Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Buy A Fur, Save The Planet

This is funny, and illustrates in a tongue-in-cheek manner how silly the environmental and animal rights movements can be.


Climate change cure is warm and fuzzy

Janet Albrechtsen January 09, 2008
CANADA: I am starting to warm to this whole climate change business. Arrived in Vancouver for a night just before 2007 drew to a close. With barely a few hours remaining before the stores closed, I raced out and bought a fur coat. A long coat cascading down to my ankles, light as a feather and as warm as a ... well ... fur. A few days later, despite sub-zero mountain temperatures, I am still positively glowing with warmth from my new fur. Not just because animal skins protect from the cold. No, there is the unexpected, more cerebral, inner-warmth that comes from learning that by buying a fur, I have done the right green thing.

According to the Fur Council of Canada's new ad campaign, fur is now eco-fashion. Thats right. Wrapping yourself in a fur is a guilt-free pleasure. More than that, it's positively good for the planet.

Barely 10 days in, I am loving 2008. It holds the promise of lots more surprises from green politics as the climate change juggernaut continues to head in the most unlikely directions.
Let me explain. At the weekend, Canada's National Post reported on an advertising campaign launched at the end of last year by the Fur Council of Canada, which represents 70,000 of the nation's fur traders. These sassy new ads feature gorgeous women draped in fur, one under the heading "Environmental activist". The ads explain that buying a fur coat is the ecologically correct thing to do because fox stoles and mink coats are natural, renewable and sustainable.

By contrast, synthetic furs are no more than by-products of the petro-chemical industry. Making a single faux fur coat can chew up 19 litres of petroleum, a non-renewable resource, says the council. Ergo, buying a fur coat is good for the planet.

Welcome to the brave new world of climate change politics. The Fur Council's campaign has been so successful that even comedians are sending out the "fur is green" message. Picked up by a Canadian comedy show, a camp-looking guy who resembles Borat in a fur coat gets off some great lines assuring us that a genuine fur coat creates less pollution than synthetic textiles and uses no child labour. "So say auf Wiedersehen to faux fur," he smiles into the camera. "You wouldn't wear a barrel of oil, so why would you wear a coat that is made from one?"

You can find it on YouTube. And if you're worried about being sprayed with paint by those nasty PETA people, funny fur boy has some advice: "Well, you just turn around and tell them that every spray can produces enough fluorocarbons to drown three polar bears. Who's the killer now, PETA?" Fur boy's advice if you want to do something good for the environment: "Kill a small animal and slap it on your noggin."

Alan Herscovici, the council's executive vice-president, told me by phone from Montreal that the global warming issue provided the perfect opportunity for the fur industry to tackle the animal rights industry. He described these groups as the new politically correct hate groups and lamented that the media rarely exposes the intimidation they use to pillory legitimate industries such as fur.

So if you are in the business of producing and selling natural products such as furs why wouldn't you jump aboard the natural, sustainable, renewable bandwagon? Long derided as the brutish killers of innocent animals who satisfy the hedonistic vanity of callous consumers, now animal trappers and hunters are, according to the Fur Council of Canada, the new heroes of global warming. And those buying and wearing the fur coats can hold their heads high in the knowledge that they are doing the socially responsible thing.

The fur industry is fighting back using the sort of emotional blackmail that the animal rights industry mastered long ago. All these years the anti-fur brigade has assumed the high moral ground when extolling the virtues of synthetic, faux fur coats over the real thing. Now we learn that their motto can be reduced to "Save a beaver. Kill the planet."

Climate change has snatched the moral high ground. Now the inference is that the animal rights industry would rather you line the pockets of Big Oil by buying petroleum by-products such as synthetic coats, rather than support the fur-farming and hunting families of the Cree people in the James Bay area or the Dene nation north of British Columbia.

Maybe the Fur Council's campaign is just a case of green-washing, as some warn. But theirs is a more legitimate claim compared to the shonks trading on climate change. Take the booming industry of offsets. When you next jump aboard a fuel-guzzling aeroplane you can soothe your conscience by throwing a few more dollars at the airline company that promises to send your money on to some green initiative such as planting trees or investing in wind power in India.

But as Mark Jaccard, a professor at the school of resource and environmental management at Simon Fraser University, told the National Post: "Was the tree planted in Guatemala truly an additional investment in reducing greenhouses gases or would another tree have sprouted in that spot eventually? Has the Indian wind generator actually helped prevent or delay the construction of a coal-fired power station, or was it simply a wealth transfer to one region in India while the expansion of coal stations has continued at the same pace? We cannot know because future actions are unknowable."

Even for those who accept climate change is a major threat to the planet, there are plenty of reasons to remain suspicious about how companies and industries move to rebrand themselves as environmental friends. Any new industry - and make no mistake, greenwashing looks like the boom industry of the early 21st century - will attract a rich collection of snake oil salesmen, hypocrites and downright crooks in its early years. And separating the rogues from the saints can often only be done in retrospect.

For the moment, I'm prepared to back the Fur Council. Why? Because I kind of like this novel feeling. Finally, I get around to buying a full-length fur coat and it turns out to be the politically correct thing to do. There I was recently mocking a friend in the advertising industry for ending his email with a pro forma "Have a low carbon day". Now I'm looking forward to the bumper stickers that will soon start appearing on the back of the small hybrid cars driven by our green-minded friends. "Buy a fur. Save the planet."


Fur-Bearer Defenders said...

The article "Climate change cure is a warm, fuzzy feeling" (January 9, 2008) seems to be free advertising for the Fur Council of Canada to “green wash” consumers and divert their attention away from the cruelty.

Our wildlife is a very important part of the eco-system. Trapping and killing a MILLION of Canada's fur-bearing animals EVERY year from the eco-system, for needless fashion, causes untold, potentially critical damage to our environment.

Consumers might be interested to learn that in 2007 the Chinese government considered imposing an extremely punitive Value Added Tax on fur dressers and tanneries because they are “industries causing excessive pollution”.

According to Industrial Pollution Projection Systems, published by the World Bank in 1995,
"Tanneries and Leather Finishing" is ranked the 3rd on the Linear Acute Human Toxic Intensity Index, after "Fertilizers & Pesticides" and "Industrial Chemicals Except Fertilizer".

In 1991, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined 6 fur processing firms $2.2 million for the pollution they caused. The EPA stated that the waste from fur processing plants "may cause respiratory problems, and are listed as possible carcinogens."

Consumers should question just how green it is to unnaturally rip the skin off an once feeling, breathing animal and soak it in chemical bath to prevent it from decaying and collecting bugs.

How green is cruelty?

Linda said...

In 1992 the Dutch Advertising Standards Authority ruled that fur apparel advertised as “ecological” was improperly and misleadingly labeled.

Anonymous said...

I am appalled to read this extremely one-sided article, which seems to be a free advertisement for the fur trade. Any discussion on such a controversial issue, in fairness, should include at least a sentence or two from an animal-caring group.

The article shockingly implies that the cure to climate change is fur. What a joke! Any reporter capable of doing some research would have realized that saying fur is good to the environment is as claiming tobacco to be beneficial for our health.

I have no issue with people choosing to wear fur when both sides of the story are fairly and accurately represented. However, it is simply irresponsible for a publication to feed the unsuspecting consumers such mis-information without due investigation.

Nee Hung said...

This article sounds as objective as something someone would write after receiving a free fur coat from the Fur Council of Canada.