Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Fur items - right or wrong?

As somebody who makes teddy bears and other stuffed collectors toys, I often come across 'recycled' fur bears.  My question is, is this acceptable or not?  To me, I only have one answer to that question, and it's a very firm NO.  Ok, for somebody who has an old fur coat in the attic, perhaps even been given to them or handed down from an old aunt or grandmother perhaps....yes, that is acceptable to recycle.  But to buy in 'recycled' fur is a different story in my opinion.  I'm a member on a craft forum, where somebody asked for sewers to make his finished fur project for him - as a business partnership kind of thing.  Of course I said what I thought to it, but had to refrain from continuing as it's not the place, nor my site to start what could end up as a flame war or witch hunt.  I didn't get told off or anything, just put my point across firmly but politely, and stopped at that.  Others did the same, and although different wording, had the same conclusion as me.  This however, is my own blog where I can say exactly what I like and think!

My bears are either needle felted, crocheted, knitted or very very occasionally fabric.  I don't work with fur at all.  There is one in particular bear artisan I really really admire her work, and I can only dream of owning one of her creations (not a real fur one though!).  I'd go as far as saying she's top of her field even.  Her work really is the traditional style of teddy bear, and she really excels in making realistic looking animals.  Most of her work is from mohair or faux fur, but I have seen recently some 'recycled' fur items.  I won't name her or anything, as I don't believe that's either right or fair, and she definitely isn't the only artisan to be using such materials.  Not just in the toy/collector industry either, as it's also the hottest trend in fashion too, I see.  Hottest trend, it may be, but it will NEVER find it's way into my wardrobe, onto my work desk, or even my collector shelf!

Perhaps I'm being blinkered here, as I am an animal lover, but let me explain my point of view.  Lets ignore the fashion industry altogether, as that is unlikely to be recycled....I haven't even looked to be honest as it repulses me too much!  I'm talking about the recycled fur trade, which seems to be growing ever more popular across the globe.  To me, recycled is something you have sat around collecting dust in your own attic/garage or whatever, not something you've bought from a supplier.  Sometimes, buying it in is acceptable, but only if you know for sure it is recycled...for instance I saw recently at a craft fair a lady who makes handbags from recycled bicycle inner tubes - I doubt very much she had enough bikes in her personal possession to make all those items, so she probably buys them in - but no animals get mistreated or anything, so who cares?! Those suppliers, where exactly do they get all this fur from?  They must buy it in from somewhere!  There may be a few genuine ones, but in a rapidly growing trade I have my doubts!  Of course, if something is imported and labelled as 'recycled' it gets past the various countries laws about animal welfare.  Or am I wrong here?  I don't think so!  So these fur coats (or whatever item they are) get made out of something, and shipped abroad, where they end up being bought as recycled fur.....

I'm not a vegan, or even a vegetarian, and I'd be lying if I said I knew for sure all the meat I buy is free range.  I'm not a big meat eater at all, but I do eat it.  As somebody pointed out on the forum I belong to, that perhaps some of us should also look at whether we feed our cats/dogs/ meat too...yes, I also have a dog, and I feed him commercially bought dog food.  I have little choice there as I have his welfare to consider, and he won't thrive on apples and carrots!  All the meat we eat in our household comes from either the supermarket or butcher....more often than not, the supermarket I'm afraid, as we're not rich.  If we could afford to buy directly from a free range farm, we would!  But, there are laws and regulations in place to ensure animal welfare in the meat industry,  Most meat sold here is reared in this country, so has to abide by both Dutch and EU laws.  So being realistic, it's as close as I can get to buying humane/ethical products.  I also wear leather shoes - some would say that is hypocritical too.  I don't know much about the original of leather, so I welcome correction on this point, but I believe it comes from cows/pigs/goats....so, most of which is probably a by-product from the meat industry.  Like I said, I stand for correction if I'm wrong on that.  However, when it comes to cosmetics or any kind, I will never knowingly buy anything that is or has been tested on animals.  In it's early days, I was a huge fan of the Body Shop.  Now I'm a bit older, their scents are too 'young' for me mostly.  The make-up I wear is, as far as I know and the packaging states, free from animal testing....I won't buy it otherwise!  Of course, I don't oversea it's manufacture so I don't know for sure, but once again, it's as close as it can be to ethical.  I am shocked to read though that most contact lenses and solutions are tested on animals.  I'm shocked in that I used to wear contact lenses, and the brand I wore is one of the culprits.  I was thinking about going back to wearing them - not any more now that I know that!  Until the day that guinea pigs, rats, rabbits or whatever animal they test them on, are seen putting lenses in themselves, out of choice....I shall stick to wearing glasses.  So there are things that I hadn't even thought of and was blissfully unaware of - there are probably more besides.  My point is that to the best of my knowledge I don't use any product that has been tested on or given rise to any kind of animal cruelty or unnecessary slaughter.  For cosmetic purposes, I'd even be happy to be a human tester myself.  I wear makeup, perfume, contact lenses, skin cream etc, so why not test it on me and fellow users?  Like the animals have the same genetics as we do anyway??? No!  Those products get tested on humans on after the animal testing....so how about skipping that middle part?!  I believe it is illegal for cosmetics sold in the EU to be animal tested now anyway, but that is a recent change, and it seems contact lenses and solutions have slipped through the net....so it's a bit hit and miss I gather.

