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The Cruel Practices and Inhumane Excuses Behind New York’s Fur Coat Industry

New York’s fashion industry is one of the most recognizable in the world. That title, unfortunately, comes with a hefty price. Going beyond the price tags, as the price is often innocent animals, one must wonder if it is actually worth it.

Luxury products should not excuse the robbery of innocent animal lives. Minks, foxes, chinchillas, lynxes, and raccoon dogs are some of the many species that are abused for their fur. The reality is that these animals are being farmed in inhumane conditions and deserve to be free.

So, what’s happening?

Lawmakers of New York City are contemplating a ban that would prevent the sale of all new fur products in the city where such clothing options are so common. At its height, 80% of the fur coats manufactured in the U.S. were manufactured in New York City’s fur district, according to the FUR NYC, and 90% of all fur processing in the U.S. was performed in New York City, remaining the largest market for fur products in the nation. 

Already, many major fashion designers, including Gucci, Stella McCartney, and Chanel, have forsaken it; several cities in California, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, have banned sales of the material as well. 

Unfortunately, the ban jeopardizes over a thousand jobs in one city alone. The potential job loss and attack on the fashion industry challenge the status quo. The stability of the lives of factory workers, designers, farmers, manufacturers, and countless more who work to produce fur items as a living are all hindered. But what about the lives of these animals? They wouldn’t even have a life to be hindered with. To put it into perspective, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal says, “Cruelty should not be confused with economic development. Fur relies on violence against innocent animals. That should be no one’s business.” Showing sympathy and care for animals is what makes us human. Making a profit out of their lives is not only cruel but morally wrong. 

Histories and Traditions

The term “New York Fashion Week” may ring a bell.  As previously stated, the fashion industry is one of the things they are best known for. Because of its long history, the industry is deeply embedded in its traditions. Fur jackets are an important component of that. In the 1600s and early 1700s, trade in furs with Europe flowed through the New York City harbor, attracting new inhabitants. From 1910 until 1986, when the fur industry was at its peak, a network of stores, manufacturers, and dealers formed in a small Manhattan square. These firms and this location became the heart of the American fur trade. The fur district is defined by the intersections of Sixth Avenue on the east, Eighth Avenue on the west, 26th Street on the south, and 30th Street on the north. The United States’ fur industry is still based in New York and contributes significantly to the city’s economy. New York City is the largest fur market in the United States and remains the epicenter of the American fur business. Many of the fur enterprises in the area are multi-generational, with new immigrants starting them and passing them down to their children and grandchildren. Would making fur coats socially unacceptable change the way people see New York?

In addition, other unexpected problems occur, tangling with centuries of religious and cultural tradition. Black pastors signify wearing fur coats as a treasured hallmark achievement. In their culture, fur is a sign of status, achievement, and that, through all odds, they have made it. On top of that, Hasidic leaders require fur hats (or also called Shtreimels) on the Shabbat, Jewish holidays, and other festivities. Typically made from authentic fur from the tails of Canadian or Russian sable, stone marten, Baum marten, or an American gray fox, it is a religious custom that Jewish men wear to cover their heads (usually after a marriage). Due to the price ranging from 1000 – 6000 dollars, hats made from synthetic fur are more common. 

Protestors say to prioritize the people, but how many more animals have to die in order to really put us first? Is it our lives that are at risk or theirs? With many other materials and fur alternatives such as bio-based fur, recycled denim fur, etc., it would be selfish to “put the people first.”

Article Terms:

Bio-based fur: Some furs are made from a coconut oil base. Being 37% plant-based, the material impact has 30% less energy use and 63% less greenhouse gas emissions associated with production compared to conventional faux fur.

Recycled denim fur: certified organic cotton and pre-consumer recycled cotton. Featuring layers of shredded denim that mimicked the volume and movement of fur.

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