Election 2016

Why the Fur Industry Is Very Pleased With Trump in the White House

The Trump sons are trying to rebrand fur as "animal agriculture," but consumers aren't falling for it.

Photo Credit: Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com

It should surprise no one that Donald Trump’s greed-is-good 1980s redux includes lavish displays of fur. Daughters Ivanka and Tiffany, ex-wife Ivana and current wife Melania have all stepped out in fur, notes the Daily Mail. Images of the fur-clad wives, including ex-wife Marla Maples, keep alive the dated image of the "kept" women in diamonds—as dated as Trump's beauty pageant, grab-her-pussy approach to women in general.

When it comes to the fur industry, it is the best of times and worst of times. Fur farming is now illegal in Austria, Croatia, England and Wales; fox and chinchilla farming is illegal in the Netherlands; and the last mink farm in Japan just closed. Seal fur products from commercial seal hunts are now banned in 35 countries including the United States, the 27-nation EU, Britain, Russia and Taiwan.

Yet a paradoxical fur revival continues on fashion runways.

Through the use of role models like Rihanna, Cara Delevigne, Kate Moss, Janet Jackson, Elle Macpherson and former fur-foe Naomi Campbell, exploiting the public's short memory and sheer audacity and tenacity, the fur industry has convinced many that somehow fur is not unethical anymore. This is especially true among younger people who did not grow up hearing fur was cruel (though Kim Kardashian and Kanye West recently vowed only to wear fur from “roadkill”).

People who remember the fur wars of the 1990s and 2000s realize furs are obtained from poisoning, gassing and anal electrocution on farms and stomping animals caught in leg traps in the wild. (Water traps drown animals like beavers, muskrats and minks in a process that can take up to 24 minutes.) But some younger buyers neither know or care about their fur product’s origins. (Like the old joke, “What is the difference between ignorance and apathy?” Answer: “No one knows; no one cares.”) The fact that the fashion houses Gucci, Prada and Versace use seal fur does not seem to bump these buyers—or even that fur giant Fendi actually sells monkey fur. Yes, you read that right.

In addition to its cruelty, there was a time when fur was just, well uncool. It was associated with dowagers and failed social climbers who wanted to be "classy." (“Pimps and Bimbos Wear Fur” read a sign at Chicago’s annual Fur-Free Friday.) Fur products were considered uncouth and were largely absent in marquee cities like Chicago or London. Notably, fur coats also made people look fat, and Mark Oaten, CEO of the International Fur Trade Federation, admitted that unless the industry learned “how to make our products more flexible and lighter,” fur coats would have been finished as a fashion item.

But not to worry. Fur was made lighter, dyed (yes, including to Trump orange) and called a “fabric” by the industry to erase any thoughts of living mammals and make it seem like a manmade creation from a textile mill. The Fur Commission USA began calling fur part of “animal agriculture” and comparing it to using animals for food, medical and scientific research, entertainment, transportation and companionship. (Pelts, pets—same idea, right?)

Public Outrage at Trump Sons

Not everyone is ready to accept the new definition of “animal agriculture” as doing whatever someone wants to do to animals because they were made for us to use. A clear example comes from the Trump sons’ 2011 big game hunt. When the Gothamist described photos in which “Donald Jr. proudly holds a dead elephant tail in one hand and a knife in the other,” the sons stand beside a crocodile “hanging from a noose off a tree” and pose with “a dead elephant, kudu, civet cat and waterbuck while on a big game safari in Zimbabwe,” the public, including non-trophy hunters, was shocked and appalled. 

“They're great marksmen, great shots, they love it,” Trump beamed to the British press about his sons' exploits while most recoiled at the ego-driven, rich kid sadism. Since the Trump sons’ 2011 hunt, horror at gratuitous destruction of exotic and endangered wildlife by bored, rich trophy hunters trying to appear tough guys has only grown, crystallized by the death of Cecil the lion. Major airlines now refuse to ship animal trophies. 

Trophy hunting does not help poor communities, according to Travel and Leisure magazine, a knowledgeable source. The claim is floated and repeated by gun interests to make people who get a sick thrill killing elephants, lions and giraffes appear "conservationists" and philanthropic. Using the same “help poor communities" logic, allowing sex tourists to abuse one 12-year-old girl in a poor country saves the other girls from abuse. It is... philanthropic!

Savvy Chains Jettison Fur

The Trump family may be making fur—and trophy hunting—great again, but designers, chains and brands are increasingly moving in the other direction—refusing to work with fur or carry it. Recently, fashion giant Giorgio Armani dropped fur, proclaiming that “Technological progress made over the years allows us to have valid alternatives at our disposition that render the use of cruel practices unnecessary as regards animals. Pursuing the positive process undertaken long ago, my company is now taking a major step ahead, reflecting our attention to the critical issues of protecting and caring for the environment and animals.”

The H&M Group, Inditex, which owns Zara, American Apparel, Topshop, Zalando, Net-a-Porter, Selfridges and Liberty are all part of the Fur Free Alliance's Fur Free Retailer Program. Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Stella McCartney and Hugo Boss have also, reportedly, gone fur-free. 

Meanwhile, fur outlets have closed. In Chicago, Evans, the world’s largest furrier, went belly up a few years ago, citing “anti-fur activism that focused on convincing the American and European public that wearing any kind of fur was cruel and malicious to the animal it was taken from.” Also folding in Chicago were D’ion Furs on Chicago's Michigan avenue Mag Mile and Mysels Furs, ensconced in the upscale Palmer House Hilton. Andriana Furs, one of the last fur sellers still standing, was driven off the Mag Mile to an outpost miles from nowhere. Fur sales were not even what kept the store afloat—it was actually a money laundering operation for illegal drug sales according to criminal charges.

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter and the author of "Born With a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health (Random House)."

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