Wool, I'm surprised to see, is also debatable when it comes to ethics.  This is a new one to me, and I work with wool.  My felting wool, I know for a fact is ethically sourced.  I buy it from a farm that breeds their own sheep for both wool and meat.  They're free range, and well looked after animals.  The sheep need to be sheered for the summer months to keep them cool, so in this instance I have no quarms about buying the wool.  My wool actually comes from a breed of sheep in New Zealand, and is imported to this farm.  I'm assured it comes from an equally ethical source.  I can even visit the farm here, where it's hand dyed on site.  They also use their own sheep to obtain wool there too, so I have every confidence that they have sourced what I buy from them ethically.  However the wool I crochet and knit with, I'm not so sure.  That could come from anywhere, as until now, I have just bought it from craft and haberdashery shops and it's only now that I'm even aware of this.  So from now on, I intend to make sure that is ethically sourced too!

We all need shoes on our feet (they don't have to be leather), and one person, or one household becoming vegetarian is not going to cut down the amount of meat sold in supermarkets.  But we can all do our bit by not supporting known cruelty to animals.  We all need to eat, and we need protein and various nutrients in our diet in order to be healthy.  So it's a choice of either taking supplements or eating meat.  Beyond the necessities in life though, it's a personal choice as to whether you have a DEAD ANIMAL sat on your collector shelf, or draped around your neck.  If you think that buying that dead animal to wear or sit on your shelf as a family heirloom or collector piece, then think again, as animal fur is biodegradable, and has a life of about 20 years before it starts to decompose and fall apart.  So when you buy a so called recycled item, it has far less than 20 years left in it.  Can you really put a few hundred pounds/dollars/euros (take your pick) price tag on that of countless animals to give yourself a mere few years of pleasure/luxury?  Oh no, that big fur coat is not just one rabbit skin, but that of quite a few.  And by buying a recycled fur item, you're also supporting the trade in first place.  Think about that one!  The subject of animal fur is a huge no - no to me.  You can't even justify it by saying fur is a by product from meat, as it ISN'T.  Do you eat mink or fox meat????  Didn't think so!  Certain species have become extinct, or close to extinction for our human beatification.  Do you feel sick yet?  If not, before you buy that designer fur coat, or recycled fur teddy bear, then take a trip to a slaughter house, and don't forget to visit the battery farm on your way!

This image is courtesy of the International Anti - Fur Coalition site, and provided free for use downloads for business/shop owners to display in their window to express their request for people not entering wearing fur in their premises.  I don't have a shop window to display it in, but as something I feel so strongly about, am proud to display it here.  No animal fur will ever end up in my hands as a crafter, nor will I wear it as a coat or accessory like some kind of sick trophy.  If I had a shop/business premises, nobody wearing a dead animal would be welcome to enter anyway

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