

I can go on like this for quite some time and this way I will most likely bore you all to death… But I’m just trying to show that it’s not that simple and clear cut as the makers of this website (the furcouncil) will have you believe.

You can find more information on the fur is green campaign on the blog of Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States of America: link

You can also find more information here: cruelty is not green

Keep an eye on this blog, I will write part 2 on the ‘fur is green’ website soon. And feel free to comment if you have something to add…

Now, on a lighter note…here is a video that actually mentions the campaign ‘fur is green’.

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