It is everywhere. Fur. Not fake fur. Real, off an animals back fur. On our high street, in our shops and in our wardrobes.
Well mine anyway. My great Aunt was a milner and worked in fashion. Consequently I inherited a couple of real fur coats and accessories. (Some had actual heads on.)
In 2000 fur farming in the UK was banned and I would argue the idea of wearing real fur jars with most of us. But does it? Canada Goose use the fur of wild coyote caught in trips on their jackets and they are loud and proud of it. Racoon, fox and mink are easy to find and recently retailers including Misguided, House of Fraser and other big retailers have been working with the Humane Society International to remove any real fur from stocks, after lots we’re duped by suppliers who sold real fur, claiming it to be fake.
It’s tricky for some people to tell the difference between real and fake but Phil, a textile expert in Otley Yorkshire told me : “‘real fur tapers, the strands don’t roll easily between your fingers.” And Clare from the HSI says: “if you part the fur you can often see the animal skin under the fur and if you own it burn a strand or two and you will be able to tell straight away the plastic nature of fake fur.” That is assuming you want to know the difference.
At the worlds largest mink auction house in Copenhagen marketing team argue demand for real fur is as strong as ever with demand in China, Russia and the UK. They said uk customers are less likely to want a full coat but lots want fur bobbles and trims on hats and jackets.
It’s undeniable the product is high quality and luxurious. I expected to find an archaic warehouse with old men exercising skills and craftsmenship honed over decades of skilled work. I didn’t. kopenhagen fur is a slick business, clearly confident that real fur has a big future, proof of which is the obvious investment in new show rooms and a cinema room showing school children more about the industry. They told me how proud people are of the industry and how surprised they are that so many young people want to go into fur farming, bucking trends internationally that youngsters are queuing to go into any type of farming.
They argued that real fur is a natural product, more friendly to the environment than faux fur which uses acrylic and plastic. With 35 % of plastic pollution in the ocean being from clothes the team at kopenhagen fur argue that mink is sustainable. All of the animal being used. They claim it’s no different to wearing leather. That is however where I fall off my fence. Maybe it’s out of loyalty to my farming family or maybe it’s just that they tried to pull the fur to far over my eyes. Fur farming is NOT like other types of farming. The farm we visited just outside of Copenhagen had rows and rows of wild animals in cages, never seeing Day light, never digging or swimming. Just bobbing up and down in small cages for nine months until they are gassed, skinned and turned into pelts for coats and trims. I didn’t push her on welfare or why I didn’t need to, the clean, clinical barn was so clearly wrong for one of he first times in my career I couldn’t really speak. I was a rubbish journalist, hindered by a physical reaction to something that went against everything I as a farmers daughter have been conditioned to respect: animals, nature. Life.
I can’t get stroppy about it and pretend I would NEVER wear it, I wore dog fur in Antarctica to protect my face. (It was loaned to me, the dog had died naturally in Antarctica and had completed the trek I was doing many times). Yes I have looked at those luxurious furs in the past and stroked them. Yes I have wanted one but not anymore. I confess walking through the airport on my way home everyone I passed with a fur trim made me a bit angry. Not enough to throw red paint at them, we live in a democracy everyone can choose what they like. But I know what I will choose from now on. And I know I will be heading straight to the animal shelter to donate the fur coat I inherited. (Apparently strays like fur).