(Article changed on November 17, 2012 at 09:47)
They get up early the day after Thanksgiving and head for the stores like millions of others on the four-day weekend. But instead of hunting bargains and getting an early start on their Christmas shopping, they are heading for departments stores and upscale shops who sell fur. They are marching in Chicago's annual anti-fur parade known as Fur Free Friday (FFF).
Pelt profits by Martha Rosenberg
The twenty-five-year-old demonstration originates at Daley Center and concludes at Water Tower Place on the Magnificent Mile, stopping at every furrier along the way. Some years it has drawn as many as 800 marchers.
The Fur Free Friday parade has featured coffins, piles of animal pelts and dangling steel jaw traps for people to see just how their furs were "harvested." It has included mock burials with coffins, marchers in monster masks, drum corps and beautiful women disrobing because they would "rather go naked than wear fur."
Since the 1980s, some of the stops on the parade, where a spokesperson delivers a speak-out about the cruelty of the fur trade, are gone. Evans, the world's largest furrier which anchored the State Street shopping corridor since the Great Depression went out of business in 1999 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." Evans had a second store on pricey Michigan Avenue which also went out of business, even before the State Street store. During the Fur Free Friday parade, Evans hid the Michigan Avenue store behind a big billboard truck to protect it from people who believe that "wearing any kind of fur been duped into believing that cruel and malicious to the animal it was taken from."
Across the street in the Palmer House Hilton, a fur seller called Mysels Furs went out of business in the mid 2000s. It kept its doors locked, so wary was it of the set who thinks taking a fur from an animal is malicious to the animal. What? Mysels Furs used to hire a live male mannequin, who looked like a cast member of the Addams Family, to perform in the window, furthering the store's crypt-like image.
D'ion Furs, once on Michigan Avenue, also folded years ago but Andriana Furs remains on the gilded street despite its owner pleading guilty in 2009 to using the store to launder drug money and pay employees.
Ten or fifteen years ago, Fur Free Friday was the one day the tables were turned on the Magnificent Mile and women in full length minks and lynxes had to do a kind of fashion perp walk past booing crowds. Today almost everyone has seen the cruel gratuity of fur production on their TV or computer and the few visible fur coats in Chicago are on the elderly. But that doesn't mean fur mongers haven't succeeded in getting fur trim on an alarming amount of outerwear and in selling barbaric fox "trapper" hats. Fur mongers are also selling furs in unrealistic colors like red to appear like "fun" fakes and coats with belted, slimmed down silhouettes.
Thanks to growing production "efficiencies" in places like China, furs are more popular than ever in some countries, especially because of declining prices. In addition to cruel methods of killing the animals, furs from China that are labeled gae-wolf, goupee, Asian wolf, China wolf and Mongolia dog have been found to be from...gulp...dogs and cats. No wonder, while bargain hunters comb Michigan Avenue, they will hear the yearly Fur Free Friday chant: Stop The Insanity; No Blood for Vanity. END
Read Martha Rosenberg's food and drug expose, Born with a Junk Food Deficiency, now available as an ebook. twitter @marthrosenberg