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Want to keep your fur and conscience too?

Want to keep your fur and conscience too?

That's just what the fur industry hopes.

Madonna, Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss may still strut skins in public but many others are having their doubts about fur says Harper's Bazaar fashion features editor Sara Buys in the Independent on Sunday (IoS) this month.

"The resounding feeling is that vintage is fine (the argument, presumably, goes something along the lines of: 'It was dead when I found it'); rabbit fur - 'it's a by-product and I eat meat' - is also tolerated and worn. Astrakhan (baby lambs fresh from wombs) is definitely out," she writes adding that, "all the big style glossies such as...where I work and Vogue draw the line at rabbit fur on their pages," and "the main auction houses go further and will not touch fur at all."

Seems people are learning where fur comes from--especially after grisly footage from China, the biggest fur importer, showed the fate of Spot and Boots earlier this year on the Internet.

In fact the EU was forced to ban dog and cat fur from China because it has widely ended up mislabeled or unlabeled on US and EU garments thanks to lax labeling requirements for trim. (see: I’m wearing WHAT?)

Of course the fur industry has a different gripe with Far East fur producers: they’re bringing down the price and threatening to make fur down market. How luxurious can something be if everyone can afford it? If you see it at (gulp) Wal-Mart?

That's why high fashion houses like Prada, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Dolce & Gabanna and Burberry reintroduced fur on their catwalks in the '90s says Buys. (Burberry is now a target of PETA protests.)

But the fur redux--fur sleeves and appendages--don’t call them tails--on Prada coats, fur bottoms with cloth tops on Burberry coats and "Davy Crockett" skirts from Jean Paul Gaultier and Louis Vuitton (can your Chinese exporter do that?)--didn’t solve another problem:

How to get someone to pay five digits for a garment that will get them bashed as cruel on the street.

Enter the fur industry’s new "cruelty-free" standards.

"Just as we demand that our eggs are free-range, and our meat is organically reared, so people will want their pelts to have a history (if not a name and a life story),” observes Buys.

Already London-based furrier Hockley is planning a swing tag telling customers "where and how the fur was farmed and sourced so that they can be confident that no animals suffered in the making of their garment." (sic.)

They will only buy from "European fur farms that comply with government regulations - so that excludes China - and mink farms with a high standard of 'animal husbandry'," said a spokesman.

Fur designer Jean Paul Gaultier is similarly humane and is "only using fur acceptable to use," says his spokesman. "The minks, rabbit, fox, you know, all the animals you can have in farms."

Even Burberry, reeling under street pickets at its stores in the US and UK and threatening law suits against activists pledges, "We will not use fur if there is a serious concern that the fur has been produced by the unacceptable treatment of the animals concerned."

While most agree that fur farming is less cruel than wild trapping--many are appalled that Soulfurs is currently selling the fur of trapped possums--it is cruel enough to be illegal in the UK since 2003.

Cruel enough that "cervical dislocation"--neck breaking--and electrocution are the preferred means of killing.

Cruel enough that an investigator from the French group One Voice recorded a chinchilla electrocuted "by wiring it to a domestic power socket" on a fur farm in Croatia taking two minutes to die. "The animal kept twitching and as he was skinning it he kept prodding it to check it was dead."

In this new pitch, the fur industry is no doubt emulating food producers who practice humane farming methods.

The difference is people need to eat.


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