Lecture 5: The ongoing debate on the fur trade
As 21st century Westerners, most of us wander around in a reality where capitalism and consumerism dictate our lives. We are considered to be the "privileged" nations... privileged because of our materialistic "treasures", but above all, we have choices that others do not. Because of these choices there seems to be a general feeling of apathy going around the status quo...Consumerism seems to bombard us with choices on a daily basis...shopping has suddenly become a moral mindfield. There are even ethics behind which toilet paper you pick off the shelf.
The UK has always prided itself on its moral standing with animal rights- the first country in the world to enforce laws that considered the welfare of animals. Although once a profitable industry, the last remaining fur farms in the UK closed in 2003 and the trade was subsequently banned in England and Wales under the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000. The ban in England and Wales was justified principally on grounds of public morality. But really, in principal, is wearing nice fluffy animal fur any different than our leather shoes and handbags? Did the moral line of right and wrong get a little fuzzy and caught up in the animal rights movement?
There is an obvious issue at the forecourt of fur trading, animal cruelty. Anti-fur groups often use images of sad looking foxes squashed into tiny cages..... of course they are miserable, who wouldn't be? But perhaps we should move away from that side of the argument, far away from the bourgeois, and look at the issue in a much more fundamental context.... in principal, is it morally defensable to wear fur?
The fur ban hits the UK
Ouside of the western world there are still a number of cultures that thrive on a more traditional hunter/gatherer lifestyle, one which values animals and the products they provide for humans. The following photo was taken of a display at the British Museum, London and shows several garments still worn by people of Alaska....all of which come from animals.
Is this morally defensable?? This is certainly where that moral line begins to get hazy and becomes a matter of opinion which would depend on the individual's cultural upbringing.
Condemning an Eskimo for wearing seal fur in extreme minus minus conditions is almost as futile as preaching about vegetarianism to a Massai farmer...no one has the right to judge these actions when they are crucial to the survival of these people.
The fur debate seems to actually be about another issue entirely.....a more appropriate question is, can one morally defend wearing fur as a fashion statement?