Old Man Winter is here--and he's packing a punch. The wintry weather has snarled traffic, forced airlines to cancel flights, burst water mains and shut down schools and businesses. You'd better bundle up: According to the National Weather Service, 47 states currently have snow on the ground, and meteorologists warn that more arctic air is on the way.
The frightful weather might have you shivering, but unless you want to look as cold as you feel, don't reach for a fur to keep you warm. As fashion guru Tim Gunn of Project Runway fame puts it, "Wearing fur is like wearing a big sign reading, 'I'm in favor of inflicting cruelty and pain on animals as a fashion statement.'" Surely the frigid temperatures haven't left you that frosty.
Every year, millions of animals are killed for their fur--and there is simply no kind way to rip the skin off animals' backs. In the wild, animals are caught in snares and steel-jaw traps that slam down on their limbs, often cutting down to the bone and mutilating the animals' legs and paws. Although steel-jaw traps are illegal in a few parts of the world, they are still permitted in almost all fur-producing countries.
Rabbits, foxes and other animals on fur farms are crammed into barren metal cages, with no protection from the driving rain or the scorching sun. Mother animals go crazy from rough handling and confinement. They often kill their babies after giving birth. Disease and injuries are widespread, and animals suffering from anxiety-induced psychosis chew on their own limbs and throw themselves repeatedly against the cage bars.
Fur farmers use the cheapest and cruelest killing methods available, including neck-breaking, genital electrocution, poisoning and gassing. When PETA went undercover on a fur farm in Michigan, our investigators documented that chinchillas writhed in pain and panic after their necks had been broken. Other chinchillas were electrocuted without prior stunning--meaning that they suffered the agonizing pain of a full-blown heart attack until their hearts finally stopped beating.
In China, the world's leading fur exporter, not even dogs and cats are safe from the coldblooded fur trade. Chinese fur traders stuff cats and dogs--some of whom are still wearing their collars--into flimsy wire-mesh cages, transport them hundreds of miles without food or water and then bludgeon or strangle the terrified animals so that their fur can be turned into trim on a coat.
Wearing real fur is coldhearted--and it's not even the best way to beat the chill. Synthetics are both warmer and lighter than real fur, which is why revolutionary fabrics such as Polarguard, Thinsulate and Polartec are consistently chosen over fur and down for polar expeditions. And you can bet that mountain climbers, hikers and other sporty types who head outside when temperatures drop are not wearing mink coats to fend off the winter wind. Faux fur also retains heat as well as real fur, is more durable and, unlike real fur, can be tossed in the washing machine when it gets dirty.
As the arctic air settles in, don't let it put your compassion in a deep freeze. With so many stylish and toasty alternatives to fur available, there's simply no excuse to wear the real thing.
Paula Moore is a research specialist for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.